Self Care – how do you practise it?

So we looked at what Self-Care means to people, what stops us taking care of ourselves. Then I asked –

“How do you practise self-care if/when you do?”

Now there’s a case to be made about what is self-care and what is nurture, because the two things aren’t the same… I see them as occupying similar places to surviving and thriving.

We need Self-Care to survive – drink enough water, eat enough food (and hopefully more towards the nutritious end of the scale), get enough sleep, take your medications, keep clean, be in contact with supportive people, check in yourself and see how you’re doing.

It connects to the base 3 layers of Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs (No, not the one with WIFI drawn in!).

Nurture seemed to connect more to the higher 3 levels, with connection to others being the overlap.

What Guidance for Approaching Learning Is There From ...

I looked at what people sent me, and wondered, is this self-care or nurture?

Does it matter? Well it might do to people who are very short on time, energy or struggling with mental health. On days where the duvet weighs a few tons and the world is dark, looking at a list of creative pursuits and listening to birdsong might seem daunting or frivolous.

And that’s not what I want these posts to be. I want to find ways of slipping Self-Care in through the chinks in our lives for when we most need it. Of starting up a Self-Care routine from just one deep breath, just one instance of asking yourself how best to be kind to yourself today, and knowing from that little droplet, if we keep dropping it, ripples will start to spread.

The most common answer I got was some form of “slowing”, of reconnecting to ourselves and what we need in that moment. How people did that depended on their lives. Some were able to use being outside, looking at nature, being away from dependants. Many mentioned being able to take time for themselves or realising that this was what they needed if possible – what people did with that time ranged from nothing at all to being physical and active, creative and crafty, focusing on nature rather than people/work/city, avoiding TV/Computer, reading fiction of choice, meditation, connecting with self by writing or talking with trusted friends, healthy or indulgent food choices (maybe depending on what the norm is?).

I’ve read a few things lately regarding how toxic some self care articles can be, how they are actually about nurture with an unspoken message that if you aren’t doing an hour of yoga every morning before your organic home cooked breakfast well it’s no wonder you’re like this! And I’m trying so very hard to not do that.

You are you. You live your life. And you need a specific set of Self-Care Tools in your toolkit.

And it’s alright to start with the small easy tools that fit.

Take a single deep breath.

Ask yourself how to be kind to yourself today.

See if there’s an answer.

If you can do more, do.

If you can’t. That’s a start for today. The ripples will spread.

 

 

Advertisements

Self Care – What gets in the way?

What stops you practising self-care if/when you don’t?

My lovely friends helped me answer this question too.

While we can understand what Self-Care is and why it’s important, many of us struggle to either make it a regular part of our lives, or to include it at all. Usually at a time when we need it the most. We all harbour doubts over how much we sleep, what we eat, how active we are, how much we support the important people in our lives. We all struggle to do (or not do) things that we know will actually help us feel better.

Why?

There are many reasons and all of them valid. This post isn’t about guilt tripping anyone who finds Self-Care difficult or impossible, but hoping to acknowledge and understand why and see if we can work within the restrictions that life or our brain (or both!) impose on us.

If you find Self-Care tricky, know that you’re not alone.

Many people find that they feel guilty or selfish if they take time out for themselves – there’s always a big pile of stuff that needs doing, that task list doesn’t get smaller by itself! There are friends and family, younger and older people who need your love and attention and care, some of whom simply can’t do without you.

Sometimes we are simply too busy, there’s just too much to do and it’s real and pressured and important and we are not able to stop.

We get exhausted and ill (both physically and mentally), Self-Care can take time and energy and effort, which we simply do not have at times.

Sometimes low moods or mania, anxiety or full on depression can convince us that we simply aren’t worthy of Self-Care (or don’t need it) and that insidious voice is so loud and persuasive that we can’t argue against it, let alone take the extra step of taking care of ourselves.

Maybe we just don’t know anymore what Self-Care is for us. We just know that we don’t have room for it, or the time to investigate further.

Sometimes we’ve tried Self-Care, but perhaps we’ve overwhelmed ourselves by trying or expecting too much too soon and we burn ourselves out. We can’t keep up the regime we set ourselves and believe anything less isn’t worth it.

