It’d had been a busy week and client after client had mentioned “overwhelm”, “stress” and not knowing “Which way to turn”. I can empathise with those feelings and you probably can too. We can all step up to the mark when we’re really busy but it can be tough to sustain a high level of activity and pressure.

So, after that crazily busy week, I promised these clients – and myself – that I would write a post about self-care and I share it with you in the hope that it’s helpful.

What is self-care?

It’s looking after yourself. Really looking after yourself, not just “meaning to”. It’s listening to what your mind, body and soul are really yearning for. It’s treating yourself as if you were your own best-friend and looking after you.

Why does it matter?

Who do you give your time and energy to? Lots of my clients & colleagues give an awful lot to other people: customers, spouses, children, elderly relatives etc. This is wonderful stuff and to be commended. The problem comes when we give so much that we have nothing left to give ourselves. When that happens we can find ourselves becoming ill or feeling resentful or irritable when people ask us for support or assistance. We find we have nothing left to give anyone, least of all to ourselves.

To be the best we can be every day we must look after ourselves. To reach out and support others we must first first reach out and support ourselves.

How do you do it?

Self-care is different for different people and in my experience people usually know what they need – if someone gives them permission to ask themselves and supports them to act upon it.

What would you be doing if you really looked after you?

What are the early warning signs that you need some self-care?

I recently asked a client a simple enough question,

“So, tell me Rob, how are you … really?”

He cried and went on to say, “I’m sorry but nobody else has asked me that question and I didn’t realise how badly I was feeling”.

That was an easy one to spot!

Other signs can be: talking really fast, not being able to concentrate or get anything done, being irritable with others, not sleeping, feeling emotional or a bit of a victim. You get the picture I’m sure. The really important question here is: what are your early warning signs?

Can you give us some examples of self-care?

When clients are showing signs of extreme self-neglect I invite them to put themselves into intensive care. I want them to really put their own needs – temporarily – right at the top of their priorities; and to make looking after themselves the most important thing. Not forever. Just for now. Then I ask them to b-r-e-a-t-h-e and list some things that – if they put themselves into intensive self-care they would do for themselves / stop doing for others / stop doing to themselves. I just sit back and listen – it’s usually very enlightening for them. Here are some of the most frequent mentions:

  • Stop beating myself up for not getting everything done / not being the person I want to be
  • Listen to myself and my own needs…and act upon them
  • Giving myself an hour off a week just to do something fun (ice-cream anyone?)
  • Going home on time at least 3 times per week
  • Going to sleep by 10.30 every night
  • Saying “no” (and sticking to it) when asked to do that task nobody else is willing to do. Again.
  • Telling my partner how I’m really feeling

 

This post isn’t about being selfish to the point of not caring about others. It’s not about being self-centered or narcissistic. It’s about taking sensible steps to take care of yourself, in order that you can be the best of you every day. And if you’re the best you can be every day then you’ll be a much better leader, colleague, partner and parent.

To be the best we can be every day we must look after ourselves. To reach out and support others we must first first reach out and support ourselves.

As I write this I notice how I can absolutely relate to these feelings and plan to take some more of my own advice! Will you join me?