Self-care - or lack of it - is one of the most common issues I see in my clients. Far from being a so-called 'selfish' act, it is actually one of the most powerful and loving things you can do for your family, your friends and your community.
I'm the first to admit that I don't always practice what I preach when it comes to self-care. It took me until my forties to finally get serious about looking after myself. I'm a single mum, and like most other parents, my focus was on my child. The idea of putting my needs first seemed selfish, impossible and absurd. All too often self-care for parents gets shoved to the bottom of the to-do list, underneath all the other 'more important' things. The words 'that'll do' frequently apply.
But here's the thing. 'That'll do' isn't sustainable. Sooner or later, it won't do.
If you are a parent, a carer, a giver or a general shoulder-to-cry-on, then you will soon find that constantly giving out and not topping up your energy will leave you feeling drained, resentful, exhausted and fed up. And that's when the wheels fall off - that's when we lose our tempers, feel anxious, lose our self-esteem and get run down or ill. In short, all our gorgeous, loving energy simply runs out.
So many of my clients are pushing themselves so hard to be an amazing mum, an amazing businesswoman, an amazing friend, an amazing carer. They feel guilty most of the time. Guilty that they're not doing enough, that their parenting is not good enough, or that their work is not what it should be, that they're letting people down. The words 'no' and 'sorry I can't' just aren't a part of their vocabulary. Sound familiar?
When I hit my forties, the penny finally dropped. I realised that if, as well as working and parenting, I had been neglecting myself and running on empty, I became someone I didn't much care for - literally.
If I allowed myself to get too far off my centre, then the quality of my parenting, my care, my friendship, my work all suffered.
On the flip side, I found that tending a little more to my own needs made me feel so much better in myself. It made me more patient, a better therapist, a more energetic mum and more fun.
It didn't take very much doing, either.
I started with simple things like taking a guilt-free nap if I needed to - just 15 minutes to refresh and reboot. I bought some nice face and body creams and started a little post-bath skin pampering routine. I got really selective about the kind of posts I would consume on social media (this was actually a big deal, that probably needs its own blog post!). I cleaned up my diet and started exercising regularly - and stunned myself by discovering that, with the right soundtrack in my headphones, I actually enjoyed it! I started to feel happier than I'd done in years - perhaps more than I'd ever done, in fact.
My happiness spread to my family, my friends and colleagues and my clients - and encouraged happiness in them too.
In short, the more I had, the more I had to give - and the better the quality of my giving, the better I felt. Total win/win.
So what does self-care look like for you?
What little changes can you start to make, that will make a big difference for you? How about starting with one of these? Pick just one and commit to it for a week, and see what shifts!
get to bed before 11pm
start a bedtime routine
have a mini pamper session
implement 'office hours' and stick to them
take a walk outside for 20 minutes
ditch the sugary crap
reduce your caffeine/alcohol intake
clean up your social media feed
make a secret Pinterest board of your hopes and dreams
add a 5-minute meditation to your morning routine
give yourself a manicure
get a massage
call a friend just to chat
carve out one whole hour just for you
take yourself out on a 'date'
start a gratitude journal
declutter a cupboard or overstuffed drawer
take a lovely, long bath with nice smelly stuff
pop on your favourite movie
get some fresh, clean sheets on your bed
buy yourself some flowers
make your favourite dinner - lay the table and light some candles
bliss out to your favourite tunes
Make up your own! It doesn't have to be a grand gesture or a massive lifestyle shift, unless that's something you really want to do. We're not looking for perfection here - little shifts add up to big results.
You can do this!
Tend the body. Free the mind. Heal the soul.