Or we look at the amount of information out there and get lost vacillating between healthy nutrition and indulgent treats, walking in the fresh air and allowing a duvet day. Am I practising Self-Care or being a lazy pig? And the brain gremlins perk up their ears and rattle the bars of their cages…

There are so many reasons why Self-Care is difficult or even impossible and that’s okay. Life is full and busy and chaotic and it just doesn’t stop.

So just know one thing.

Your reasons are valid.

They don’t make you a bad person. No one else can tell you how, when or if to practise Self-Care. No one else lives your life or has your priorities. Only you can know what time and energy you have (if any!) and what will work for you.

Allowing yourself to have the intention of Self-Care may allow little spaces in your brain where Self-Care can creep in. A positive thought here, a deep breath there, sounds like nothing probably, but every task big and small starts with the intention to start it. Allow yourself to start wondering what might make some positive difference to you, and maybe the first step is to let yourself accept just how tricky this is and letting that be okay.

Recognising what stops you practising Self-Care is important. Recognising that those things are real and valid is important. You, your life and everything in it, are important.

Self Care – What does that mean to you?

I’m doing some research on Self-Care for a series of workshops and talks designed around helping people develop their own Self-Care Toolbox. I decided to ask some friends for their thoughts, feelings and opinions. This post is concerned with the first question I asked:

“What does ‘Self-Care’ mean to you?”

For many people it meant taking time for themselves. Self-Care was an amount of time with their own well-being as the priority. Slowing down the pace of their life in order to think and reassess – being mindful of their life, the world and their place in it. Stopping and checking in with themselves about what they needed, then if possible, supplying it. The first step was to stop and ask “what do I need?”

For many parents, that took considerable effort and planning so wasn’t something that felt it could be done often or regularly, or sometimes at all. Simply not putting yourself last, self preservation.

The concept of self-care was offered as looking after yourself so that you are in turn able to look after others. Or anything that made them feel healthier in mind and/or body – including just feeling happier. The main reason given for Self-Care was in order to de-stress (being happier often being part of that). Suggesting that Self-Care didn’t kick in until we were stressed enough to have to do something about it.

It made me wonder, is it possible to put an element of Self-Care in place to reduce or avoid stress? Of course life can thwack us unexpectedly around the head and stress can never be completely avoided, but can Self-Care come into daily life rather than being applied as an emotional sticking plaster?

Self-care often seemed to be focused on the foundations of well-being:

  • Washing
  • Dressing
  • Taking medications/vitamins
  • Eating nutritiously (if possible), sometimes, just eating.
  • Drinking water
  • Exercise/moving/fresh air

Self-care could be seen as something that felt mildly indulgent or even selfish sometimes.

I have to say, that made me a little sad. Self-Care should be seen as essential and necessary. Like breathing, water, food, taking care of ourselves is part of that package.

It’s also something that’s fluid and changing, sometimes it was taking the break that your body and mind needed, sometimes it was kicking yourself up the butt to get something finished or started.

“It isn’t being nice to yourself, it’s being kind, and in some cases that means practicing self discipline. It’s also different for each person.” Kate, 24, Cambridge.

Kate’s words said exactly what I wanted to, so I asked her permission to use them verbatim.

So Self-Care is different things for different people, and also different for the same person.

The common element is taking a moment to ask yourself what you need right now. What is essential to get done, what will help you de-stress and be happy. Also, what is possible. Life is busy and full and tough and we need to find ways of slipping Self-Care into the chinks available.

The first step in building a Self-Care toolkit is wanting to.

Have the intention.

Find a time when you’re alone – in the bathroom/shower in the morning? On the work commute? Waiting for the kettle to boil? – a minute, 30 seconds – and think something along the lines of, I want to be kind to myself today, how do I take care of myself today, what do I need today and what’s possible? Whatever words are best for you.

That’s the first tool for your toolkit. The tool of intention.

Try it, see what you think and let me know.

Next post is about how Self-Care is practised.

Watching the Darkness – Not the evening I planned

I receive a text – “what time do you finish work”
It pains me to be honest with you but my first reaction was annoyance.

What? What now!? I thought. I have thoughts and plans for my evening.

I was going to swing by town and pick up a couple of things (coffee and nytol with a small measure of irony) and needed to swing by my old flat (or rather the shop near it) to pick up a card for an undelivered item which was a present for another friend.
Frankly, I felt swamped. Actually the plan I really had was time to myself and it bothered me to change it.

