An Ex-Skeptic’s Guide To Self-Care

If you’ve ever been on the internet in your life, you’ve seen self-care posts that include at least one of the following:

  • A spa day with girlfriends
  • A candlelit bath with wine
  • Netflix and popcorn
  • Blankets and a hot beverage (mason jar optional)

Before you throw your lavender epsom salts at me, I’m not dissing any of those things. I’m a card-carrying supporter of salt baths, popcorn, and spa days. But they’re not self-care. They’re treats, and when you start relying on them to get you through hard times, you run into trouble. You get into a cycle that looks something like this.

Work till you’re exhausted – put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own – scatter your energy trying to do six hundred things at once – break down and ugly cry about how damn hard it all is – take a salt bath with a glass of wine to hide from it all for awhile – rinse and repeat.

Problem is, you can’t live in a salt bath, much less run your career from one. You’d turn into a prune. And salt water will wreak havoc with your phone and laptop. Then you’d be wrinkly, bored, and really thirsty – where’s the fun in that?  You have to come out and face the world again.

Skeptical about self-care? I hear you. I’ve been there. But imagine creating a life that you don’t need to escape from? The kind that sustains you and feeds your soul every single day?

That’s what self-care is all about. It’s not being “lazy” or indulging in treats instead of meeting your responsibilities. It’s loving yourself enough to practicing looking after you daily, so your whole life is super-charged with energy, focus, and true alignment instead of running yourself ragged. So, where do you start?

Give yourself permission to care about yourself

I wish someone had told me in my 20s (or even my 30s!) that self-care was a necessity. Back then I was what a dear friend called a “spiritual bypasser.” Anything even a little bit “woo woo” had me arching an eyebrow and giving my best “just the facts, thanks” look. Self-care? That was for people who had time to indulge.  

Me? I was busy working myself to exhaustion and wearing it as a badge of honour. After all, busy people were cool, right? They got shit done. They earned respect. I honestly believed that if you wanted a good life, you became the kind of person who worked inhumanly hard, falling exhausted into bed declaring “gawd, what a day!! And I still have SO much to do tomorrow!!!”

I didn’t know then, but what I really needed was permission to care about myself.

Maybe you need that, too. Maybe no one’s ever told you that you have permission to put yourself first. To take care of numero uno, baby – even if that means disappointing people sometimes. If so, this is your permission slip to start caring about YOU.

Enter real, effective, utterly unsexy self-care

We know what Instagram-filter self-care looks like. But what does real self-care look like?  

  • Getting enough sleep (I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel abundant, happy, or in tune with my life’s path when I’m grouchy from getting way too little sleep)
  • Eating healthy food (there’s nothing wrong with the occasional treat, but your body needs real, wholesome fuel to function properly)
  • Staying active, whether that means regular yoga sessions, walks on the beach, or dance-like-no-one’s-watching breaks in the middle of your working day
  • Surrounding yourself with people who lift you up and energize you (because ain’t no one got time for energy vampires)
  • Carving out time for the things that matter to you (playtime with your adorable nephew, strumming your guitar, colouring, whatever!)
  • Always reserving some of your energy and focus for your own dreams because you know they matter 

If all of that seems overwhelming, just pick one. Start there. Want to start with sleep? Plan out a night time ritual that works for you. Set an alarm on your phone to let you know hey wiki-surfer, it’s time to switch off all screens and get into bed with your journal or a book. Want to start with staying active? Set aside three slots a week for yoga / spinning / walking on the beach or whatever you enjoy. Put that time in your calendar and stick to it as tight as you would any family commitment or business meeting.

Self-care means setting firm boundaries (sometimes with yourself)

Eating right, being mindful of your time, getting exercise … they’re all necessary but they’re not always easy. Especially when you feel overwhelmed. It takes effort to put together a healthy salad instead of ordering take out. It takes discipline to pack your gym clothes and water bottle and head to a work out instead of staying home with Netflix.  

Sometimes self-care means disappointing other people. Recently I had to call off going to a dear friend’s birthday party because my body was yelling at me to get to bed early. I knew that if I went to the party, I’d be running on fumes the next day, feeling like a zombie, and utterly unable to show up fully for my clients, or myself.  

It’s no picnic sticking to a sleep schedule or an eating plan or telling a good friend “not tonight.” But if you want a life that feels good deep down in the depths of your being, it’s gotta be done.

It’s time to be proactive, not reactive

The problem with treat-based self-care is it’s reactive. You do it when things are already feeling crappy or you’re just plain tired. That’s like running out trying to buy a fire extinguisher when your kitchen is already in flames. Real self-care is buying one ahead of time, and keeping an eye on your damn pots when you’re cooking!

It’s time to get proactive with your self-care. Make it part of your daily routine. Ask yourself what you need to fill up your cup and stay present in your daily life, because we all know when you ain’t got a drop to give NO ONE benefits. Not your family, not your friends, not your colleagues or clients, and least of all you.  

Maybe you need to go to bed earlier each night. Perhaps mornings are making you crankier than a Netflix binger whose internet just went out, and you desperately need a morning schedule that you actually look forward to. Or maybe self-care for you looks like making a gratitude jar, setting up a household budget, or getting outside every day.

I can give you a bunch of suggestions. The internet at large can give you more suggestions than you’ll ever need. But truth is, only you know what’s best for you. Real self-care starts with taking the time to stop, breathe, get quiet, and then ask yourself “what do I truly need?”

Give yourself permission to start there and keep your eye on the destination – creating a life where you feel cared for and nourished every day so you don’t have to escape from it.  

Need help figuring out what an ideal self-care regime looks like for you?  My Core Values Assessment is just the ticket!  When I did this assessment I shockingly found out that ‘rest’ is one of mine so now I get to nap shamelessly because I know it’s good for my soul!  The Core Values Assessment is included with every Discovery Call – book today and get ready for next level self-care.

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