Self-care is not an indulgence, it’s central to your wellbeing. It’s not something to be shelved because you don’t have time, it’s what will ultimately give you time, not just for you but for others too. It is purposely and actively taking time to regularly do something for you that rejuvenates and energises you.
Many women live very full lives with competing demands on our time, energy and emotions. This is precisely why self-care is so important because by practicing it, it means you can meet these demands and not become overwhelmed, resentful or burnt out. Basically, it is the routine maintenance you need to function at your best not only for others, but also for yourself. It’s a bit like regular services or MOT’s that you make sure your car has!
The most basic definition of self-care is “any intentional action taken to meet an individual’s physical, mental, spiritual or emotional needs”. In short, it’s all the little ways we take care of ourselves to avoid a breakdown in those respective areas of health. Walking is the main way I do this for me.
The health of your body, mind and spirit are essential to protecting your wellbeing, and can ensure your long-term health.
Through this simple practice there are many wonderful benefits to be had, such as –
- Feeling happier, more calm and peaceful
- Feeling energised
- Being less likely to overreact
- Having a positive outlook on things
- Being good company and fun
- Feeling enthusiastic about life
- Having more confidence and self-esteem
- Sleeping better
If you are experiencing the opposite of the above or are worn out, lacking clarity, uninspired or unmotivated, cannot drag yourself out of bed, don’t want to do anything, feel like crying regularly and feel disconnected and exhausted then you need self-care.
So where do you start?
Well the good news is that this doesn’t need to be complicated but it does need to be prioritised and you will need to put appointments in your diary. This is about giving to you because you deserve it and you are worth it.
At the start I encourage you to play around with it because what works for a friend will not necessarily work for you. There is no harm however sharing suggestions and getting tips from your female friends or even the odd male one who has it sussed. Test things out and approach it as play.
In her book ‘The Artist’s Way’ the wonderful Julia Cameron talks about ‘Artist Dates’ which is taking regular time to play, to have fun and to do something new. Most importantly to do it on your own. This is self-care. I went to a glass making class late last year doing something I had never done before and I realised at the lunch break, how totally in the moment I had been.
That cost money to do and it took a day, but all self-care doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, it’s best to find free or inexpensive, simple things to do near or at home so that it’s easy. As with many things, it’s about balance.
For me, with self-care, there is a big link with boundaries. If you do not have boundaries or if you do not honour them always allowing others to ride slipshod over them, time for you will be in short supply. So perhaps a good early step is to look at this issue and make a list of the boundaries you have and look at tightening them. If your kids, family or colleagues can access you any time how are you going to carve out time for a candlelit bath or putting your feet up for 20 mins with a cuppa and a good book?
With a pen and paper to hand or your phone where you can make a list ask yourself what do you need to be happy? What do you need to be at your best? What do you need to have balance in your life?
The things I need became very clear to me during the pandemic because some I couldn’t do at all. They were space and my own company – I am amazed how well my husband and I have coped really; sunshine as so much of my work takes me away walking in sunnier weather – yes we did have lovely weather the first year but not so much in 2021 and walking and exploring – they go together for me and that was limited, especially as I want to explore new paths abroad.
Knowing what you need allows you to create and prioritise it and I need that space on a daily basis. What I do is that I go for walks, take a bath, go to another room or perhaps put earbuds in and do something else. It’s really not that hard.
Without having your needs met you are likely to be irritable and fed up and that inevitably leads to you getting stressed, disconnected and ill. I know when I burnt out, I was not meeting my needs and giving to myself. I didn’t even like myself which is one of the other things that can happen.
Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist is known for creating a hierarchy of needs, the bottom level of which are our basic human needs which we all share such as food, sleep and exercise and then as you move up through the hierarchy you can see the other stages. This diagram may help.
I hope I have started to make you look at and consider your own self-care and I hope that you are enthused to try it out. Just have a go, take one step and if you are someone who likes to journal, take a little time during the day to capture how you are feeling and how things are working for you. Give it time, change takes a while to happen, around 28 days to establish a new habit so stay with it.
I would love to hear your thoughts and your experiences and we can share them together so you can inspire each other.
Many women started walking during COVID and discovered places close to home to walk, making it an even more accessible activity. In a survey we conducted of over 1000 women, a question on what benefits had they felt from regular walking, 85.2% said their mental health benefitted; 81.1% their physical health and 32.9% said it eased isolation.
Our Facebook community was another support to those for whom walking wasn’t allowed, the photos inspired and made them feel less alone.
If you are not yet a member of the wonderful global community that One Million Women Walking now is, do come a join us.