But, I had just left work so I replied, Now!
The next text came: Please can you come to me. I need you desperately. x
I started typing out all the things I needed to do first in the hope it was nothing serious that could get a raincheck. Then I stopped and looked at the text again.

Desperately.

That wasn’t one of our words that we used. That was a strange word… it stood out to me. It meant something was wrong.
I texted back one word, “OK”

I was on the bus when I read the next message “don’t be clucking. I’ll be fine but I need you”

Don’t be clucking?! Well I wasn’t before that message!! Now I’m clucking! I just don’t know what I’m clucking about!
Now I knew something was wrong and my mind started running through the options – sadly far too many – as I replied that I’d be there as soon as I could.

“Please don’t hate me or be cross. I’m sorry! I’ll be fine tho”
Now I was really panicking.

My mind raced back to when they’d stepped out in front of the bus. Surely it couldn’t be something like that? They’d been telling me all their plans, how they were turning having to leave college into a positive thing, how they was doing better, surely it couldn’t be like May?
I knew I couldn’t bear anymore of these texts, so I replied to just wait till I got there and we could talk.

When I arrived they were on the phone to another friend, or to someone on the end of the 101 number, I’m not sure, they were in floods of tears with a pile of medication boxes in front of them which they painfully tried to hide from me before realising what a silly move that was.

The reality of the situation hit me immediately and I sat on a chair quietly while they finished their call.
I schooled my face and placed my mind in the state it needed to be, calm, gentle, loving, supportive.
The other friend on the phone had already called the paramedics who arrived soon after the call ended. I was glad as this saved me the job of having to convince them that this needed to be done. I have no idea what is a dangerous amount of ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin to take and their protestations that they have a hearty constitution and could sleep it off and I could just go home were worrying me. They’d contacted me, that meant they didn’t want to do this. Didn’t it?

The two paramedics were lovely, and I couldn’t help but notice some of the training they employed – concentrating on just one step at a time not what the end result would be (a night in hospital), just detailing what was taken, then just drinking this drink, then just coming to the ambulance for blood pressure – not tricking or deceiving – just breaking it down into small individual manageable steps. Moment by moment.

I just tried to be as useful as possible at each step – filling in missing information, carrying a bag, putting the keys in the right place etc. I also tried to stay out of the way. There but not overly so.

We joked about how sexy the charcoal drink made them look (“I’ve never wanted you more”), I duly sent some text messages for them and spoke to their partner while they felt ever more nauseous from the charcoal and no doubt the pills.

I’ve never been inside an ambulance before and we were both surprised to find there was a catflap in there! It was apparently the vertical lid to a bin… but it looked exactly like the catflap my friends have that stop their cats going back out again after a certain time.

They were mostly horrifically embarrassed, wanted the ground to swallow them up – which married and mixed with the suicidal thoughts – didn’t want anyone to see them. They would ask me to contact people then change their mind.

I just tried to ride it all, gently reminded them of the last decision made when asked about those requests, accepted any changes without comment.

They slowly accepted that she wasn’t going home immediately and I did my best to open up the thought that this could get the help so badly needed to get through this, that this wasn’t a sign of failure but a sign of the impossible load they were trying to carry all alone. A load that no one should have to bear. But it’s always easier to blame yourself for what other people do to you, and this weight is over three decades old. Perhaps it also wasn’t the time, but it’s a hard habit to break.

I was made to leave after a while, and it felt like the thing to do at the time so I did.

Later I panicked though. Wondered if I’d just opened the gate for them to vanish and complete the job or not access all the help that might be available. I sent her a text as I was going to bed in the vain hope that it might help if my fears were true.

I didn’t sleep much that night.

I woke to a facebook message that they were heading home in the early morning hours. I planned to see them as soon as I could after work.

The sun was shining and there were blue skies that morning. I held tightly to a made up hope that this was a good sign.

I did mange to completely over estimate my ability to be at work and got there with just enough Cope to let my department head know I wasn’t able to be at work that day (I’d left a message the night before to say I wouldn’t be able to be in at my usual time as I’d got home so late.) and then I left and repeated the previous afternoons journey to see my friend.

I spent a few hours with my friend at their home, we talked and while I will never know what the future holds, they were there and alive and I just hope that continues.

To the you in this post – if you want me to take this down I will. As ever I share these things in case it helps someone but it’s not my wish to cause you embarrassment.