Selfcare: Between Selfish and Selfless
I first came across the term ‘selfcare’ last year, 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:
• A demanding career
• Leading a significant project
• Managing a team
• Being a mother of two
• Managing a home
• Being at risk of redundancy
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 we’re 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.
Since then lots has changed. I won’t lie and say I am the best at it. It takes practice.
Through my coaching work, I have seen 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.
I recently had a reminder of the importance of it. Having been flat out building and running my business, renovation work underway and building work starting on my house, school events and clubs…I got ill and had to spend two days at home on the sofa, barely able to do a thing. I had been delaying lunch, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough – running out of charge.
It impacted my husband, my children and my business. All because I ‘forgot’ to take care of myself. So, over the last two weeks, I’ve started taking more care of my energy levels. I am eating well and more regularly, I’ve walked, run, cycled and done yoga. Even having worked hard to launch My Reinvent and Revitalise Retreat Programme and continued the juggling act, I’m energised and ready for an active weekend with my family. 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.
Selfish – no. Selfless, no. Giving those around you the best of you, not what’s left of you – yes!
Selfcare could be:
• Taking exercise
Break it into short bursts if you are short on time. It doesn’t have to be an exercise class, or expensive gym membership. Take your dog for a walk, take your children for a bike ride, swim, run, yoga – you can even download exercise apps and exercise in the comfort of your own home. Have an exercise buddy or agree with a work colleague that you’ll encourage each other to get out for a lunchtime stroll. It’ll boost your brain power, give you a dose of vitamin D and minimise stress.
• Sleeping well
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.
• Adopting healthy eating habits
When you’re under pressure its 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.
• Spending time with family and friends, or expanding your network
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 your wellbeing.
• Enjoying a hobby
Boost your creativity and energy by taking a break from work or home and doing something you enjoy.
• Being in the moment
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 improve your wellbeing, happiness and relationships.
• Learning to say no
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 its 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.
• Disconnecting from social media
News feeds, status updates, interesting articles – so much information at our fingertips. You are 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.