Do you prioritise self-care? What does self-care mean to you? For a lot of people self-care means long soaks in bubbly baths or a spa day. I’m all for both but my definition of self-care might be quite different to yours.
When I was in the midst of my crazy corporate life I had massages & facials when time allowed & most Saturday evenings would start with a bubbly bath. With how stressed & out of control I felt at that time these didn’t go any way to delivering the self-care that I so desperately needed.
So many women have SO many things competing for their time and most women put themselves bottom of their list, if they’re even on their list at all. Mothers instinctively put their children first & then maybe their partner next, then they prioritise work, managing home life, their friends & all of the commitments that they’ve taken on in the community. Is it any wonder so many people are feeling awful & suffering from low moods, anxiety, exhaustion & burnout?
Imagine that all of your energy is contained within a cup. Let’s imagine that you start each day with a full cup of energy – in reality I know that’s not the case but for this purpose let’s assume that you do. Getting the kids breakfast, getting them sorted & out the door uses some energy, ensuring that you & your partner have what you need for the day takes some more energy, your daily commute (maybe with calls as you go) takes some more energy, organising what the kids are doing later takes some energy. Your working day takes energy, planning what you’ll do for dinner & finalising plans to ensure that you can get to the social event tomorrow that you committed to last week takes some more energy. You’ve got to early afternoon and you’ve constantly given from your energy cup without putting anything at all back in.
Add in having a tricky situation to deal with at work, one of your kids being ill who needs collecting from school, your food shopping delivery not arriving when it’s meant to, your partner having to work late when they were meant to be home as you’d planned to be out doing something you’d committed to in the community. They’re all more things that take energy from your cup, still with nothing refilling it.
At the end of this day you collapse frazzled with glass of wine/gin/insert your tipple of choice, wondering how you ended up here! One glass might become 3, to take the edge off just how manic your day has been, you head to bed, have broken sleep as you mull over all that you need to do tomorrow and wake up feeling bleeuuurrrrgggghhhh in the morning & so it starts again.
This is a standard day for so many people, is it any wonder then that this generation of 30 & 40 somethings are feeling less satisfied, more anxious & downright fried than any other generation before them?
So how can we top our cup up during our busy lives, without needing to win the lottery & spend each day on a yoga retreat? I’m really glad you asked.
So that this post doesn’t turn into a book, I’m going to focus on a few keys areas. Those of you who are familiar with my work will recognise that some of them touch on the theme of some that are contained within my FREE 5 Step Guide to a Happier You, if you haven’t got a copy then you can download it here.
In my experience one of the quickest ways to top our energy cup up is to create boundaries. This is a probably a post in its own right, so I’ll just share a few tips about how to start creating & sticking to your boundaries.
Boundaries are the rules by which you live your life to enable you to perform at your optimum level as often as possible. If you read that & you thought ‘hmmm I don’t think I have any boundaries’ then I wouldn’t mind betting that you’re feeling seriously frazzled right now.
Some of my boundaries include:
1) Ensuring that I eat well around 80% of the time – that means ensuring that I have time in my days/week to shop & cook healthy & nutritious food. Eating well means that I have the energy to do all that I want and need to with my business, my & horses & in all other areas of my life too.
2) Getting 8 hours of quality sleep each night – therefore I make sure that I do what I need to during the day and evening to enable that to happen. When I go out socially, I usually make sure that I can leave and get home in time for this. I have a busy life & gone are the days when I’m prepared to try & function on 5 hrs of poor sleep. Just some of the benefits of a good night’s sleep include:
• Increased energy
• Improved concentration
• Better ability to make healthy food choices
• Improved immune system function
• Better memory
• Reduced stress levels
• Reduced risk of weight gain
Not getting enough sleep means that the opposite of that list above is true, can you see why prioritising sleep is one of my boundaries?
3) I protect myself from things that sap my energy. I have done work to recognise what saps my energy & I’ve learnt to listen to my body. Here’s an example of this in action; if someone invites me to do something then I consider carefully whether I want to do it or not. If I decide that I don’t want to do it (no reason is required) then I say no. I don’t say yes, then as whatever it is approaches wonder how I can get out of it, or I say that I can’t & then make a fictitious reason why.
I choose up front whether or not it’s something I’m going to do & I respond accordingly. Doing just this one thing has really changed things for me. I have had friendships in the past that have been exhausting, you know those people who can’t make a decision without asking 10 people their opinion & endlessly discussing it? I used to think that I was being a good friend by being there for people in that way, in some instances that was true, but I would find myself feeling frazzled by taking on all of their emotions, so I don’t. I choose what I allow into my life & what I won’t. I no longer do things because I feel obliged or guilty if I don’t & my life is 100% better for it.
It didn’t happen overnight but by saying no to people the world didn’t end & the more I put myself first the stronger my boundaries became & the better I felt.
Here’s a quick tip of how you can tell whether something saps your energy; think about saying yes to whatever it is & see how it feels in your body. If it doesn’t feel right you will usually experience a feeling of heaviness somewhere in your body, for me it’s often in my stomach or my chest. If it feels good it usually has a feeling of lightness to it. If you’re still not sure then close your eyes, clear your mind & ask yourself if you want to do it, your instinctive answer is your subconscious talking. Often times your subconscious says no but you over-ride it with your conscious mind, because you feel guilty or obliged to do it, this is the perfect example of setting a boundary by choosing to say no by listening to your first instinct.
Making these practices habits in your life will have far more benefit than going on a spa day once a month just before you’re about to burnout. We always have the right to choose and by creating boundaries to protect your energy you’re demonstrating that you respect yourself enough to take care of yourself.
Can you really be the best Mum, partner, friend, colleague, manager if you’re always running so close to empty? You’re of no use to the multitude of people who rely on you every day if you’re running head forth into an early grave. What if you became the example of how to take care of yourself & encouraged others to do the same?
We all have one body & if we don’t nurture it & treat it well then we run the very serious risk of those people that we’re trying so hard to please ending up without us at all. That is a seriously sobering thought but it’s no less real. As Joyce Sunada said ‘If you don’t make time for your wellness, then you’ll be forced to make time for your illness’.
You can choose to prioritise self-care today. If you need some support in this or any other area of your life then get in touch.
Visit www.beyourbestyet.co.uk for my one-off Make Way for Calm Transformation Session or for information about my monthly coaching packages to improve your life & achieve your goals.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for!