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Self care could look like this… or this… or even this…

I’ve had a hard week – as well as dealing with an unexpected family bereavement last weekend, I’ve been experiencing an unusual amount of physical exhaustion and heavy fatigue.

I’m feeling more normal now but it’s meant my week was turned upside down – I’ve had to cancel almost everything because I’ve felt so physically wiped out.

This downtime though, has also meant I’ve been rethinking the meaning of self-care – something I’ve struggled with almost all my life.

For years, I wasn’t able to separate the notion of self-care from selfish, self-centred self-indulgence (as if that’s all it is)

So my common response has often been to give myself a tiger-mom slap and go off on rant about how we should “suck it up and just get on with it already”.

This was because I was going about the idea of ‘self-care’ all wrong.

I was thinking of it as only languishing on a sofa, bubble baths, overpriced massages and sitting about gazing into the sunset.

And while I want to stress that there’s nothing wrong in doing those things if that’s what will help you with rest and healing, I saw it as only a passive, weak, not-doing thing that would get me nowhere and reinforce only what was frivolous and unproductive (although why that’s always seen as a bad thing should also be challenged).

Have you ever had similar thoughts too?

Or felt guilt or shame around taking time out to care for yourself and tend to your needs?

This week, as I’ve been ‘forced’ to slow down, I’ve been thinking back on the many ways that self-care has looked like for me.

It goes something like this:

★ Getting myself out of the house to exercise or go for a walk (even, or especially, when all I want to do is sit on my sofa and not move all day)

And also: knowing when to plan a shorter workout or when to stop walking; being okay with “only” doing 30 minutes instead of a full hour if I’m feeling unusually tired or in pain

★ Turning on my laptop and doing some of the work I love so I don’t get dragged down into a sinkhole of lethargy and demotivation

And also: consciously turning off and staying off my laptop so I don’t spin out into overwork and self-imposed perfectionist ruminations for days

★ Get myself out of bed earlier in the day and enjoy a full morning instead of lying in bed ’til noon

And also: letting myself sleep in on the days that my body really needs that extra rest (or just because it feels bloody good that day!)

★ Clean the house / do laundry / tidy all my gunk to shift the energy in my home and clear space

And also: actively choosing not to vacuum, being okay with some dust for 1-2 days instead of stressing out about creating a spotless house right now

This is a pretty imperfect system. There’s no template, no go-to guide that will work every day. A lot of the time, what is self-caring for me is a moment-to-moment decision – what feels most right in that moment.

But, most important, here’s the thing:

Self-care is NOT a not-doing.

It’s NOT an ‘easy way out’

It’s NOT taking our foot off the pedal, relaxing into ‘nothing’ or ‘just’ coddling yourself into a state of comatose.

Actually, self-care is an active, intentional, reflective, remarkably powerful and healing form of doing.

It is an active stopping of ourselves from spinning into overwork, hyperproductivity, tending to everyone’s needs, answering every email, saying yes to every demand.

It’s a conscious unlearning of all the things we’ve been made to feel we must do to be valuable, worthy, lovable, ‘good’ human beings.

It is lovingly self-directed attention to relearn what our needs are in each moment, and how we can meet those needs kindly, healthily and with as much ease as possible.

In all of my examples above, the consciously self-caring version of me isn’t the lazy, flippant, unmoving lump that I had always feared being.

It is the most conscious, intentional version of me that recognises that the time for slowing down – or pausing altogether – is just as ‘active’ and necessary a decision as the times I am on the go go go.

So, on some days, self-care may mean spurring yourself into action and kickstarting some motivation for yourself.

Equally, on other days, it may mean purposefully scaling back andbeing very firm – with yourself and with others – about those boundaries.

Whichever it is, it is being very present and very mindful about where you are in that moment, what you need and deeply desire – and how you can give that to yourself.

Is self-care something you struggle with? Or something that’s easy for you? I’d love to hear what self-care means for you, as I continue work on figuring out all of its many meanings for myself 🙂

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