And why that word? Can we change it?! It is a real buzz word at the moment and unfortunately people denote attributes such as 'selfish behaviour' or being too self absorbed to this term. I am guilty of having interpreted it like that too. However, self-care, as I have come to realise, does not mean caring so much about yourself that it's to the detriment of those around you - it is actually quite the reverse. It is selfish NOT to look after yourself. Not looking after yourself will probably mean those around you will suffer. There's a balance, you cannot keep giving out without filling up. I do not believe the filling up part - oh, could we call it self-filling instead of self care? I do hope that catches on instead (cue tumble weeds, people shuffling their feet awkwardly), has to be hugely time consuming. It is not in the lengthy acts (although these are great) that we become more full, it is actually some very subtle shifting we can do in our outlook and perspective on things.
My 5 top tips are thus:
Pick your battles
What do you want to carry into tomorrow?
Get a hobby or an interest, something you value that validates who you are
Gratitude attitude - thankfulness
1. Pick your battles!
I like this expression - my sister said this to me very early on after my husband's accident. She witnessed me fighting daily, EVERYTHING! Fighting for more input for Alex, physio, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, fighting to get him home, get his medication reduced, fighting to get the care providers to listen, fighting to make sure the kids were looked after, given what they were going through, in school. I just woke up and immediately imagined putting my armour on for battle, EVERY SINGLE DAY. My son made me a lego figure years ago - it was a woman with a sword in one hand and a light sabre in the other - I must have just oozed battle mode from my pores. Eventually, I then did begin to pick them, understanding better the choice we have and that fight mode carries you in such a heightened state of anxiety, that you cannot sustain yourself forever that way. I began checking myself, being a 'lion in my own consciousness' as my husband, Alex, always used to say - did I need to get angry about what someone had said? Could I just put it in my ridiculous box and move on? I began (eventually) to practice the art of letting go. And breathe... Letting go of the s*&t that is not yours to carry is liberating.
2. What do you want to carry into tomorrow?
What attitude? What character trait? What emotion do you want to bring into the next day with you? What can you leave in yesterday? I often, in bed at night when my day is done, consider what I would like to leave in today and imagine vibrant colours around what I am to bring into tomorrow. I leave the feelings/events/triggers behind by imagining them as a balloon that I let go of as I watch it disappear. It clears the day, draws a line under it and strengthens you for the next day. Drop your bag of s*&t, baby!
3. Eat well.
I am writing this eating sourdough toast and marmite, a favourite of mine! It's a comfort food for me. Make small amendments to your existing diet, rather than having the sense you are taking away, or depriving yourself of something, add some healthy choices in - add some extra veg to your dish, have a smoothie a day, make one night per week a plant-based meal night. It doesn't have to be deprivation, you can form a healthy eating habit from the existing one you have, better habits form when you take initial steps to nourish your body. This, you will reap benefits from - better skin, better health, stronger immune system and quality of sleep improves. Try it!
4. Get a hobby or an interest, something you value that validates who you are.
It is very easy in the bus-i-ness of life, to lose yourself and who you are. Buried under life's debris, lost and utterly bewildered. Stress takes its toll on the mind, the body and the soul. Spending just 5 minutes a day writing down what interests us to find out what we like and our values and who we are is an indispensable piece of advice. I get lost now, down rabbit holes of how to reduce single waste plastic, researching plastic free Christmas gifts (yes I used the C word in not December), making wax wraps instead of cling film is one example of the things I have discovered and how I feel I can make a slight difference. It fills me up because it interests me and is something that is important to me. It has a snowballing effect, the interest becomes a hobby which is fulfilling, which then makes me feel as though I am listening to myself and making myself important. Win-win. Amen. And you're brilliant!
5. Gratitude Attitude
Yep, it's in here and I went there, I used the word gratitude. Some of us struggle with this concept, feeling we have nothing to be grateful for. If this is you - begin by noticing. What I mean by this is observing things around you - the sink, the kettle, the bed, the shoes on your feet, the duvet, the home you live in. Then add on a thank you and a bit extra, like this: Thank you for the sink which has running water, or, thank you for my bed that keeps me safe and warm at night. Growing an awareness of ALL things means we are more cognisant of abundance existing in our lives. It is just a shift in perspective, a subtle one by noticing, adding a thank you for... And that's it! I find it grounds me in the beauty that exists all around me, no matter how dreadful I feel at times, I can always find something to be grateful for. It is light in the darkness.
Be kind, be gentle, be a friend to yourself.
There's only one of you, you are unique, amazing, IMPORTANT - know this!
Peace and marmite toast,