One of my favourite conversations to have with clients (and friends, and strangers, and anyone who will listen) is the conversation about self care. I want to know what you do to care for yourself. I want to know what you would do if you had an entire day to do whatever makes you happy. The reason I care so much about self care is because I truly believe that your ability to care for yourself says a lot about how you feel about yourself.
This week I was out for coffee with a friend when she said
“K so I totally get why self care is important. I know that we should do things for ourselves. I get it. I just don’t see how it actually changes anything.”
My response went something like this
“Honestly it probably won’t. Not if you stop there. Self care has to be more than just a hand full of activities that you schedule into your week.”
Let’s take yoga for example. As far as self care activities go, yoga is numero uno (in my humble and slightly biased opinion). If you practice at the studio 5+ times per week but you don’t tune into yourself the other 163 hours then you are going to have some problems. The activity is the access point – it’s simply an invitation to treat yourself better. The real work comes from the things you do when you’re not on the mat.
The activity has purpose but it is not the destination.
The reason we talk about self care as an activity is because we want you to get out of your head. We want you to explore what it means to be you. We ask you to learn how to take time for yourself because we want you to understand that you are worthy of being taken care of. The activity is an important part of the process, but what we really want is for you to learn how to take care of yourself outside of those activities.
Stop and ask yourself:
- How do I talk to myself when I look in the mirror?
- How do I respond when I make a mistake?
- Am I able to control my emotions?
- Do I worry about things that are out of my control?
These are the questions at the root of self care. What are your thoughts and feelings about yourself? What do you have to do to make those thoughts and feelings overwhelmingly positive?
And THIS my lovelies, is where the activities come in.
This week I encourage you to do something just for you. Build a self care plan. If you have one already, then tear it down and rebuild it. Dump the fluff and add some substance.
Here’s a quick and simple exercise to get you started:
Step 1: Identify Values
Make a list of words that describe your ideal self. These can be words like happy, energetic, radiant, successful, content, etc. Try to focus on feelings, not outcomes (think: security vs. wealth). If you’re familiar with Desire Maps use your Core Desired Feelings. If you’re not familiar with Desire Maps, you might want to be. You can buy the book on Amazon and I promise you it’s well worth the investment.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Write a list of activities that make you feel this way or that you suspect might make you feel this way. Think outside of the box. Self care can be ANYTHING. It can be as extravagant as exploring exotic places or as teeny tiny as scheduling a nap into your workday. You do you.
Step 3: Get Clear
Get real with yourself. Ask yourself “am I doing these things?”
“Do I have time (or money) for these things?” *
“Do I really want to do these things, or do I feel like these are things I should do?” **
Step 4: Commit
In order for this to work you have to do what you say you are going to do. Take time out of your life and do these things. Schedule them into your week. Commit to yourself and make the time. Wake up earlier if you have to. Go to bed later if you have to. I promise you, you’ll be glad you did.
Step 5: Evaluate
Notice if these activities feel inherently good or if they are a means to an end. Be super honest with yourself.
This step is crucial – sometimes what we think will make us happy makes us feel like shit. Pay attention to that.
Here’s a quick example: There’s a difference between committing to spending more time with your friends because you truly miss their company and committing to spending more time with them because you feel like there’s something wrong with you because you’d rather sit at home in your PJ’s. Self care for me, as an extrovert, is spending at least one night a week with friends. Self care for you, if you’re an introvert, might be turning down more invitations than you accept. Actually, let’s take that a step further – self care for you might be turning down invitations without feeling guilty about it.
Step 6: Refocus
Get rid of whatever isn’t working but be open to the possibility of trying again in the future. Meditation might not work for you right now but 6 months from now it could be the only thing that helps you control your anxiety. Your self care plan can be fluid and open to change at any given point.
* This is important. Do what’s doable. Start small and work your way up.
** Again, super important. Don’t do anything because you feel like you “should.” Shoulds’ are not allowed.
If you need some ideas you can find hundreds of Pinterest boards dedicated to self-care. If you’re feeling extra stuck and need some guidance there a ton of TED talks, podcasts, and youtube videos you can watch. If you’d like to work with me one-on-one you can book in online through our website or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.