“I am tired of taking care of others, but I don’t know where to start with self-care. I have never done this before.”
A lot of my clients have been asking me this question about self-care recently. Seriously, how do you actually take care of yourself and manage your emotions, when you feel like you are operating in auto-pilot mode and there is very little gas left in the tank?
Women were conditioned to take care of others. Historically, we were assigned the job of watching over our families and homes, keeping the fire burning while men were hunting. Are we surprised that there is so much shame that comes with prioritising ourselves?
It just feels wrong to be taking care of yourself when others need you. How can you create time and space for yourself when you are that glue that holds everything together, and you need to be strong?
I must confess, I am a serial people pleaser. It took me a while to realise I cannot be happy and function at my best simply by serving others. I have been learning to put myself first for a long time. I still struggle with it sometimes.
But I have come up with a simple solution that helps me stay on track and which I want to share with you.
A monthly checkup on myself and my mental state.
A breakfast date with myself. If you know me personally, you must know that I am a breakfast person.
I consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day and a first, most important step to self-care. I love to meet friends or family over breakfast. A great day has to start with a good, nutritious breakfast. I have made a list of my top 5 breakfasts which you can download HERE.
So, once a month I take myself out for breakfast. During lockdown I would prepare breakfast and take it outside, so it would feel like I am on a picnic somewhere.I take a notepad and a pen and ask myself the following questions.
Please take time answering all of them without judging yourself for your answers.
1. “What are the 3 best things that have happened in my life this month”?
I always start with this and it instantly puts me in a positive mindset. Even if the previous month was emotionally difficult or uneventful, this will teach you to express gratitude for the things that matter. According to Brene Brown and her research, the opposite of scarcity is not abundance, but ENOUGH. The best way to acknowledge that you and your life are enough is to practice gratitude. It is best to do a daily gratitude practice, but if all you can allow yourself is a monthly breakfast, it is still better than not doing this at all.
2. “How are you feeling, love”?
This is one of the hardest questions to ask yourself. We were never taught to talk about feelings or describe them in any way. So try closing your eyes and listening to your body when you answer it. Frustrated? Angry? Tired? Demotivated? Hopeful? Anxious? Confused? Scared? In love? Motivated? Try to avoid saying something simple like Good/Bad. Our feelings are neutral and putting a label on a feeling (like bad) may encourage you to resist the feeling, instead of processing it.
3. “Have I been acting out of character recently?”.
What this means is that sometimes we need to pay attention to how we have been acting to really notice the feelings behind this. Have you been eating more chocolate? Drinking more? Getting into more arguments? Procrastinating or avoiding the work you needed to do? Does this correspond with the feeling that was your answer to the previous question?
4. “What am I thinking?”.
Take 10 minutes to brain drain and write down all the thoughts in your mind until it is empty. This needs to be done without any screening process, i.e. judgement. Just write it all down. Even if it looks like a to-do list at first. The reason for this is that you cannot see clearly when the thoughts are in you head and clouding your judgement. Once they are on paper, you can look at them with your eyes, through curiosity and compassion. You can put the to-do list in your calendar and then look at what is left and occupying the operating memory of your brain. With time you will learn to put these thoughts together with how you are feeling and notice the connection.
5. “Have I been taking action towards my goal? Why/why not?”.
This may not apply to you, but I make sure to have 1 big goal per year. And then I look at my actions and feelings and examine them from a point of whether they get me closer to my goal. For example, part of my goal this year is to create more value and help more people. So I am writing this post in the hope that it will help at least one person to feel better. Even if it is just to tell you that you are not alone in not knowing how to take care of yourself and there is a way out.
6. What am I going to schedule for myself this month to take better care of me?
Is it a manicure? Is it time on my own? The exhibition that I have been meaning to see for a while but nobody wanted to go with me? Is it making time for friends I have been neglecting? What makes me happy how can I plan for this better?
Doing these things may make you feel so uncomfortable at first. But please remember the airplane rule – you always have to put a mask on yourself first before you help anyone else.
These questions are designed to bring you AWARENESS. And having awareness about your feelings helps you conquer them and let them go.
And remember, you are not alone. And it is never too late to take your power back.