The concept of self-care is something that pops up everywhere these days, and it’s something that I, as a health professional, strongly recommend. After all it makes sense. You really can’t pour from an empty cup, or so the websites tell us.
I meet people every day, who are, quite simply, utterly depleted in every sense of the word, and from the outside looking in, it’s apparent to me that some solid self care is desperately needed. I’m not only talking about patients. I’m talking about colleagues. I’m talking about friends. I’m talking about me.
But, what is it exactly that we are supposed to be doing to refill that cup? What exactly is that elusive golden bullet of fulfillment, that will leave us feeling all refreshed, and zen, and revived?
Is it soaking in lavender baths? Is it hot cups of tea, and walks on the beach? Is it going for a run? Is it taking up yoga and learning to contort oneself into a pretzel? Or maybe just drinking excellent coffee with a friend? It seems to me, this whole self care scenario represents one big grey area.
I love the idea of finding something that helps a person to step away from their stressors for a while, and re-balance themselves. I really do.
What I find bemusing about the implementation of self care, is that somehow, it has become something else that people need to fit into their lives.
Raise your children in an organic and wholesome way, go to work, pay your bills, stay fit, eat well, drink lots of water, spoil your spouse, visit your relatives, help your neighbours, wash your car, keep your house tidy, donate to charities, give blood, don’t drink too much alcohol, and for goodness’ sake, don’t forget SELF CARE.
Where does it fit, when we are all striving so hard to simply keep up?
When I was a stay at home mum with mini humans at home, the traditional suggestions for self care, quite frankly, left me more cranky than refreshed. A hot cup of tea was pretty much out of the question, with two little ones needing my attention, or assistance, EVERY TIME I BOILED THE KETTLE. A lavender bath was an exercise in tetris, squeezing in between the bath toys and trying to keep the kids out. My most effective self care strategy back then was getting more sleep wherever I could grab it, but my reluctance to ask for help (particularly with my first baby) and that crown of martyrdom and mama-guilt I wore for the first twelve months with the Boy Child, meant that my cup was indeed very, very empty. (You’ll be glad to know I chucked that crown solidly into the bin with the arrival of the Girl Child).
As my kids have grown, and their needs have changed, I’ve had more time to find out what self care means for me. It’s still about naps. It’s definitely a bit of physical activity and exercise. For the most part, I’ve found, it’s simply about slowing down in some way. Not being productive, and not feeling guilty about it.
The big clincher for me in all of this, has been learning to ask for help, and to accept it when offered. In the early days of parenting for me, I was too ashamed to accept help, even when lovingly offered, as I felt as though people might think I wasn’t coping with things if I accepted (side note: I wasn’t coping). These days, I’m all over it. Yes, you can absolutely bring us dinner. Please do. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have an amazing house cleaner who makes our surfaces sparkle every fortnight, and my kids have an incredible circle of friends and family that they chill out with, without me, often.
When all is said and done, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to practice self care. Its personal, individual, and crucial. Just be mindful. It’s one thing to suggest that someone has a nice, hot bath. It’s another thing all together to offer to take their kids, so they can actually have that bath without interruption. And it’s true brilliance to extend that kindness without judgement, so that it can be accepted without shame.
Wishing you all a gentle week, with abundant love and support in all directions. May your cups be overflowing (with fulfillment, not cold tea), the lavender baths fragrant, and your bodies flexible (if the whole yoga pretzel thing is more your style).
Oh, and don’t forget the hashtags.
#selfcare #blessed #zen #hashtag