I've read a lot about self-care recently. Even one better, "radical self-care" seems to be the new buzz phrase. I've had plenty of conversations with other women about their self-care practices and ultimately been examining my own habits. I came to the conclusion that there is self-care in the "I do love myself, honestly I do" type of way, and then there is Self-Care in the "I lurve the friggin fuck out of myself, my needs and my health are of paramount importance, and I will invest in myself without guilt" type of way. The latter is the one I aim for, because let's face it new bubble bath isn't really that radical is it. On the surface, self care may seem obvious, but actually there is whole load more to it than just having a green smoothie and moisturising.
When we care for a plant or a child, we nurture them in the best, most attentive way possible because we want them to be strong, healthy and achieve their potential without dis-ease. We don't expect the plant to bear copious fruit without this level of care. We know that the child needs emotional, mental and physical sustenance and love to achieve healthy adult status. But it seems that often we expect the abundant produce and healthy adult scenarios from ourselves on the budget version of self-care from Poundland. We scrimp on sleep and nutrients. We do 50% deals on our emotional and mental health. We spend a limited amount of time on our dreams and still feel bad for doing so. We look for the two-for-one offers where we get to do for ourselves, as the freebie, alongside giving for others.
What's with that?
It's what we've been taught in truth, via subtle or not so subtle messages, to put ourselves on the backburner, in favour of giving to others. But it makes no sense. It is more logical and truthful that when we give to ourselves in a truly nurturing, wholesome way we are better equipped to be happier and healthier, more energetic and enthusiastic, more diligent and efficient, all the things those around us would benefit from. We need to teach ourselves anew.
I'd like to suggest a look at different levels of self-care. The Basic Essentials Package, The Long Term Investment Plan, The Radical Rejuvenate and Reform Program, and The Luxurious Icing on the Cake Bonus. The first one is for staying healthy and sane. The second for building up inner resources, energy and clarity in order to achieve life goals. The third for either rebooting your life from unhealthy and insane, and getting back on track, or for breaking through some obstacles to reach for your dreams. The last package is obviously the living the dream stuff.
To up the level of output in life we must consistently up the level of input. Often what happens though, the more the level of output, as in job, responsibilities, family etc we often lower the level of input. We expect more of ourselves for less. The result is permanent exhaustion that we barely notice, chronic stress, and emotional and mental fragility. We also need to be wary of the self-care that masquerades its harm as self indulgence or that which smoothes a veneer of pampering over self-negligence.
The Basic Essentials Package
The indispensable or necessary element. If we go back to the plant or child analogy, that would be water, warmth, food and air for body, mind and spirit in order to be an all round human devoid of physical, mental and emotional malnutrition.
Now I'm guessing that there are a few things that you may have mentally shoved in the other self-care boxes, that actually belong in this one. I know I did. It is good to assess though what is essential to keeping you healthy and sane. Sleep, good hydration, balanced diet and movement are a given, yet sometimes we cheat ourselves out of even these. When it steps away slightly from the physical, and more into the zone of mental and emotional health we are even more likely to brush it off as non essential. Yet the right amount of space or social interaction can make so much difference to our basic happiness and ability to cope with day to day stresses. What about the home environment, is it a place of sanctuary and retreat supporting our overall wellbeing? What about people or situations that are overtly toxic, taking away from our mental and emotional health? Really harmful toxins, whether ingested via the body or mind, have no place in self-care at any level.
Boundaries are essential to self care and at each new level, there are new bars to be set in terms of needs and requirements. Others always look and respond to cues from us in regard to what we expect for ourselves. Implementing boundaries around our basic needs is vital.
What do I consider to be basic physical, mental and emotional health, and what needs to be done to maintain it for any length of time? What steps am I taking to achieve it?
Be honest with your answers and don't fool yourself. Get real if you know you haven't implemented your personal version of The Basic Essentials Package yet.
The Long Term Investment Plan
When we invest in a business project we pour time and money into it, building it up in the hopes to reap greater rewards in the future. Investing in ourselves via self-care is exactly the same. This is on top of the basics, which is just like keeping something ticking over in good running order. The essentials are about not getting sick or rundown mentally emotionally or physically. The investment is more like a steady climb to greater and greater vitality, happiness and productivity.
