Okay, we get it. Self-care is more important now than ever. So how do we practice something that we aren’t in the habit of?
I work with a lot of people who make it their mission to serve others. Nurses, development services workers, early childhood educators, insurance agents, mental health professionals. Most often it’s the leaders who have been promoted from their excellence at the “frontline” (excuse the ‘war’ term we still use to describe those who add value to the persons served and supported). In other words, I work with people who have chosen a field where they have a passion to care for others, who are educated on how to do that, and recognized when they do this well.
They are not recognized, spotlighted, or even ensured that self-care is as big of a priority as care for others. Working through breaks, picking up extra shifts, checking emails outside of work hours, professional development on days off, and in COVID, some even living away from family to keep them safe.
At its extreme, lack of self-care can cause burnout and in the caring professions what we call compassion fatigue. So it wasn’t a surprise to me when after a recent VLOG, RENT the Situation OWN the Lesson, a rockstar healthcare hero shared this:
What tools do you need to care for yourself? Do you have any tips on self-care? I mean we all know what it means, but why is it so hard for us to receive? Why is it hard to give to ourselves what we give others? Is it because we are tired? I can honestly say, I do very little for myself. At the end of my long day, I come home to 2 children, to feed, bathe, lunches, bedtime and repeat. To go through the motions of the day. One day at a time. My mama always used to say, “things will look better in the morning.” What help can you give us?
This is serious and important stuff. I chucked out my planned blog and started fresh.
Here are some self-care suggestions and some additional VLOGs and articles that dig deeper into each tip. I really hope it helps this rockstar and all of you to practice the self-care you deserve and need.
If you’re doing everything you can get us through COVID, no matter what role you have, then the least I can do to share some tips on self-care. And, in this post, we’ll provide lots of past VLOGs and blogs where we dig into many of these tips even further.
Feel Your Emotions
In a recent book Burnout, the authors share how burnout is directly tied to not feeling and expressing emotions early enough that the strain and stress begin to imprint on us. Even after a stressful time has passed, such as COVID will one day, without understanding and expressing emotions, stay with us and can be triggered in future stress. I’d hypothesize that for many of us struggling right now, it’s both what’s going on now and what we’ve battled through in the past.
Talk About Your Feelings
If you’re angry, frustrated, worried, excited, hopeful, empathetic, or any number of emotions, remember that this is not only expected, it’s part of being human! Once you feel your emotions, it’s a good idea to talk about them (and that can start with yourself). If you’re not used to mining your emotions and feelings, here is an article that can help you put your fingers on them so you can put words to them.
Reject Toxic Positivity
The is a growing level of frustration about “toxic positivity”, so much so we had a lively and helpful discussion about it in our Facebook Group Great Happy People (you are welcome to join the group and in the conversation). In a nutshell, we all agreed that dampening others’ experiences, feelings and world experiences by telling others to be happy, ‘it will all be okay’, or any numbers of idioms like it; having them on the ready, almost pulling them out automatically, aren’t helpful but in fact can be divisive for authentic relationships. And then if you’re feeling low, you feel like there’s something wrong with you if you don’t feel that way.
Self-care is about not judging yourself or others for having rough days (or weeks or months). And you don’t need to accept the positivity that is offered, even with the best of intentions, that doesn’t align with what you’re experiencing. I’m not saying you even need to, at that moment, give feedback about it. It’s a process of intentionally deciding if it fits or not, and put it aside if it doesn’t help you. I’ve never heard, “it’s okay to not be okay”, until COVID, and it’s so very true.
Note: I think this topic deserves its own article? Would you agree?
Identify Your Preferred Self-Care Rituals
We talk a lot about “taking time for self-care” however when it’s something “out there” and nebulous, this advice can become yet another self-deprecating opportunity. “See, I can’t even figure out what I need!” Let me give you a list. And feel free to add to it. The question at this point is simply, know what brings you comfort. If you know it, you are more likely to practice it (it’s top of mind). The more you practice it, the more likely the positive effect of it will lead to an intention and ultimately a new (or renewed) habit.
- Drinking a cup of really good tea or coffee
- Watching a great movie
- Practicing yoga
- Listening to your favourite playlist
- Reading a yummy book
- Taking a walk in nature
- Eating fresh bread
- Calling your good friend
- Baking something scrumptious
- Observing nature
- Lifting weights
- Cuddling your cat
- Stretching to peaceful music
- Planning a party (even if that’s in the future)
- Knitting a gift for someone
- Writing or journaling
- Meditating (even moving meditation…washing the dishes can even be meditative)
- Taking a bath
- Painting your toes
- Painting your walls
- Making a TikTok video
- Dancing like no one is watching (or with someone who is!)
