You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.
Don’t we all know it?! Self-care has become a buzzword and everyone will agree how important it is to look after ourselves. In practice though it seems that the vast majority people are not very good at it. Why is that? From experience, among the more popular excuses are a lack of resources – in terms of time and finances. I say excuses because I strongly believe that self-care neither has to be time-consuming nor expensive.
In Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), one of the presuppositions is that behind every behaviour is a positive intention (for the person behaving). Assuming that is correct, it means that we neglect self-care with a positive intention. Hm, sounds counterintuitive at first, right?
During a recent coaching session, I was talking to my client about exactly that. She came up with a list of things that she knows help her to recharge. One of them was going for a run. Then she said, that the other day she had managed to go for a run but immediately felt guilt and that she should have used the time more productively.
A different client came to the realization that always being busy made her feel needed. Her conclusion: if I am not busy all the time, I won’t be needed and more importantly I won’t be loved.
Does that resonate with you? Does spending time on yourself feel like a guilty pleasure? Does it feel like a luxury you need to deprive yourself off? We live in a society that promotes being busy and “productive” at all times. Proclaiming our accomplishments to the whole world and taking self-sacrifice to an extreme in order to feel good about ourselves. Do you connect your self-worth to your level of business?
Now, these are just two possible examples. Having said that, I do feel that they are quite common. But as with everything, you need to find the obstacles that lie in your own path of healthy self-care. Here are some ideas that may help becoming more conscious of what’s happening for you:
What does self-care mean to you
It doesn’t have to be a pampering weekend at the spa. You might feel that you never get any time alone; so even just 5 or 10 minutes of sitting down with a cup of tea or coffee all by yourself could make a huge difference and help to de-stress.
Come up with a list. For those who love writing lists (like me...), you might categorize according to how much time you need and how much they cost (e.g. cinema trip versus 5 minute meditation). Having this list ready helps when you are in acute need of some restorative self-care – you won’t have to spend time and energy on coming up with a plan but can pick from the list according to your means.
- What is stopping you?
What is REALLY stopping you? As I always recommend: it pays off to be honest with yourselves. We might not like to admit that (subconsciously) we feel worthless if we stop trying to be everything to everyone. That sacrificing ourselves is part of a plea to be loved. Or that we prefer not to stop and pause as we might realize that we are not living the life we really want and as a consequence it might mean we need to make changes we don’t feel ready for. Or that we regard self-care something for the weak. Or something completely different (note: this is where talking to somebody can be helpful. I know a life coach who could support you in this ;-).
What can you do instead?
Now you know what your positive intention is for NOT making time for self-care. You can ask yourself: is it true? (I am a huge fan of Byron Katie’s The work! If you haven’t heard about her, I recommend looking her up!) For example: is it really unproductive to go for a run, when afterwards you will feel more energized and most likely MORE productive? Are you really only loved when you bend over backwards for others? Etc.
Do you feel ready to give yourself permission to set aside time for self-care? What else does it need for you to feel comfortable with spending time on yourself? How can your environment support you in this?
And as with anything: have fun with it! Life doesn’t have to be serious and hard work. Things are unlikely to change overnight and we will easily fall back into our old habits. So what? Another day is another opportunity to do things differently. Have patience with yourself and celebrate the progress you are making, no matter how small it may seem to you.
Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.