Now the thing is, the higher the levels of output then the more and more of the long term investment then becomes a basic essential. Think of it like an athlete whose necessary eating and exercise regime is very different to a busy office worker. The athlete would also no doubt have regular nutritional assessments, physio and massage. But if that person steadily worked towards similar athletic standards then they too would eventually have the same basic weekly needs.
The questions here to ask are:
What could I add in daily or weekly to enhance my energy levels, my health, my ability to cope and my mental clarity? What areas of myself do I want to invest in and how do I do that? What do I now need to take away that no longer serves my long term goals of mind, body and soul well being?
The Radical Rejuvenate and Reform Program
FYI here are the definitions of radical ...
(especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.
synonyms: thoroughgoing, thorough, complete, total, entire, absolute, utter, comprehensive, exhaustive, root-and-branch, sweeping, far-reaching, wide-ranging, extensive, profound, drastic, severe, serious, major, desperate, stringent, violent, forceful, rigorous, draconian
"radical reform is long overdue"
characterized by departure from tradition; innovative or progressive.
Now you see why the lemon water and bath salts aren't in the radical category. Radical is great change. It is not our normal way of doing, because we desire not our normal result. When we need and want vast transformation from our body, our energy levels and our mood, then we investigate the hows of creating that. Radical is implementing systematic daily self care at such a level that it alters us from the inside out. Radical could be changing our diet completely. It could be drastically cutting our workload. It could be upping our work and income level, and realising our value. It could be setting big new boundaries. Radical is bringing in the super duper nutrient rich, mentally, emotionally and spiritually supporting and altering foods, people and activities into our life. It is looking at the areas of chronic stress and over stimulation, and making the right choices to eliminate them permanently. It is looking at our intake, being brutally honest with ourselves, and cutting out what is inflammatory and irritating to our body, mind and soul. It is working at and crafting self love and care with a high degree of determination and diligence if it doesn't come naturally. It is moving to a loving self acceptance at the roots and branches level. Radical is many angles all at once over an extended period of time, not just the odd yoga class followed by a turmeric almond milk. It is taking us to a whole new level of being in a shorter amount of time than the long term investment plan. And after a while some of those radicals may become our new basics to maintain our new level of being.
The questions here to ask are:
What change do I really want to call in? What am I doing right now that is detrimental to my health that I need to stop? What is adding to my stress and unhappiness that I need to change if I can? What boundaries have I not created that allow my personal power to ebb away? What steps do I need to take to repair any damage I have received to my person on a physical, metabolic, emotional and mental level? How can I support my rejuvenation and growth towards wholeness and health? What help do I need to call in from friends, family or professionals?
The Luxurious Icing on the Cake Bonus
This is the languishing by the pool lazily dipping a toe in, sipping a pixie juice, whilst waiting for a two hour massage, followed by a mani-pedi and a sprinkling of glitter on day four of a two week retreat. Let's face it, this is the stuff we all want. But the truth of it is, unless we have crafted a lifestyle that allows us to have the energy to get the income to afford it; have our lives set up to be free and available to afford the time off; and realise our self worth we are not going to get the icing or even allow ourselves the luxury. And here is the key, implementing the basics, doing the long term investment, taking the necessary radical steps are going to get us closer to the icing than if we just sit and dream. And the ultimate truth, is that if we don't implement the basics and invest in ourselves long term, the dazzling effects of our stunning beach holiday and pampering, body shimmering time will be dulled very quickly by dehydration, exhaustion and stress.
On another note, this sort of luxury may not be a luxury, it maybe the radical step that is necessary to kickstart great change and a rethink around self care and self worth. We tend to put luxuries in a far out of reach box, only for use on special occasions with special people. Remember you are the special person and life is the special occasion.
The question to not ask here is:
Am I worth it? The answer to that is obvious, in case you were actually asking it ... yes, too bloody right you are.
In conclusion then, self care is not so radical, unless it really is drastic and rapidly life changing and life saving. Self care is a necessary way of life. Self care is fundamental in going from the survive to thrive scenario. Let's all get back to basics, shall we?