What does self care mean to you? Do you see it as a luxury? Or a bare essential?
Many years ago, I learnt the hard way how vital self care really is. At the time I was working in a stressful but rewarding role, giving my all to be the best parent I could be to my daughters, and trying to be happy in a relationship that looked good on the outside but didn't honour who I was on a deep level.
I felt depleted on so many levels but became an expert at pushing my own wants and needs under the carpet and just getting on with it the best I could.
Being an optimist at heart, I focused my attention on the all good things in my life - and there were lots - determinedly ignoring the elephant in the room and using the relentless busyness of my life to distract me from the fact that I actually wasn't happy.
Eventually, my body forced me to face the truth I'd been avoiding and hit me with an illness that left me unable to function, let alone work, for 18 months.
It’s often the way. Living out of alignment with our personal truth is possible on a mental level. We can convince ourselves we’re happy - denial is a powerful coping mechanism. But on a somatic level, as author and mindbody expert Bessel van der Kolk famously said, the body keeps the score. Each time we make a choice out of integrity with our true inner nature we incur a debt that, sooner or later, we’ll have to make good on.
Because when we push down our emotions, they don’t just go away. The energy of them is stored in the cells, tissues and organs, causing them to function less effectively and compromising our immune, endocrine and lymphatic systems. Eventually, this can lead to disease in varying forms.
For me, my illness forced me to take a long, hard look at my life and get real about what I really needed - mind, body & soul - to flourish.
It was a tough lesson, but one that I'm now grateful for.
Not only did it transform my personal life in many ways, it caused me to dive deep into the field of mindbody wellness and embark on a path of healing that ultimately led me to where I am today, supporting others in their own journey to wholeness. It also caused me to take an unflinching look at my life and make the tough decisions I'd been avoiding. It wasn't easy, but neither is going through life carrying the burden of unexpressed dreams, hopes and desires.
But there is a catch - caring for oneself is only possible when you are able to get really honest with yourself and acknowledge what you need on a deep level. So for many people, getting to know who you really are is the first step.
Self care is a concept we really need to own because it looks so different for all of us. Our conditions for flourishing are as unique as we are.
Self care can look like saying no to something you’d usually say yes to.
Or saying yes to something you’d usually say no to.
It could look like doing some food prep on a Sunday afternoon to give yourself the gift of nourishment throughout the busy week ahead.
It can look like more alone time. Or more connection.
It can look like more movement. Or more rest.
Self care can look like ending a relationship. Or investing in new ones.
Self care, in its essence, is giving yourself what you need to flourish.
One of the ways I help my clients to care for themselves better is by going through a Life Design process together.
We take an honest look at your life through the lens of your unique needs, identifying the things that are working well for you and shining a light on parts of your life that need more attention.
It’s a powerful process that reconnects you to your deeper self and gives you clarity around how to direct your energy in the ways that will benefit you most.
The beautiful thing about this process is that when you give yourself what you need - physically, mentally and emotionally - you have so much more energy, so much more capacity, so much more love to give those around you. Because you’ve filled yourself up first.
You are giving from a place of abundance, not depletion. You show up as the most balanced, energised version of yourself.
And so, the benefits of self care flow out to those around you. And what a gift that is.