Over the years, in both my work and personal life, I’m constantly aware that people are so much stronger, much more resilient and often more creative than they realise.
It’s true to say that when we are under pressure in an ongoing crisis or even at a time when things are settled and something comes out of the blue, we often underestimate what we can achieve.
We survive through the sheer will of wanting to do so, sometimes living on adrenaline and maybe using creative thinking to work out how to initially cope and ultimately how to survive and thrive.
But you know what, in order to do this time and time again and to constantly feel ready to cope with whatever life throws at us, we need to put some work into caring for ourselves – yes the much mentioned on social media – self care.
Self care at its most basic is about feeding yourself, getting washed and dressed and generally functioning in your world. I want you to think not just about functioning, I want you to think about what you need in your life to feel both nourished and excited, these are the things you need in order for you to flourish.
You’ve heard the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup” and it’s true. If you learn to look after yourself in the way that’s right for you, you will be much better placed to help yourself and other people.
To do this, you need to learn the difference between what you need and what you want. Real self care is a regular practice and to work out what you personally need, you have to start paying attention to your mind and body.
Looking after yourself means being fully present and engaged in your life and by taking care of yourself you will feel energised and your batteries will feel totally re-charged. When you stay true to what feels right for you, life will feel more balanced, your head will feel clearer and you will achieve more of the things that you want to be doing.
Being kind to yourself will mean different things at different times in your life. When something big is going on you will need to take care of yourself in a kind and gentle way. When things are going well and you have the time and energy, you might want to challenge yourself and how much is totally up to you!
I know you are busy and if you are not already in a self care routine, this might feel like one more thing that you have got to think about.
As with everything, start with small steps. Don’t make loads of preparations, just meet yourself exactly where you are now and get started.
Where can you start? My three tips would be:
Make a self care list and a non self care list
You know me by now, everything starts with a list – or in this case, two.
Start to list out everything that you need in your life and everything that you don’t.
If you know you need 8-9 hours sleep every night to feel good and you are currently going to bed at midnight and getting up at 6, then you know you need to change that.
Have you currently got plenty of things in your life that you love doing and people you love seeing? (allowing for lockdown, it’s still possible to stay in touch).
What did you use to do that you would love (and need) to do again?
What do you do that you want to stop doing?
Is there something that you’ve always wanted to do?
The list is endless, but you get the picture.
Work out what you need to do to make those things happen
Planning the best ideas in the world will never work unless you work out what you need to do to make them happen. Too often, I see people with fantastic ideas and great changes they want to make, but they don’t happen because they haven’t worked out this part.
They come to me feeling despondent and believe that they have failed. All it takes is proper, honest planning and being realistic about what is needed.
Perhaps some of the things on your list include needing some space, some peace and quiet to actively do your thing – to read, to bake or to exercise – whatever it is.
How do you get that personal space? Is it about grabbing some time after the kids have gone to bed? Is it about taking yourself off to a quiet corner while the other family members are in another room?
Maybe it’s about getting up early before anybody is up or before the phone rings and the emails come in?
Could you reciprocate with your partner or housemate to allow them space to do their own thing too?
If you have things that you want to re-introduce into your life but life looks a bit different from before, could you do some research to see how you could make it work?
Often, it’s not about any physical space, it’s something in our own mindset that is holding us back. Do you need to work through some things to encourage yourself to get started? (you know where I am if you need some support with this).
Put yourself in the diary
There’s a saying that I often use “If it’s not scheduled, it’s not real”.
We tend to fit ourselves in around everything and everyone else in the diary and as the other commitments take over, before we know it another week has gone by and we have forgotten our own needs again.
When you have your list of things from Tip #1 ready and you’ve worked out how you are going to make it happen as per Tip #2, the next step is asking yourself when you want to do them and then put them straight in your diary.
Some things are going to be straightforward – if you want to walk every day at 8am, that’s a no brainer. With other things you could just allocate a block of time each week and know that is your personal time.
You might not know now what you want to do with your time until it happens but as you’ve got the time booked in, there is nowhere else that you need to be and you can fully concentrate on what you want to do.
Those are my 3 starter tips. I encourage you to look after yourself with the love, kindness and patience that you show to others. Oh, and get used to the fact that taking care of your mind and body is not optional.