Self-care: Getting clear on what it means to YOU
I was part of a panel this week discussing motherhood….the series of discussions over the last few weeks have covered all areas of the motherhood journey from getting pregnant to last night’s ‘what next?’ which was discussing self development and self care for mothers. (See @youmums )
I was first up and the question was ‘So, what is self-care? What does it look like?’ and to be honest I was flummoxed….I couldn’t easily and coherently explain what self-care was. What?! Surely that’s a simple question, and one that can be answered easily.
I have been thinking about why I found it so challenging to answer and if I am honest, gave a protracted answer that I am not sure really helped anyone! Why did I find it so hard to answer when put on the spot about something I am so passionate about?
And then this morning, it occurred to me. Because the term ‘self-care’ doesn’t resonate with me. So I started to wonder whether it doesn’t resonate with others either. Self-care is another way of saying ‘look after yourself’, something that I believe wholeheartedly in, and is the whole reason for doing what I do. As busy women we often don’t look after ourselves - we’re so busy putting other people first, that there is simply no time for us. The whole purpose of my coaching is to help people find that time, find a way to fit themselves back into the equation.
But the term ‘self-care’ has, in my opinion, become overused. It is for example used all over Facebook, in memes, in workshops, every type of coaching programme, in books, articles…..and for me it brings up images of a lady sitting wistfully in nature, a journaling book, quiet and solitary meditation, and a hot stone massage. It has in my eyes become a cliché. Of course, there is no doubt that all of these things are incredible ‘self-care’ and can benefit people hugely – that’s how things become a cliché after all. However, it is not the approach that everyone wants and not the approach that everyone needs. And this is what I was trying to say on the panel this week, when the term ‘self-care’ threw me – one size does not fit all.
So, in order for me to go on and try to explain what self-care means in my eyes, I need to use a different term – for me that term is simply Health.
Health, in my view, is all encompassing and connected – it brings in the physical and mental and emotional. In order to look after yourself (and by virtue of that look after others and stay on top of those busy lives) you need to mind your wholistic health. And whilst all aspects of health are important, as individuals we will have a tendency to lean towards certain areas, and we naturally have different priorities.
For some people, for example, quiet meditation every day can provide a catalyst to change, a way to ground themselves daily, a way to reconnect with themselves and their purpose, to focus on who they want to be and where they are heading. I saw a post from a fellow coach this morning, and her ideal morning was journaling, reflection and meditation. When I read the post, I was full of admiration and a little envious that she could do that. But did it resonate? No…..because what fills my bucket isn’t quiet reflection but action. I’m not being critical of her approach – I know for a fact that for her, that time every morning is super important and helps her get through the day. For me, exercising in the morning and eating a nourishing breakfast is what sets my day up right.
When self-care is discussed and talked about online, it is often described as ‘taking time for yourself’ and suggestions can include getting your nails done, having a girls’ get together, finally reading that book you’ve always wanted to. And these are great suggestions.
But it’s also important to look deeper than that, to really understand what drives you as a person, to understand what could make a longer-term difference to your life.
- For some of my clients, creating an environment at home that is organised and mess-free is a priority, and when achieved can have a huge positive impact on how that person feels everyday, not just at one moment in time.
- It is often suggested that getting up an hour earlier for some ‘me time’ is a way to fit this ‘self-care’ in – but once again, this won’t work for everyone. There are people for whom getting up early is more challenging and means their day starts off balance. It would be more beneficial for these people to find time during the day to take some time out to re-set.
- And for others, increasing the opportunity for creativity into their lives may be the best form of self-care they can engage in. This creativity may be found in various areas of their lives, but wherever it is, ensuring that space is made for it is the critical point.
The list goes on.
These types of wholistic health (self-care) actions are often either underestimated or overlooked.
(For an interesting take on the difference between what the author terms ‘self-soothing’ and ‘self-care’ – and the wider picture of care - check out this short article: https://blog.usejournal.com/the-unspoken-complexity-of-self-care-8c9f30233467)
This connection to yourself, and understanding of your body and mind, is also something that was raised in the panel discussion by Intimacy Coach, Jil . She works with women on rediscovering their deep connections within themselves, on reclaiming their feminine power and pleasure. And this resonated with me. Because to really undertake self-care, or to look after yourself, to really mind your health, you need to first become self-aware and understand what drives you from inside – whether physically, emotionally and/or mentally.
So, how do you go about working out how to mind your health, how to care for yourself….?
The way I work with women starting on this journey is by considering three main factors: their personal goals, their lifestyles and epigenetics*. All three areas working together to inform where they are at right now, and how to move forward to help them achieve all they want.
Because we’re all wired differently, physically and mentally, different actions will lead to different results. So the aim is to look after ourselves, in whatever way works best for us.
Performing that ‘self-care’ without judgement; without feeling like we have to fit in and conform; living our own best lives. With health at the centre, as the driver, as a proactive preventative way to look after ourselves, not as a second thought, a ‘should’ or a regret.
This way we can begin to create a way of life that works for us, not one we feel we are constantly fighting against.
If you're ready to discover how to ramp up your self-care by learning more about your body and what actions you can take to live your best life, please get in touch. I'd love to be your guide and cheerleader.
*Epigenetics - how genes express themselves. Whilst we can’t change our genes, we are able to influence how they express themselves. Understanding our genetic makeup plus our current health status, we start to discover how we can make changes to our lifestyle to best benefit our individual body and its hard-wiring.