SUZY READING, LIFE + ME’S WELLBEING PSYCHOLOGIST AND AUTHOR OF ‘THE SELF-CARE REVOLUTION‘, DISCUSSES WHY SELF-CARE CAN FEEL TRICKY AND WHAT WE CAN DO TO OVERCOME THE CHALLENGES…
Self-care is such a buzz word at the moment but while awareness and appetite to engage in it are strong, it can be hard to do! If you’re finding it tricky, go gently, you are not alone and there are valid reasons for it. In a nutshell, we all know what we need to do to feel healthy and happy, but it’s another thing to make it happen. Welcome to being human!
Let’s explore why it can be tough and see what we can do to overcome the challenges:
SELF-CARE IS WISHY WASHY
One of the reasons it can be hard to commit to self-care is because it feels nebulous and poorly defined. What exactly is it? Let’s be crystal clear: self-care is nourishment for the head, the heart and the body. The mantra is: self-care is health care. To further clarify the concept, self-care is an action or skill that nourishes you in the moment AND the person you are becoming, your ‘future self’ if you like. One glass of wine savoured in the evening can constitute self-care, but if that one turns to two or more and a late night, your future self is hardly going to be thanking you for your choices the next day. This practical definition will help you to understand self-care better and make more life-giving choices.
ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL
Another reason it can be hard to get clear on self-care is that what someone else finds nourishing may not float your boat. In fact, what you find nurturing in one moment might not be the tool or strategy you need in the next. We all have different needs, goals and natural preferences and this also changes over time. The solution here is to have a broad toolkit from which to draw, so there is always some kind of boost when you most need it.
I DON’T HAVE TIME
Neither do I. No one has spare time just waiting in the wings! The key here is to know that you don’t need extra time for self-care. Many self-care tools don’t take any more time, they are things you are doing already or it’s a way of harnessing your mind while you are doing everyday things! For example, your morning shower. You can ruminate on your worries or to-do list, or you can take a meditative shower where you choose to focus on the cleansing properties of the water or the scent of the gel. It is in how you use your time and parcel it out. You’ll find two whole sections of my book dedicated to mood boosters and coping tools – these are all skills and activities that don’t take any added time.
I DON’T HAVE THE ENERGY
I hear you. I have experienced energetic bankruptcy too. There are times when we feel absolutely floored by life – grief, loss, change, relationship breakdown, parenthood. No one is immune. If you feel like your nervous system is fried or you are burnt out, then you need a specialised self-care toolkit, one that is healing, soothing, restorative, so that it tops you up without any further depletion. Self-care strategies that come to the fore here are Nature, listening to music, eBooks, TED talks or podcasts, or working with the breath, meditation, visualisation, mantra and relaxing yoga. There are many options to explore, they just need to be the appropriate strategies to meet you where you are at right now.
I CAN’T AFFORD IT
Don’t be fooled into thinking that self-care requires an investment in expensive products or services. Self-care needn’t cost a penny. Gratitude, kindness and compassion cost nothing but are all potent mood boosters. You don’t need to join a gym, just take some shoulder rolls at your desk and savour a walk in Nature at lunch. Connect with a loved one, enjoy a hug, stroke the cat. All effective, free and easily accessible.
I FEEL GUILTY
Please, please let this one drop away. Well-nourished people are kinder, more compassionate, more resourceful and more resilient. This is what the whole world needs. When you commit to regular self-care you become a better version of yourself. Everyone your life touches benefits and this is the most sensational win win. Engage in self-care and you give yourself the best chance to be the person you aspire to be, to do the things you aspire to do. If guilt still pops up, use the mantra: ‘It’s not me first, it’s me as well’. Just take a moment to think of what self-care facilitates in your life… for me it’s to be the kind of mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, neighbour and coach I want to be. See that version of you and take the action required to nourish this ‘best self’. Watch those dividends ripple out well beyond you.
SELF-CARE TURNS INTO SELF-SABOTAGE
We’ve all been there, the brain fade on the sofa is more alluring than the run you have planned. Again, this is the Nature of being human. The answer is to spend time getting to know who you want your ‘future best self’ to be. Really see them, feel them and hear them. Ask yourself what choices would this ‘future best self’ make? Make the same choices more often than not and you take steps closer to being this version of you. When faced with a choice, check in and be clear on what takes you towards or away from your best self. This often dials down the volume of temptation. And it’s useful to acknowledge too that not every choice has to be ‘self-care’. There is a time for a late night with mates, there’s a time for champagne, there’s a time for a lie in, there’s a time for chocolate cake! Just pick your time wisely and if you are trying to engage in self-care make sure it fits the definition of nourishing you now and your future self. And if you choose to let your hair down, let the mantra be: ‘If I’m going to indulge, then I will savour it’…
YOUR SELF-CARE TOOLKIT
So these tips help us get clear on what self-care is but we still need to take further steps to make self-care happen. My best advice here is to write out your own self-care toolkit. We need it written down so there is a reminder when we’re feeling stressed out or too fatigued to think straight. Small incremental change works better than grand sweeping change and there needs to be balance in our self-care pursuits. With one micro moment of nourishment at a time, enjoy creating your future best self. We’re in it together!
Suzy Reading is a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, Health Coach and mum of 3. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions and energetic bank balance. She is a contributing editor for Psychologies Magazine and author of ‘The Self-Care Revolution’. Suzy is Life + Me’s Wellbeing Psychologist. If you have a question for Suzy for our Q+As, or if you have a suggested topic you would like her to cover, email [email protected]
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