Lots of my coaching clients find it difficult to prioritise themselves.
They're really good at helping and prioritising the needs of others but don't feel justified in taking time out to do things just for themselves. Self-care feels like a selfish luxury.
Others think they're just far too busy to spend valuable minutes on themselves (something I confess I've been guilty of more than once!)
And if it's something you've never really done, it can be difficult to generate ideas about what to do.
If any of that applies to you, then I hope this blog will
Convince you that self-care is a necessity and not a luxury, and
Help you think about what 'self-care' means for you.
...and I'm going to use this illustration, which the extremely talented Scott Gordon created for me. I'm also very grateful to my great friend and fellow coach Charly White for introducing me to this metaphor. As you can probably tell, I LOVE it!
...so first a little word about stress. One handy definition of stress is
A demand made upon the adaptive capacities of the mind and body
And the common way we talk about 'feeling stressed' is when the level of challenge/the demand is greater than how we feel about our capacity in the moment.
So, as you look at this picture...
Think of the water level as your energy/your capacity for dealing with the demands and challenges of life's events.
The water is created by self-care. The space in your life and the things you do to ‘feed your soul’ and energise you. The more you care for yourself, the higher the water level.
The various-sized pebbles and rocks are things you find challenging that you have to deal with. Given the definition of stress, dealing with them depletes your energy/makes the water level drop.
The bigger the rock, the bigger the challenge and the more the water level drops due to dealing with it.
Even things that feel really energising at the time like a big weekend with back-to-back late nights may leave us with a decrease in our energy levels so we need to be aware of those too.
When the water level is high, you can float over the rocks and pebbles without noticing them. Nothing seems like a problem and you can navigate life's ups and downs with ease.
Without self-care to top the water up, dealing with any challenges will cause the water level to drop.
As the water level drops, you start to bump into the big rocks and it’s more of a challenge to sail from one side to the other. Dealing with those big tasks will feel harder.
If the water level drops really low, then even small pebbles will seem like a big challenge. EVERYTHING will feel hard!
Keeping the water level up means you'll have enough energy and internal capacity to
Be able to easily deal with whatever comes your way
Build your resilience - enough physical and mental energy to bounce back when things don't go to plan
Minimise feeling stressed
Maintain your optimum levels of performance and productivity so you can do what you need to do and achieve what you want.
...so when you consider that list,
you can see why self-care is a necessity rather than a luxury!
If your focus is helping others, you'll have a much greater ability to do that if you look after yourself first.
It's just like the safety briefings you get on flights
In the event of an emergency, remember to fit your own oxygen mask first before helping others!
So I would recommend taking some time to reflect on
Things that count as self-care for you - little things are just as good as big things
Things you can avoid that rob you of energy
And commit to actively managing your water level!
How can you change what you do and when you do it, to build in as much self-care as possible?
Common ideas include
Getting outside for a walk in the fresh air
Having a luxurious bath
Getting a massage/going to a spa