What Is Self Care? It might be easier than you think!

A client once said to me after we had done some work around self care;

“Everyone tells you to learn to love yourself, but they never tell you how. This is how!”

She was right on both counts.

All over social media you will find talk of self care, but it’s rarely fully explored, except to say it’s not selfish to do it.

When we practice self care well, we are prioritising and loving ourselves. In my opinion it is very much about the basics of looking after yourself. When we look at it like this, it becomes much easier to give yourself permission to practice self care every day. This doesn’t just benefit you, but all your family and friends and your work will benefit too.

My Journey With Self Care

This is a topic I’ve explored deeply and practiced intensely over the years, and in many ways, I’m well placed to. I’m in a fortunate position to be able to throw myself 100% into it, because there’s no one else that I have to look after. It’s just me!

After I got divorced in 2013, I realised I was exhausted, emotional, lacking clarity, and a bit lost. I needed to call on all the personal development work I’d done over the years and the spiritual faith I had. I knew I had to get myself back on track and running at optimum to create my new future. A deeper dive into self care was called for and I went for it!

Here are some of my conclusions around self care after working at it consistently personally, and with my coaching clients. To be honest, I pretty much always prioritised my health and wellbeing before anyway. Now though, I have a clearer understanding of what I’m doing, and the difference it makes to me, my goals and aspirations, and every aspect of my life.

I believe there are 4 types of self care. All aim for the same thing, to fill a gap. Imagine that there’s an energy gap between where we could, or want to be (whether that’s ‘ok’ or brimming with energy) and where we are (tired, run down, or exhausted). Self care is the process of filling the gap with life sustaining, nourishing, elements.

Here are my four types of self care:

Radical Self Care:

This is the type of self care that’s required if you’re run down and exhausted. It’s an intense, intervention style of self care. When I spent a year living next to railway line, I was severely sleep deprived. This impacted on my whole self care routine – a typical consequence of lack of, or poor quality, sleep. As a result, radical action was needed. I moved house and spent 10 nights sleeping for as long as my body would stay asleep. This was approximately 10-12 hours every night. After 10 nights, I returned to my typical 7.5 hours sleep pattern. I was back on an even keel!

Basic/Regular Self Care:

Once you’ve got yourself off the floor (metaphorically) or out of bed (as was my case) it’s time to practice regular daily self care. This will generally keep you at a level of being ‘ok’ and maybe even at a good, positive level of energy throughout the day. Even then, it can take you a little while to get there.

Acute Self Care:

We all have times when we need greater levels of energy, for example, a big project, a family Christmas, training for a marathon, or studying for exams. At this point we may need to increase our self care, or add an extra something in as our need for extra energy resources increases. When I was studying for my degree, I noticed that I craved high energy food (sweets and chocolate) when I was preparing for an assignment. Knowing there was an energy gap between where I was, and where I needed to be to do the assignment, I took action: extra vitamins, including some that are known to be good for brain function, and healthy snacks to keep me going. I tried to save the sweet treats for a reward once I’d finished, rather than to fuel the energy gap while I was working.

Temporary Self Care:

Sometimes grabbing a soak in the bath, having a nap, using a face pack, or going to a yoga class are all that you have time and energy for. For some women, they need an excuse to put themselves first. It’s easier to say ‘I’m going for a bath’ than, ‘I really need to prioritise myself’. I know when I was suffering with sleep deprivation a yoga class was very refreshing for me, as was meditation. Temporarily at least. It wasn’t a replacement for what I really needed. It was temporary and a quick fix. And sometimes we need that. Let’s just try and get to the regular self care, rather relying on the temporary quick fixes. 

All levels of self care will generally include variations of:

  • Hydration
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Meditation / Quiet or alone time
  • Time with others / deep connections 
  • And you may also have other essentials that you need like vitamins or certain medication.

Please note, self care includes ALL of these, not just one, or some!

Important Point About Self Care:

When you reach for anything that isn’t life sustaining, nourishing or replenishing, such as caffeine, sugar, chocolate, alcohol or other substances to fill the energy gap, this is when ‘not very helpful’ habits can form. We can become dependant on the coffee to give us the boost to get through the day. Or the wine to help us ‘relax’ at the end of it. What I’ve noticed is that when I do the basics right, I don’t reach for the other stuff… wine, crisps, or chocolate. Because I have no energy gap. And when I have good levels of energy and am feeling good, a small glass of red wine or some lovely dark chocolate tastes amazing, and I really enjoy it. 

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Helen Leathers

Transformational Women's Coach, Trainer, Speaker & Author

Combining a spiritual outlook, a pragmatic approach, and a sense of humour I want to help you remember who YOU are and reveal YOUR path so you can step on to it empowered, energised, inspired and guided.

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