I have been talking a lot lately about self-care. Moreover, that contrary to the popular media image of consuming your way to feeling better. Self-care is sometimes tough-love. Furthermore, I accept this might sound harsh. Self-care has very little to do with “treating yourself.” More to do with parenting yourself. And about making choices that support your long-term well-being and happiness.
There are many ways that we can choose to practice some tough-love self-care. And these can make a step-change to our lives. From tiny steps of clearing clutter to tackle our debt. Creating healthy boundaries and prioritizing sleep, exercise and healthy eating. Of course, there can be a sprinkling of massages and other yummy things in there, but it is a tiny part of self-care. Here are my top tips that I have used to learn to be kinder to myself. And to create a life where I am living in harmony with my values. I feel calmer and happier even when challenges arise.
I know that when my life gets hectic, things start to build up mainly unread emails. Other paperwork and a whole load of junk: sticky notes, receipts – you name it. And even when things do slow down, I do not stop to clean all that stuff out. So, from time to time I need to take a moment and do a clear out. It is uplifting. This helps to prevent that feeling of overwhelm that comes with unattended junk.
The same goes for clutter around my home and desk. I do not have a ton of clutter since my recent moves. However, it is incredible how much stuff I still held onto and how things build up. Clutter tends to weigh us down. So, keeping it under control is now a way of life for me and not something for a house move or the springtime.
This decluttering is part of my regular self-care practice because I shall have to stay on top of it and keep working to get rid of stuff. I am a sucker for an excellent newsletter or download. I often don’t need or even open these emails. And most of the time, to be honest, I have no intention of working with the person. However, I still sign up for that damn email. The trouble is that within a few months my whole inbox gets chockablock with emails I am not interested in. So, I am a massive advocate of unsubscribing. Sure, they add you to the email list, so it is a chore to unsubscribe every time. However, I have found it has kept me from buying stuff I do not need.
Watch Where the $$$ Go!
One of the most significant areas for me was taking pro-active control of my spending. This was in part about getting organized but also about building boundaries. I have always been good at paying the bills on time. However, self-care had become a consumer activity for me. And I would go five days in a row buying something, which often I did not need but made me ‘feel’ better. A dress, a fancy coffee, a bottle of wine or some trivial things that caught my eye online. I could find at the end of a week that I had spent $100’s.
My mindfulness practice has made me much more aware of my spending habits and helped me put in place more pro-active strategies for managing my money. It was not easy, but it was worth it. I learned about the patterns and the triggers to my spending. Often it was because I felt sad, lonely or overwhelmed. Now I can take a different course of action. Go for a walk, sing or meditate, these types of activities give me a mood-boost. I have pretty much stopped making those little purchases because I am more aware of the consequences of them. I have learned monetary management on the more significant things too.
If you have ever wondered what happened to your paycheck and your spending is escalating then getting out a spreadsheet and tracking where the money goes, is a massive act of self-care. Sometimes when your debts are significant, this can be a scary place. Seek support if necessary but be gentle on yourself at the same time.
Build Your Boundaries
This is a big one! And there are many facets to this. One is the boundaries around spending time in and with people and situations that sap our energy. This is a central part of my coaching program. Many people have an imbalance between sustainers, the things that support them. And the drainers, things that are making them feel exhausted and stressed. We should be working towards a life where we prioritize our sustainers. As they help us through the inevitable challenges that life throws at us from time to time.
I have struggled with creating boundaries in many areas of my life. Media has been a big area of focus for me lately. However, bring awareness to the media that sustains me, makes me feel confident and uplifted. I did an audited of the media was finding its way into my life. I stopped watching TV, flicking through trashy mags, even at the hairdresser. And Social media has been no different. I have unfollowed and unfriended people and groups. And I have called in the big guns when it comes to invasive social networks so that I can concentrate better.
On my phone, I do not have any sound notifications for social media (or for emails). When I am working, I follow the Pomodoro technique? This allows me to set work intervals and the phone is silent, and I cannot access social media. I turn off my phone an hour before bedtime and keep it out of the bedroom so that I can have a peaceful night’s sleep. All these keep me off social media for large junks of time, though I’m still on social way more than I should be. However, setting boundaries has broken my anxious social media checking.
Pay Attention To The Fundamentals
Bringing attention to how you eat, sleep and exercise are transformative. Eating well, in moderation is essential to health and wellbeing. Developing better sleep habits including avoiding stimulants before bedtime. Establishing a regular bedtime routine are an integral part of self-care. Here is a link to a recent blog I wrote on Restful Sleep with advice on how to get a better night’s sleep.
We are pretty good at not relating to our body. And exercise in the context of self-care does not mean pushing ourselves so hard. It is about how you move between the hard and soft edges. The ‘soft’ being where you first feel sensation. Then go further until you reach the ‘hard ‘edge before strain or injury occur. Moving between this two every day will help you to grow stronger and more flexible. And the more you can move like this in daily activities as well as purposeful exercise time. You feel the benefit of your body. Set an intention to connect lovingly with your body every day. It does not need to be serious’ or complicated. Move and joyfully and breathe gently. Indeed, it is straightforward and enriching for the whole being – body, mind, and soul.
Self-Care is a Daily Choice
Self-care is the choice to focus on your priorities, the decision to practice self-compassion. Whether those priorities are your business or your loved ones, it is the daily awareness of what comes in and out of your life that becomes a self-care practice.
We live in a culture that by its very nature creates physical exhaustion. We are always ‘on.’ Striving forward, hitting targets. Reaching goals, our lists are endless, and our minds are busy.
For me reclaiming my journey to greater care for myself took small baby steps. However, now I know that self-care is to parent myself and a sign of emotional maturity. And we care for others from a place of lack. Without self-care life will feel too busy, unfulfilling, out of control or empty.
To support you on this journey I recommend practicing a loving-kindness meditating and journaling. When journaling asks yourself these types of questions:
What did self-care look like for you growing up? (Think back to your childhood Did you see your mother resting, did she permit herself to say no? Was your home busy and always active?)
When do you relax and practice self-care? (Does this feel like enough for you? How could it be better?)
When you hear the term Self-care, how does it make you feel? (Where do you feel this in your body? What y is your body telling you?)
So what is your self-care practice?
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