By: Thérèse Buckingham, NBC-HWC
Is there a gift you didn’t get for the holidays? Most of us don’t expect to get everything on our list. However, the gift I’m thinking of probably wasn’t on your list. It wouldn’t have been wrapped in a box and tied up with a bow. It wouldn’t have been tucked into your stocking or enclosed in a card.
This gift would be personalized and one of a kind, and isn’t a one size fits all. It is a gift you give yourself, and the best part is you get to adjust and alter until you get that perfect fit. It’s a gift that requires time and attention from you, but it’s time well-spent.
Have you guessed what it is? I’ll give you a hint with this question:
What if Self-Care became the Greatest Gift You Ever Received?
“Practice self-care.” This has been a common mantra in 2020. With all the stresses of everyday life magnified by the arrival of COVID-19, everyone is giving us self-care advice and offering products to support a self-care practice. Is it marketing hype, a sales opportunity or something really important we should all pay attention to? See if you can find your own answer to that question.
I have a confession, my self-care practice isn’t perfect and it probably never will be. I don’t think perfection is the goal. In fact, I think perfection is an over-valued, unattainable ideal.
I don’t always make the healthier choice when it comes to sleep, exercise or food. Like I said, my self-care practice isn’t perfect. But, I give myself grace to be imperfect, knowing that most of the time I’m making choices in my best interest. My self-care journey has been an evolution of learning and experimentation.
I spent years taking medications to treat headaches, depression, pain and gut issues. Although I may have had temporary relief from symptoms, the root cause was never resolved. In some cases the pharmaceuticals actually created new symptoms and issues. Nonetheless, I kept searching for a “magic pill” and an “easy fix” to all my ails.
I was a busy mom raising two active boys, with a home-based business, a husband with a stressful job, meals to plan and cook and a home to maintain. I went on walks with my dog, spent quality time with my family, and cooked most of our meals at home. But I didn’t think I had time to add more to my schedule or, did I?
Is there a Magic Pill?
I’ve learned a lot in my 50’s, things I wish I had known in my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. I’ve learned that I can’t just power through my days ignoring signs from my body. I have learned that I can control the severity of symptoms and sometimes even make them disappear when I slow down, look within, and then trust that I know what I truly need.
Self-care is not selfish, frivolous nor indulgent. Rather, self-care is essential to my overall wellbeing. I’ve learned that self-care encompasses how I live, how I eat, how I move, and how I think. I found that self-care is synonymous with self-compassion, self-acceptance and even self-love.
Recently, I realized that everything I do to take care of myself contributes to my current resiliency and my future health. I’ve learned that I do have time to take care of myself, and what I don’t have time for is being sick or FLC (feeling like crap). I discovered my “magic pill” is self-care.
Self-care is so much more than a beauty regimen or an external thing you do. It has to start within your heart to know what you need to navigate your life.
As it turns out, treating yourself to a massage or a facial is one way to show yourself some appreciation. While this is one way, self-care is so much more than products and services. Self-care is more than a fancy bath bomb and a time-out in the tub. Truly taking care of yourself requires you to adopt a holistic approach with simple, mindful habits that build and sustain physical, mental and emotional wellness.
Self-care requires being purposeful with what you eat, how you exercise, when you sleep, how you live and even how you think. Your body's a remarkable machine that will break down and wear out without proper care and daily maintenance. Self-care is about creating a balanced life that keeps you running efficiently before your red “maintenance needed” light comes on.
Ask yourself, “Are my current eating, exercise, sleep and stress reduction habits creating health or diminishing it?” “Am I just surviving through the day or THRIVING?”
It’s easy to understand how food, movement and sleep play into better health. But it is also important to identify the activities and things that fill you up to create better mental and emotional health as well.
What would it look like to prioritize the things that light your soul on fire?
Self-care is also giving time to the things that matter most to you. Ask yourself, “What gives me energy to live life with purpose and passion?”
Here’s an easy way to get started:
Are you creating a recipe for disappointment or success?
It can be overwhelming when you start adding up all the things you need to do to take care of yourself. I recommend starting slowly with small changes you want to do. Trying to do too much, too fast, may be a recipe for short-term change, but it’s too hard to sustain and maintain self-care habits that are overwhelming, difficult, time-consuming and unenjoyable.
A National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach can help you carefully craft your personalized self-care practice. These are coaches who are trained to help their clients with behavior change. A board certified health coach will guide you on your journey, encouraging you to set S.M.A.R.T. goals, and help you stay accountable to yourself.
An example of starting small for me was when I decided that 2015 was the year I’d finally become a runner. I started with buying a new pair of running shoes and a target to run around the block every morning.
Day after day, week after week I stuck to it.
First, I moved my target to at least 20 minutes then 30. I learned that I preferred running on trails over sidewalks. That December I ran my first half-marathon and I finally started to think of myself as a runner. I experienced success because I started with small, attainable goals. I made it more enjoyable by adding in trail running when I could. I increased the length and intensity of my runs gradually until I felt like I was ready for my ultimate goal; a half-marathon.
Over the course of a year I changed my mindset from “I have to run to get in shape” to “I want to run because I love how strong it makes me feel.” I went from “I’m not a true runner” to “I’m a runner!”
If you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.
Are you guilty of putting yourself last?
Chances are you already have some self-care habits in place, so give yourself a pat on the back for that! Whether it’s brushing your teeth twice a day, eating an extra serving of veggies at dinner, taking a break with a cup of green tea or standing barefoot outside for 10 minutes, you are doing something for yourself that supports your wellness. Give yourself credit for all you do and then decide what you want to add in. Look back at the list you made.
It can be hard and time consuming to take care of yourself especially when you have a family to care for. Add on all the responsibilities of your job and home and you might think it’s okay to ignore your own needs. However, if you do that you are communicating to yourself, in a subliminal way, that you are not worthy of the care and attention required to keep yourself healthy. What’s the message you want to give yourself?
When I consider the habits I want to incorporate into my self-care practice I consider two different pictures:
In each of these pictures I think about what I am trying to achieve and why it is important to me. This helps me focus on the outcome and stay motivated.
Self-care is never a selfish act - It is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.
Could The Gift You Didn't Get be The One You Give Yourself?
Now that we’ve unwrapped self-care as a vital practice for your overall wellbeing, do you think it might be your “Magic Pill”?
To help you get started consider these three questions:
As I said in the beginning, my self-care isn’t perfect. It’s a trial and adjust, evolving, fluid practice that fulfills my current needs and supports my future goals. So maybe, to steal a line from a recent movie I watched, it’s “perfectly imperfect.” And, that is how it should be.
Would you like help crafting your self-care practice?
Connect with Thérèse and other health coaches on our Directory!
Thérèse works virtually with individuals and couples who are ready to make lifestyle changes to build better health now so that they can live with vitality as they age and live well longer.
Want help navigating those middle years?
Join Thérèse in her “Live with Vitality in 2021” a 12-week virtual group workshop where you will start crafting your self-care practice to make your middle years some of your best years. You can connect with her through her website, Instagram, or Facebook @vitalityinfocus.