- Cooking a healthy meal
The more specific you can make this, the easier it is for you to take action on this and even asking others to get it for you. For example, “bread” is one of my favs, so it’s “crunchy cracked oat wheat from the market with homemade strawberry jam with a novel at breakfast.” See how vivid that is? Can’t you just taste, smell, see it? Make your self-care need so vivid you can conjure it up in your mind and be compelled to make it happen.
Carving Out Self-Care
Now that you’ve considered which things on this (and your expanded list) are what brings you the most joy and comfort, pick at least one thing that you will do for yourself. And even if it’s “gardening” you can do things that prepare for the gardening season now, such as ordering seeds and watching YouTube videos on techniques. Not the same as being in the garden, however, it’s “practice” right now. If you like yoga and your studio is closed, can you find a YouTuber you like, join online classes, have a Zoom yoga date with a friend, do your three fav poses before breakfast? Do you want to treat yourself to a new yoga mat as part of your restarted yoga practice? It doesn’t have to be huge, it just needs to get started. And, it can be many in one day and few the next, it can be a big chunk of time or two minutes. It’s experimentation for some of us. And that’s expected with new habits.
Believe You’re Important
If you don’t feel care for yourself is as important as care for others, you will continue to sacrifice it. You could identify self-care you love, and not practice any of it because you feel your kids and parents and patients and staff and neighbours need you more than you need yourself (if the processing is even at a conscious decision-based level). You may see the laundry that needs folding and an empty fridge and a pile of books you haven’t read and inbox overflowing and kids homework stacked up and say, there is too much to do! No time! Yes, there must be time. Time expands and compresses to what you allow. If you have an hour, and three things to do, you’ll work with an hour available. If that becomes shortened to a half-hour, rather than give something up, try to be even more efficient and not automatically sacrifice your self-care (even consider taking something else off the list before self-care).
Put Self-Care at the Top of the List
We often put self-care at the bottom of the list. It’s what you get to “if I have time”. Guilty as charged! However, this is not a court of law, and we’re not the judge and jury of our own worthiness. We are already worthy. So self-care not only can, it needs to be at the top of the list right now.
If you had a flood in your basement, you wouldn’t say “I don’t have time as I had these emails to get to.” No! You’d sign off and start bailing, calling in all the reinforcements you could find (“outta bed kids! Grab a bucket!”) You’d work to limit the damage, fast. So, in the midst of COVID, when we’re emotionally flooded, why wouldn’t we treat our self-care the same way?
Here’s a rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t remember you did that thing in a week from now, it’s not more important than your self-care. If life were on the line, yep, that’s a top priority. We just treat too many things as more important than they are and ourselves as less important than we are.
Ask for Help From Yourself
If your kid or bestie or colleague were struggling with burnout or heading toward it, what advice would you give? Get clear on this. And I mean write it down clear, word for word. Then repeat it back to yourself. This is asking for help from yourself. Now ask how you can give yourself that help. Act on the best advice you’d give others. And maybe have that same person you’d advise, the job of holding you accountable to give that self-care to yourself.
Ask for Help From Others
There is no way you can do everything. Anytime, there’s more to do and people who need you then there is time and energy to do it. Add a pandemic or another other major crisis or stress, that emotional real estate (as my friend Christine shares in her book Too Busy to Be Happy) is even more limited. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s not being demanding, it’s not being selfish and it’s certainly not unexpected that you will need as much help as you give others. In fact, one of the languages of appreciation is, acts of service; what if asking for help is allowing others to feel more joy? Many do not feel their role is clear, and are searching for ways to find meaning and add value. Maybe you getting help is the trifecta of greatness: recognizing your own greatness by asking for help, recognizing others’ greatness by asking for their gifts, and creating a space for shared greatness. This is not toxic positivity. This is humanity.
People need to feel seen, heard and valued. Asking for and giving help is an expression of this. Your self-care is as important as care for others; some argue even more important because it allows you to keep caring for others.
So, what is your one next step, something shared here or maybe you have other ideas? Please share them below.
Don’t forget to share this with someone you know deserves self-care right now. That is one way to offer help before they even have to ask.
Here’s that list of self-care resources again:
- RENT the Situation OWN the Lesson
- 2 Models to Help You Feel Confident and Competent as a Leader in COVID
- How to Deal with Emotions at Work and Beyond
- Join our Great Happy People Facebook Page
- What You Focus on Grows, So Choose Wisely
- 3 Hacks to Get Motivated in Uncertain Times
- Atomic Habits with James Clear – How to Get 1% Better Every Day
- How to Stay Optimistic – Even When There’s Every Reason Not to Be
- But I’m Exhausted – How to Recognize Yourself and Others Even in Overload
- 8 Ways to Shift from Survival to Thrival