Hands up if you’re a busy woman or mum, who gives a lot to your family, kids, workplace, partners and somehow the thought of giving to yourself always gets pushed lower down the ranks on the list of daily priorities? Maybe for tomorrow or possibly the next day?
Hands up if you’ve ever had a massage and thought to yourself “Why don’t I do this more often?”, yet within hours of that thought, you’re neck deep in a frenzy of everyone else’s needs, and any attention you thought you might pay to yourself has slipped silently out the window?
Hands up if the words ‘I’m too busy’ roll off the tongue with such regularity that its becoming part of your identity, nudging out simple activities like a coffee with a friend or a trip to the gym?
I am guessing I am now looking at a room filled with women and their hands up in the air. And high five to you all- you are the glue that holds families and businesses together. You are the life force behind problem solving, negotiating, juggling and pleasing. And if you’re anything like me, you get to this time of year, and you’re a bit…..well, tired.
A girlfriend and I made a promise to each other at the beginning of the year to make THIS year a “LAM” year! Look After Me! We vowed to make time for ourselves, have a pampering treat or a massage more regularly, make more time for exercise, climb Mt Coolum each week, go out for lunch a little more often. How hard can that be? And if we can’t look after ourselves how can we be expected to take good care of our family or our businesses? We vowed to make ourselves and our health a priority in our own lives.
Fast-forward to the end of the year. Somehow the juggle of business life, work and home life, putting out spot fires and solving problems has consumed all waking moments. I’ve managed to make time for 2 massages (one of them I was running 15 minutes late for…), my exercise routine has been sporadic at best (thank god for park run that keeps me going!) and I have not met with this friend even once for a sneaky mid-week lunch. The LAM year has been quite the disappointment really!
Don’t get me wrong- I have loved my year and each year that goes by I am inspired to offer more, branch out, experience more. It’s just that the “LAM” concept seems to struggle to gain any kind of traction.
So why is that? Is it that self-care or ‘Look after me” ideas are blended together with thoughts of indulgent pampering massages- reserved only for special occasions? Is it somehow that self care becomes less important than caring for others? What is it that is hiding behind the internal dialogue of ‘I’m too busy’ to LAM that I hear so commonly amongst women? How can we women start to prioritise our own self care, without carrying the guilty feeling we are being somehow selfish or indulgent? Or compromising everything else we hold so dear- our family, our partners or our businesses?
It’s got me thinking- what is self-care?
I think the error in my ways has been the thought that self- care is somehow a special treat, like a rich chocolate cake, only to be eaten as a reward for extra good behaviour. Maybe as an annual event, like a birthday.
But as the end of the year draws near I am now drawing a new line in the sand and redefining within myself what self care actually is, and why we should prioritise it. As a health care practitioner, I see plenty of injuries and health problems that occur within the aging population simply as a result of a lack of self care. I should know, more than others, how important small steps can be.
So rather than it being a once a year indulgence, let me redefine self care for women. After all, we are the glue, the force and we are needed.
My New Definitions of Self Care!
1- Prioritise exercise. It’s not something to be squeezed in at the end of a ten hour day. An afterthought. Your body relies on movement for medicine and it doesn’t take much. Research proves it.
2- Learn to say no. You cannot be everything, to everyone, every time. Do want you can within the limits of your time available in the day and if something doesn’t sit well or feel right, you have the right to simply say no, without apology or guilt.
3- You are what you eat. Expensive dinners, fine wine, Belgian chocolates are not self care. They are occasional treats to enjoy with family or friends – a social occasion. (Although I have read somewhere that red wine and chocolates are full of anti-oxidants? Practically a health food?) Self care is making sure you fuel your body in a way that it can be healthy enough to serve yourself and others. That means more greens, water, reducing your sugar dependency, smaller portions (learn to say no!) vitamin or mineral supplements if needed. It is feeling healthy after a meal, not bloated, heavy or needing a lie down. Learn more about healthy eating here.
