Self-care is something I talk about a lot and also one of my non negotiables. I learned the hard way, back in my corporate world days where the busier I thought I was the more valued I felt, the more hours I worked the more status I achieved and the more money I earned the happier I thought I’d be. It turns out this isn’t the formula and whilst I’m still busy these days I’ve mastered the art of balance.
I use self-care as the foundation from which I build and if I feel good and have plenty of energy everything else seems so much easier, even when the tough times hit. Self-care is a critical part of building our resilience but also giving us the mental clarity to create and the energy to succeed.
When you read articles from some of the most successful people in our society they talk about their morning routines, their self-care, how they centre themselves. I believe this is the key to our success and how we reach our potential because I’ve seen the difference it’s made for me.
I don’t mind admitting I’m in bed most nights before 10pm. It means I wake up fresh and ready for the day. I spent years dragging myself out of bed and was desperately attached to the snooze button. As a result I’d feel sluggish most of the morning and it’d take a few cups of caffeine to lift the brain fog. I find these days my morning routine is so important to starting the day well. My brain functions better and my mind is more clear and therefore creative.
I get up early, do some stretches and sit for 10 minutes to meditate, sometimes longer if I’ve got the time and sometimes not at all if I’ve not. I believe in the 80:20 rule and if you’re doing things 80% of the time the 20% you miss is inconsequential. I then have breakfast and get ready for the day. I also like to get outside and walk the dog.
Exercise is key for me as is being out in nature. I make sure this happens in some form most lunchtimes. I also make sure I’m getting to a yoga class at least once a week to offset all the sitting I do. Failing that I so some stretches or sit with my legs up the wall for 5 minutes, this releases my lower back and helps calm the mind too.
It’s so often the small, simple stuff that makes the difference, the things that don’t cost money or take up much extra time because let’s face it we need this stuff most because we’re so short on time!
Those who know me know I’m a fan of the sauna, particularly in winter. It’s a warm, quiet dark space and I feel instantly relaxed when I’m in there. It’s also where a lot of my thinking happens so important processing time.
I’m also a fan of the spa and a massage but self-care is so much more than this. These are the basics that keep us well but self-care extends far beyond this. A lot of self-care is how we allow ourselves to be treated. The people we hang out with, how we allow others to treat us, the voice inside our head and how we let it talk to us. The food we put into our body, the way we feel when we look in the mirror, how busy we allow ourselves to be and if we care enough about ourselves to make time for ourselves.
As women it’s too easy to feel guilty or selfish when we take time for us. Especially if we have dependants and other people relying on our time and energy. However, if we do take time for us it’s not only ourselves that benefit. Imagine what a better partner, parent, worker, colleague we’d be if we weren’t tired and stressed, how much more we could give others, the quality of our relationships and how we’d respond to conflict and bumps in the road?
When we take time for self-care everyone around us benefits too. If we’re compassionate by nature we can often find we’re last on our own list – but then how can we give to others if we’re pouring from an empty cup? It’s the ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’ adage.
So how else can we take care of ourselves and invest in self-care to keep us at our best?
Taking a break from technology once a month for a day or two helps clear my mind and give me a break from the constant social media messaging and body image, comparison, not good enough spiral that it’s easy to get caught up in – this is an act of self-care.
Simply sitting in silence for a few minutes before the rest of the house wakes – this is also an act of self-care.
Leaving a company that doesn’t align to your values, a boss who mis-treats you, a partner who doesn’t respect you – these are all acts of self-care. As is saying no to demands when you’re overscheduled.
This is a tough one, when we’re conditioned to put others first and the please people, when we’ve based our identity on helping others and being all things to all people, saying no does not come naturally for many women. Often saying no can leave us feeling guilty and selfish, like we’ve let people down.
I’ve never been good in this space and that’s why I get so busy. Either because I don’t want to let people down or I’m worried about offending them. I’m also a people pleaser and I also want to help others, not to mention feeling proud that they’ve come to me in the first place and therefore wanting to deliver for them (the drive to succeed plays a role here too). This may resonate with many of you.
Over the last year or so as I’ve become more well known the demands on my time have increased. More people want to meet for coffee, to pick my brains or simply to connect and it’s something I love to do. However there are only so many hours a day and often this can dominate my schedule and take me away from my work. It’s led me to reflect; where do you draw the line and how can we get comfortable saying no?
I think saying no has evolved to be selfish, negative and avoidable in our eyes. If we’re superwoman and succeeding in all areas of life surely we say yes to everything and saying no is a sign we’re not good enough or up to the job?
Flipping the narrative here and knowing that saying no is how we deliver on our superwoman ideal has helped me. Saying no to protect myself and to ensure I stay on top form to be able to deliver on expectations and be good to others. Saying no to the one extra meeting when the week is full means I’ve more energy when I get home to be with my family. Saying no to another 6 am start because they’ve happened all week means that when I get on stage people get the full me not a 60% tired version.
No doesn’t have to be no, it doesn’t have to be a negative or a sign I don’t care or a feeling of not delivering or letting people down. It can be
“Not right now, maybe when I’m less busy”.
“No but thanks for asking I really appreciate that you thought of me”
“No but I might know someone else that can help”
“No, not this time but feel free to ask next time”
“No but I’d have loved to if I had the time”
“No because I’m doing x, y, and z in stead”
“I already have plans” or “something else has come up”
“I’m not available but let’s reschedule”
So next time you’re overscheduled see balancing the busyness as an act of self-care
Next time you’re in an uneven relationship or a negative conversation see removing yourself as an act of self-care. Next time you have to say no, see it as looking after yourself so you’re able to give more to others and deliver on your own expectations.
Self-care is our foundation, is where everything else builds from and it’s how we stay our best. It’s so often the small things and that’s why we tend to overlook them but they make such a big difference.