Not just bubble baths
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In my work as a well-being and self care expert, many of my clients are effectively sitting in the middle of what I call a ‘sandwich’, squished between the needs of ageing parents, children and other dependents, jobs and careers, family life, friends, commitments outside the home, and all the other stuff. Does the business of meeting your own needs often sits right at the bottom of the pile? Are you the person who says ‘I’ll take care of myself once I’ve sorted out everyone and everything else’? It’s OK, I’ve done it too. And the payback can be exhaustion and burnout through constantly giving your all – while your own needs remain largely unmet. The solution to overwhelm and flagging energy lies in saying YES to yourself, and learning the tender art of self care. I’ll also say that you alone are responsible for this. Nobody else knows exactly what you need to stay happy and well, that’s your job. You need to make sure that your self care is always high priority, and a consistent practice. You just need to figure out how to make it work for you. Read on for inspiration!
Self care. That means having a bubble bath with candles and music, right?
One dictionary definition of self care is ‘the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress’. In the wake of the last few years, I think we all need to be doing more of this than ever. Our resilience has been challenged to the max, with so much having been out of our control. There’s nothing like feeling you’re not on top of things to make you feel stressed and antsy.
Where do you start?
There’s no one size fits all solution when it comes to self care, and the sheer range of self care activities is huge. It may be helpful to start with one thing if this is all very new to you, then you can add something else and something else. Let’s break self care down into 6 categories of self care.
Taking care of your body may be as simple as deciding to eat more vegetables and whole foods, or having a regular yoga practice, or walking regularly. Finding a physical activity you really enjoy rather than one you force yourself do is a good plan. You’re much more likely to stick with it and reap the benefits if you look forward to doing it.
Learning to check in with your emotional self is really important. Get acquainted with your emotions, triggers and thinking patterns with a generous and compassion attitude towards yourself. A mindfulness practice can also help you to get to know yourself better, as can journalling. Get in touch if you’d like some ideas on getting started with a journalling practice. Creative pursuits are also a way of achieving healthy self expression.
Feed your mind by reading, learning about something new, or even learning a language or an instrument. Acquiring new knowledge nourishes you and broadens your mind. Your self esteem will grow with your knowledge, and the pleasure of learning can be immense.
If you’re not a person of faith, you can still practise spiritual self care. Feed your soul, and give yourself peace through meditation and reflection. Enjoy and appreciate being in the natural world, embracing the many ordinary miracles that surround us. In my Facebook group, we often do a Noticing Tiny Things challenge, where we share photos of little things we’ve noticed during our day. It gets us all paying closer attention to our world, and is an exercise we all love.
Feed your senses and ground yourself in the present. Using your senses is an excellent way of managing your stress levels. Some people spend a few moments each day walking barefoot on the earth (all year round in some cases!). Indulge your senses with scents, colours, textures and aromas that please you. Get in touch if you’d like me to share my 5 step sensory check in for calm with you.
Connection with others is essential for all beings. We are all interconnected, and it’s important to recognise and enjoy this precious connection. No matter how you feel about being with others, you can find your level. The needs of introverts and extroverts will vary, as will those of highly sensitive people. Being with someone you love, sharing a meal or a drink with someone, a chance conversation with a stranger, can fulfil our social needs.
Choose it and commit to it
If you’re up for a challenge, I suggest you choose something that covers each of those 6 types of self care. Whatever you pick, do it with intention. Plan and schedule your self care as an appointment in your diary, otherwise your chances of getting around to do it may be slim! You don’t have to spend hours each day on your self care. You’ll find ways to fit it in, a few minutes here and there.