Self-care should be at the top of our to-do lists. Is it? Is it buggery. Still, today is a bonus day – the perfect excuse to make it all about you, says Karen Campbell.
The art of self-care constantly needs honing by each and every one of us to ensure we’re looking after ourselves to the best of our ability in order to have a happy life. I don’t just mean physical care here, but emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing, too.
As a coach, I have worked with a lot of clients on this. Clients whose fundamental reason for having a bit of a crap time is that they’re neglecting themselves. Reasons for this are myriad, among them low self-esteem, lack of confidence, additional stress or the need to people please.
It’s my job to work with my client, question them and understand more about the reasons behind this self-neglect, and introduce elements of self-care into their daily lives so that, ultimately, they’ll feel happier.
“What can you say no to? Do you have to be in that meeting? Do you have to stay for that extra drink with a friend? Does the world stop if you leave work on time?”
Classic signs of lack of self-care include poor eating habits, not sleeping well, being worn out and above all not having any ‘you’ time. It’s important to realise that you don’t have to revolutionise your life or change that much to introduce elements of self-care; small steps can make a huge difference. Here are a few tips:
• Identify the symptoms of lack of self-care, such as poor eating habits, feeling resentful, stress and low energy.
• Recognise how much self-care is in your life right now. For example, do you take time to exercise, read a book, cook a meal, get a full night’s sleep?
• When you compare the lists, is there more lack of self-care than actual self-care? Be honest! If there is more writing on the ‘lack of’ side, ask what you can do to tackle each point individually.
• What can you say no to? Do you have to be in that meeting? Do you have to stay for that extra drink with a friend? Does the world stop if you leave work on time? How much time could saying no free up?
• Ask yourself how you could introduce exercise into your life: could you get off the bus a few stops earlier? Could you book a walk in the countryside in over the weekend? Think about how introducing this could make you feel a few weeks from now – natural endorphins are a wonderful thing.
• How’s your sleep? Could you introduce a bedtime routine including turning off the TV, phone and iPad at a certain time? Go to bed around the same time every night – a good sleep pattern can work wonders for the body and soul.
• Schedule in some ‘white diary space’ for you once a week – to spend on you. Whether that’s a long soak in the bath or reading a book. It’s your time only for you (no kids/partners permitted!).
• Think happy thoughts: smile at people, compliment your colleagues and friends, think about all the things you’re grateful for in life and focus on those. There will be more than you think, and this will naturally make you feel happier.
• Make a list of realistic things that you could introduce into your life then introduce them – gradually – and record how it makes you feel. Are the stress levels getting lower? Are you feeling happier?
• Watch those negative knickers. Be mindful of what you say to yourself – is it mostly positive or negative? How can you be kinder to yourself? Remember, your attitude is a choice and you can choose to see the positives or the negatives (positives are normally way more fun).
Sadly, many of us are bottom of our own list. I used to – and to some extent still do – struggle to say no. I was that person out every night of the week seeing different friends, which (mainly due to over-excitement) would inevitably lead to drinking too much wine, eating a highly calorific meal and rolling in much later than planned.
And while my friends from the night before were having a lovely rest of week in, I was doing the exact same thing the next night, and the next, resulting in a sore head, wobbly bottom and low energy, not to mention the struggling bank balance.
People pleasers are usually really lovely people (like moi) who just want to keep everybody happy, but often it’s at the cost of their own happiness. That’s until I learned that saying no to things is OK. In fact, saying no is actually pretty empowering.
It’s all part of that focus on self-care, which is hugely important. Besides, a better you is better for everyone.
Karen is currently running a series of coaching sessions on various topics, including time management, healthy habits, and goals and values. For more information, visit: www.your-lifecoach.com/3919 Views
Karen Campbell is a life coach at www.your-dreamcatcher.com. She likes gin, James McAvoy and pretending she's not from Scunthorpe.