4- Sleep. We all know how much sleep we need and everyone is different. I know within myself, if I am dragging myself to bed on a weeknight after 10pm I am tired the next day and then the next. Turn the screen off, there is nothing there to watch that will benefit your life more than the right amount of sleep you need to function. Sleep helps you lose weight and manage stress without the burnout.
5- Meditation. This is one daily routine I can no longer get by without. Even 5 mins in the morning starts my day. This short moment of quiet then allows me to then make a plan for my one or two priorities for the day with clarity. It does not take long, and it’s not a selfish indulgence for me time- it’s an essential part of self care. Science proves it. Like to learn how to meditate?
6- Time out. I witness people’s need to fill space with noise, activity, talking, doing, iphones, facebook, TV, computers and wonder what this is doing to our brain health? Remember back to a time, perhaps as a child, when you simply lay on the grass and just stared at the clouds for a while? Such a short simple action can create space, a breath of fresh air for the heart and mind. This is not an indulgence- it’s a simple self care activity that allows you a moment of being rather than doing, to reboot. Whether it’s a quiet walk on the beach, some time without background TV or laying out under the stars for 5 minutes- choosing a moment to take time out is essential to your health.
7- Get creative. We all have different underlying needs for creative expression. Some people love to draw or paint. (Ahem, if you’re a patient of mine who has witnessed my ‘art’ –of misaligned stick figure drawings- you will know that creative artwork is not my speciality). Some people love music, yoga or dance. Some need to write. Allowing yourself short moments of creative expression in whatever form that takes is essential for soul health, even if it is that you involve your kids in your own project or creative expression.
8- Follow the feeling. We all have actions or activities that make us feel good, bring us joy or simply a smile to our face. It could be a massage. Or a facial. It could be painting your own nails or getting them dirty in the garden. It could be dancing to Beyonce’, lip syncing to Taylor Swift, or lying in the bath with a wine and the tranquillity of Enya. It could be singing in the shower, walking barefoot in the grass, diving under a big wave at the beach or watching your kids in the playground. It could be lighting an incense or saying a prayer. It could be baking a cake or (my sister’s favourite) decorating a gingerbread house. It could be none or all of those things at different times on different days. What is it for you? Can you make space and time for this?
9- Get social (and selective)– Simply allowing yourself the time for a coffee to connect with a friend is essential to our health. In addition to getting social- get selective! As best you can, choose who you spend your precious time with. Choosing a social circle of people who inspire you, who make you think, who support you in dealing with problems in a positive way and have a positive influence are important steps in self care.
10- Acceptance. Where you are is, well, where you are. Some days I look in the mirror and think to myself ‘Yep- I’ve got this…’ Other days it’s enough just to crawl back to bed with my make-up still on. Sigh. Accept where you are and tomorrow is a new opportunity for self care so you can give out from a better place.
We have all heard the statement “You should secure your own oxygen mask before your families in an aircraft emergency”. To be honest, I can feel my own inward ‘eye roll’ at that statement, even as I type it. But, if you think about all of the things you do to support your family, friends or businesses- what would happen to all of this if your health were to suffer? And how easy is it to take small steps in self- care to support your own health, so you can be in a better place to give out?
We have all experienced how draining it can be to give out from a place of fatigue or discontent. Supporting your own self care is an essential part of giving out from a grounded and positive place, which can then benefit all of those who depend on you.
I look back on this list and know I am actually not doing too badly with my own care. Self care is not an escape, a once-a-year intervention reserved for birthdays and anniversaries. Provided I change my internal definition from ‘indulgent reward’ to ‘prioritising my health’.
What can you take from this list to ensure your own health as a priority? What would you add? Simple steps each day make a lifetime habit of positive health for you and the people who rely on you.
Now- time for a massage…..
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Nichole Hamilton, Owner of Synergy Physio is passionate about women’s health and education. Her physiotherapy practice, established in 2007, has grown with the support of an amazing team of women, each with their own unique skills and specialities to offer to support your health.
Nichole is also a yoga teacher, mindfulness meditation teacher, Demartini facilitator and Danielle La Porte facilitator. These unique qualifications help Nichole offer out services to women for their health- body mind and heart.
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