When you move into deeper levels of self-care you enter deeper levels of inner healing. As my own self-care journey has progressed I have come across several important recurring themes, so I thought I’d share the following tips to help you get started with identifying your own self-care core principles.
1) Find ways to engage in relaxation – Try to find a way to factor in whatever relaxes you on a regular basis. It helps to de-stress, gives you some time to take a breather, and adds something fulfilling and nurturing to your daily, weekly or monthly routine.
2) Reduce anything that isn’t contributing to overall wellbeing – Be honest with yourself. Whether it’s what you read or watch, people who leave you feeling drained, social media, activities you don’t enjoy anymore or junk food, try to cut it down or cut it out. Doing this leaves space for new things, pursuits or people to enter your life that add more benefit to your physical, mental and emotional state.
3) Work out what your values are – By working out your values you can start to identify where you’re not living in line with them, and can find ways to factor them in. When you go against your values because of ‘shoulds’, society, peers or others it can leave you feeling unfulfilled, stifled and drained. Finding ways to live by your values, and working them into your everyday life, helps you live a life more true to who you are.
4) Work out what your boundaries are – It’s okay to set boundaries! Part of being a considerate human being is compromise but there are times when you need to set firm boundaries for your own wellbeing. Working out what your boundaries are, and what constitutes a crossed boundary, helps you to stay more centred. It also means you have more confidence opening up to others without either shutting them out or letting them walk all over you. Identifying your values can also help to work out which kinds of people or situations you may need to use firmer boundaries with.
5) Identify mindsets that downplay your need for self-care – Certain mindsets either ignore the need for self-care or persuade you to keep putting it off. Unfortunately the result is that you then get to the stage where you have little choice other than enact self-care. Here are a few examples: the people pleaser, the workaholic, ‘soldier on’, ‘stiff upper lip’, pushing it all down, the busybody, the martyr, the saint, ‘keep busy’, ‘must be productive’, or ‘time off is for losers’. There are so many ways you can end up minimising your own need to take care of yourself. Recognising the mindsets that contribute to this mean you can be more aware, and you can then bring in self-care measures before you get to the flat battery, stressed or burnout stage.
6) Identify what is holding you back – What fears, beliefs or unhealed wounds from your past make you feel you can’t do what you want to do, be who you want to be or live the life you want to live? What (or who) perpetuates doubt in yourself and your ability to manifest the life you want to lead? What negative mindsets make you believe you’re not ‘enough’? Realising these are affecting you means you can start to address the negative impact they have on your life. You can then start to make changes that are more positive and beneficial.
7) Identify signs of overwhelm, overload or struggle – Being aware of the physical, mental and emotional manifestations of when you’re struggling, feeling overwhelmed or overloaded is a big help. It means that when these signals arise you can enact self-care before they take over completely. You will become more tuned in to your own needs and wellbeing, meaning you will know when to take that step back and implement self-care while things are more manageable. It also means you’re less likely to spiral or take it out on others unnecessarily.
8) Find ways to stay grounded and centered – Doing this gives you a certain amount of emotional, mental and energetic stability. It helps you to take a moment, when you feel triggered or things are starting to feel overwhelming, and take a breather to be able to come back to a calmer, more centred part of your Self. It helps you to feel things are less out of control and allows you to make decisions about the next step without resorting to a triggered reaction that may not be the best course to take. Finding ways to come back to your centre in moments of stress, struggle, overwhelm, strong emotions or pain can help to maintain a better overall balance.
9) Learn to prioritise – You can’t be all things to all people, and you can’t get an unrealistic amount of work done in an unrealistic amount of time. You can try to, but ultimately it leads you further from your own wellbeing. Factoring in others’ needs is an important part of being compassionate, but when it goes too far and you forget to also factor in enough of your own needs it leaves you with a deficit. Likewise, an unrealistic workload, to-do list or itinerary adds extra stress, can lead to feelings of inadequacy when you can’t do it all, and can become demoralising and draining. Learning to find a balance in these areas is very important, and it’s also important not to take too much on. You may be a super parent, partner or employee, and you may be super-efficient with the right workload for you, but you’re not Superman or Superwoman. Finding the right balance for you is crucial for self-care.
10) Work out what you want from life – What are your goals? What do you want to achieve? What sort of person do you want to be or become? Working out what you really want from life – beyond the superficial – can help you identify steps and ways to bring these things, or something similar, into your life. If you have worked out your values these can also help to show you what’s most important to you, and can help to make you more aware of goals or needs you haven’t recognised before. Learning about these things can help you to take the steps to implement changes in your own life, and perhaps even recognise the fact that you need to identify the steps to manifesting them in the first place. If you don’t know where you’re heading you can’t plan the journey. This helps you build up a road map to a more fulfilling life.
11) Find ways to build and maintain self-worth – This is a big one for a lot of people. It’s easy to think you have enough self-worth when things are going well, but when life throws a curve ball or you get hurt it’s common to feel low and to question or doubt whether you’re ‘enough’. Finding ways to build and maintain your own self-worth that don’t rely on outside influences or the approval of others is highly important. Doing things that make you feel good in yourself, doing things that reinforce your sense of worth in your own mind is vital. The support of others can help, but to create a more centred and lasting sense of worth you need to learn to find it within instead of searching for it outside of yourself.
12) Spend time in the right environment – We’ve all been there: the event where there’s an uncomfortable energy in the air, the meet-up or call from a friend that ends up as another moan-fest, feeling trapped in a relationship or job that ends up dragging you down… The right environment doesn’t just mean indoors or outdoors, it’s wherever you are spending your time. Whether it’s a place, situation, job or relationship, it’s an environment. Any of these are factors in your ability to self-care. Each provides a chance to be nurtured, nourished and content or, conversely, stifled, drained or discontented. Sometimes a bit of time away helps, but sometimes there’s a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. It doesn’t mean you have to completely cut out the things that aren’t nourishing, because you can try to address that relationship, or find a way to do something you love and enjoy to balance out and lessen the impact of a stifling or boring job. Whatever you do try to create a balanced environment – one that supports you – in all areas of your life.
13) Patience – All things happen in their own time, and accepting this can take away some of the stress you may feel when waiting for something. I left this one for last because change and implementing it can take time, and self-care is a journey and a process, not a destination. Be patient with yourself, your progress and the manifestation of change. Learning to let things flow and not trying to force them is self-care in action. Patience, and allowing things to happen when they happen, is a vital element of self-care.
I hope you’ve found these useful. I will add that I’m still very much on this journey myself, but having these as a reminder can be very helpful when we don’t know where to start, how to continue, or even when we’ve fallen off the self-care path temporarily.
(c) Michelle Gilberthorpe, She Holds The Bowl, 2018