I first came across the term ‘selfcare’ in 2018, when my coach suggested I was desperately in need of some. During our first meeting, she barely had to scratch the surface and I was in tears. ‘I’m just so tired!’ I said. On my ‘plate’ was:
I was a juggler, only without the clown costume.
Selfcare…wasn’t that another word for selfish? Lacking in consideration for others and putting your own needs before everyone else’s? Me…never.
How could I do that? People needed me. People were relying on me. I was reliable, dependable, a mother, a wife, a manager, a leadership team member.
She then explained to me that selfcare was like putting on your oxygen mask on an aeroplane before helping others. You can’t help other people if you’re not fit and well. A dictionary definition is ‘the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.’
I realised selfcare was somewhere between selfish and selfless. It was a balanced, healthy mindset. It was about me being kind to myself. It meant I could be my best for others AND for me.
Before I put self-care properly into practice, I suffered burnout.
It impacted me, my husband, my children and my business. All because I ‘forgot’ to take care of myself. So, I had to start taking more care of my energy levels. I now eat well and more mindfully. I walk, run, cycle and do yoga. I no longer put myself at the bottom of the list.
A fellow coach reminded me that ‘rest is a weapon’. Wise words. Before you make excuses that you don’t have time or money for selfcare, remember that not making the time for selfcare is costly in the long run.
Through my coaching work, I have worked with those on the brink of burnout. Through effective coaching I challenge and guide them to work through the barriers to selfcare. They learn that it’s a choice, something they can influence; and control - but it takes practice!
Selfish – no. Selfless, no. Giving those around you the best of you, not what’s left of you – yes!
Selfcare could be:
Break it into short bursts if you are short on time. It doesn’t have to be an exercise class, or expensive gym membership (especially with COVID putting a stop to this). Take your dog for a walk, take your children for a bike ride, walk, run, do yoga. Use exercise apps and continue to exercise in the comfort of your own home. Have an exercise buddy or work colleague – you can encourage each other to get out for a lunchtime stroll. Even when working from home this accountability partnership can work well. It’ll boost your brain power, give you a dose of vitamin D and minimise stress.
Sleep can be affected by working late, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine or using being on electronic devices/social media late at night. Changing your habits can improve sleep quality. Not resting deprives your body and brain from essential restorative time.
When you’re under pressure it's easy to make poor food choices or skip meals. Prepare meals in bulk or in advance. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Drink plenty of water. No fuel, no energy.
Working in an office or running your own business can be lonely. Make time to connect with others. Human interaction reduces loneliness and contributes to wellbeing. We have seen through lockdown that connection is vital.
Boost your creativity and energy by taking a break from work or home and doing something you enjoy.
Rushing around, feeling under pressure to deliver – taking time to be ‘in the moment’, whether practising mindfulness or meditating, or simply taking time to truly listen to your partner or children. Being truly present can help you improve wellbeing, happiness and relationships.
It’s easy to say yes, then feel overburdened and resentful. Saying no doesn’t mean you’re being selfish, or uncaring. Done respectfully it can be liberating - giving yourself permission to do the things you want to do.
Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, for your development or escapism. It’s an opportunity to be solitary and peaceful.
This can help release you from a busy or analytical brain. It can help you learn about yourself. Whether for sharing with others or keeping to yourself it can be incredibly cathartic.
News feeds, status updates, interesting articles – so much information at our fingertips. You’re worried you’ll miss something. Stepping away can improve sleep, increase morale and remind you to focus on the people and things that matter most.