Simple Practices To Boost Self-Care Each And Every Day
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By: Megan Tuohey, Relationship Psychologist
You and I both know that self-care is the fuel for the fuel tank. It’s the money in the bank that allows you to spend energy in every part of your world that requires you – parenting, relationships, work, community, friends, family etc.
Most of my clients come to me when they are exhausted. Burnt out. Where their body has become so depleted that their mind and thinking have followed suit. Very often the first thing we do in their very first session is to talk through self-care.
I recommend to my clients that they create a daily practice that begins and ends each day.
The trick is to commit to something until it becomes a habit, so about 30 days, and to never let yourself have more than a day or so off. This is when we lose momentum and it grinds to a halt.
The first thing you need to do is to write a list of 50 (yes you read that right) things that spark joy. Now choose 2-3 things per day to add into your morning and evening rituals.
My list includes making a cup of chai tea *just* the way I like it every morning, around 8:30am. I also do pilates for the connection I get with my body and a cup of hot milo with my two boys each morning when we wake up and play Uno (around 6:30am). At night, I write in my journal. I recap the days and let any and all thoughts pile out. I rarely read it back, I just know it’s there and I won’t forget it. This usually helps me sleep.
I define stress as the gap between the task that needs to be completed and our own evaluation of the skills and resources we have. That is to say, stress results from an appraisal of a situation and our ability to meet those needs.
The thing about stress and managing the demands of life is that the physiological change to our body when we are under stress leads us to a stress response where the last thing we are thinking about is self-care. And yet, we need it most.
A stress response is made up of a cocktail of neuro-chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline, which, when released, thicken the blood, making the heart beat faster and our breathing become shallower. This mimics our fight or flight response, and from here we can slip into flight or fright very quickly.
When we are in the stress response, we are less likely to mindfully calm ourselves. We are more likely to stay in the flustered zone where we zip about in an adrenalin sparked frenzy. We don’t want to remember to calm down, because it sort of feels like we are more productive here. And that, falsely, makes us feel safe.
This is not true. We are not safe, nor are we productive. We’re just wired and believe we are safe and productive. This is an illusion.
The truth is getting to this state is costing us. More in energy, more from our body’s resources. Put it this way, our body has moved from it’s daily work of functioning quietly and well, into a state that mimics near death. The toll of our body slipping in and out of that mode is high, considering it is an illusion of ‘productivity’ that is a falsehood.
So in those moments, you need to realise that you have lost control of your reactions, because there wasn’t enough fuel in the tank. There wasn’t enough money in the bank. And stress crept in because your appraisal was that you couldn’t fit it in.
Probably, if your self-care game was strong, you would have had more resources available to you, and would have been less likely to slip into the cortisol/adrenaline space.
So the next time you find yourself in this space, I want you to remember this – it’s not more productive. It’s not a better ‘place’ for you to live to get things done. You can do that just fine without tripping into the frenzy.
The trick is to notice when you are starting to need a refuel, or a top up and to do the things that bring you energy there and then. When this happens to me, I stop, breathe and consult my list. These days, my list has about 150 things on it to choose from.
After the reset - you are more likely to appraise the items on your list as do-able. And then get them done. Without the stress response that costs you in time and body.
These days, I keep my list where I can easily find it (some of my clients keep it in their phones) and anytime my mood dips, or I feel tired or stressed – I scan that list and do something on it as soon as I can. This sparks joy and works as a ‘reset’ button.
After the quick ‘pattern interrupt’ I return to what is required of me, and come from a calm and centred space. Exactly the space that is best for me, my partner and my family.
What’s on your list?
About Megan: Megan is a Relationship Psychologist who specialises in women. She focuses particularly on the relationship you have with yourself, your partner, your kids. When she’s not writing, you will find her working in her online coaching business for women, reading or playing with her kids and high-fiving her hubby for another excellent day. You can read more of her work at http://megantuohey.com