Sometimes, being an adult truly sucks. We often mourn the carefree existence of our youth as we feel like we constantly face challenges in our lives.
From planning dinner each day, ignoring the mountain of ironing that is growing in the corner, dealing with arseholes at work, never-ending to-do lists, health worries, money worries, childcare issues, aging parents, our own relationships with our partners and for some of us, perimenopause and all the joys that brings, it is little wonder we are feeling a tad stretched.
Then, add coping with all of this in a global pandemic and our stress levels have shot through the roof! If life is leaving you feeling a little overwhelmed right now, it could be time to review your self-care strategy.
It’s important to schedule time in for yourself each day as self-care really does need to be part of your normal routine. Self-care is not something you only do if you can squeeze it in. It’s not something you do when you have time or manage to get around to it. And it’s not a rewarding glass of wine or bubble bath if you finally get all your chores done today and you’ve got enough time.
Self-care is not selfish, it’s not indulgent and it’s not a waste of time. Don’t use it as an excuse to treat yourself. Ensure you get that bubble bath, with the glass of wine, and candles, and that new book you picked up. Make a clear, defined, self-care strategy with you and your needs at the heart of it. Here’s how:
Step One – Identify how you cope with life’s curve balls
Take a look at how you react to stressful situations and issues. Sometimes we shout and scream, light up a cigarette or pour a drink. We might fret, worry and chew our nails. These are all negative reactions that don’t help us and should not be what you class as a way of coping with the hard stuff. Long term they are not going to help our physical or mental health at all.
However, we often feel much better when we react more positively, such as when we take a deep breath before we engage in a difficult conversation rather then steaming in all guns blazing and ready for a fight. We feel better when we walk away from a situation for a moment and think things through. Putting on our trainers and going out for a walk or run does us the power of good, as does listening to our favourite music, or calling a friend for a good old chinwag.
Step Two – Review your ‘Self-Care Toolbox’
You would never keep a file that has lost it’s edge, a blunt saw or tape measure where the measurements have worn away. Don’t hang on to your negative self-care strategies. Identify those rusty old tools and get rid.
Instead, have a look at the tools that do work for you. Don’t just look at the ones you already use, such as the relaxing soak or curling up with a good book. Examine different areas of self-care such as sleep, regular exercise, diet, work/life balance, digital detox, meditation, crafts, hobbies or social activities. Even talking to experts about getting your finances in order, health checks back on track, or even looking at counselling to help with anxiety can help and should all be considered as possible tools for your self-care toolbox.
Make a list of the tools that work for you, along with the new ones you’d like to try. Categorise them so you know which self-care tool to grab at a moment of need… after all, a saw is a really useful tool, but not something you would use to bang a hook into a wall when hanging a picture.
Step Three – Build Your Self-Care Strategy
You are now ready to build your self-care plan. It can be as simple or as detailed as you like. For example, you might want to break your plan down into days of the week and work something into each day.
You might prefer to break your self-care strategies down into categories, such as emotional, physical, social, spiritual and so on, placing all the tools you know work well into a list. At the same time, you might want to also produce a list of all of your unproductive responses that you’d like to learn to avoid as you work to remove those negative tools from your self-care toolbox.
There is no secret formula to self-care, or a right and wrong time of day to make time for yourself. Only you will know what does and does not work for you. Personally, I like to start my day with a 10-minute Daily Calm using my Calm app, but you might prefer to end each day with a moment of reflection. Others will enjoy a mid-day walk to clear the mind or a weekly phone call with a good friend.
Looking after our physical and mental health is important and certainly not self-indulgent. By being aware of your own needs, you are giving yourself the best chance to keep on top of things when life gets tough. Just remember, even though we know the practise as ‘self-care’, you are never by yourself. If you are struggling, always ask for help. Nobody ever expects you to deal with life on your own.