I am grateful to People First for asking me to mark Self Care Week by sharing my top five recommendations for improving personal self-care.
1. Move beyond a victim mindset
We all operate busy lives. Some of us are working mums, some of us are carers for loved ones, some of us work multiple jobs just to get by, and some of us travel extensively for work.
Whatever our personal situation, so many of us live in a mindset of scarcity. I did so for a number of years.
I told myself I was not good enough. I told myself others were better/luckier/smarter than I was and that is why I would be unable to achieve my dreams. I was making myself unwell by comparing myself to everyone else instead of looking inside to like myself.
These thoughts, over a two-year period, led to me going bang in July 2016. I ended up leaving the business for three working days and calling the employee assistance line. I felt alone, a failure and confused.
That call, however, was the start of me moving out of my victim mindset and into a mindset of freedom and abundance. An abundance of choice (opening my mind to new possibilities) and an abundance of freedom (I stopped blaming everyone else and just accepted who I was).
If you are reading this and thinking “why do they get all the luck” or “life is unfair,” start looking at your experience of life ‘inside-out’ vs ‘outside-in’ – what you see when your victim-thinking drops may surprise you.
2. Talk to other people about self-care
Self-care is actually a relatively new term in my personal vocabulary. It is, I feel, often seem as a fluffy, soft thing that ‘others’ do, not me – especially in male terms.
Since setting up a Twitter chat called #selfcareweekly in April 2018, which takes place every Tuesday at 20:00 GMT, my experience has been that: a) acknowledgment of self-care as a personal, value-adding practice area is growing, and b) the importance of using self-care practices as a way to move towards life-work quality, and away from work-life balance, is increasing in relevance every day.
Self-care is NOT a soft option; however, the absence of men engaging in this conversation is noticeable.
Vocalising how we feel and what is going on inside us can be the difference between staying well and sending ourselves into a mental health challenge, as per my example.
Finding people that you trust, either personally or via virtual means such as at #selfcareweekly, really does help you realise that you are not alone, and that self-care really is of importance.
3. Make your self-care practices a habit
A regular theme during the #selfcareweekly chats is the importance of making self-care a deliberate practice.
What does self-care mean to you today? How many of your current self-care practices are well-developed habits? Do you religiously practice yoga at 6 am? Do you ensure that you get to the gym straight after work three times per week before getting comfortable at home? Do you know if mornings or evenings are the best time for you to practice self-care, and how do you design that into your life?
What does it feel like if you miss those habits? Normally we know about it as the body feeds back to us – “where was that yoga session today?” it says.
Some of my best-formed habits include regular walks during the workday, especially when in Bournemouth. I regularly achieve three sessions per week at the gym/spinning. These practices are not hard work as they are well-formed habits, and therefore I ‘flow’ into them.
On the contrary, reducing alcohol intake and staying away from pizza are more conscious, non-flow-state self-care practices that I semi-often fail at. Why? Do I want to change enough? Do I fall back into that “just one more time” mindset? At times I do, I can assure you!
It is clear to me through my personal experience – and that of others – that developing positive self-care habits is critical to effective wellbeing of self, and therefore of those around us.
As I write this, I am 10 days into Stoptober, having not drunk any alcohol – an interesting development of a new self-care practice.
4. Find an accountability partner
Maintaining self-care habits can be really difficult. Finding an accountability partner, however, could be the difference between success and failure in this area.
Think about the times when you went to the gym and saw two or more people spotting each other with weights, joining exercise classes or going walking together. As human beings, we are all connected, thus we generally enjoy spending time with each other, and learning and growing together – contrary to what the media may tell you!
Why not look for an accountability partner, whether your spouse, a friend or a work colleague – someone with whom you can commit to developing effective self-care habits.
From personal experience, joining exercise classes or agreeing to go to the gym at the same time as a friend always increases the frequency and enjoyment of such self-care practices, and therefore makes them easier to maintain.
Are you up for finding an accountability partner? What would stop you doing so?
5. Prioritising your own self-care is not selfish
One of the most common reasons (or excuses) that I hear for people having poor self-care practices is that they “have to get back to feed Xx” or “don’t have time,” only to spend three hours watching TV.
Now, three hours watching TV is a choice, and if that is what makes good self-care practice for you, then great. Too often, however, I hear that it is selfish to put myself before A, B or C, or that I don’t have time.
With £34.9 billion of lost productivity and 15.8 million lost working days due to a mix of anxiety, stress and depression during 2017 in the UK alone, it seems clear to me that it is absolutely in the interest of us as individuals, parents, spouses and friends to prioritise our own self-care.
Investing ‘up-front’ in ourselves seems to me to be one of the best investments we can make, and it can cost little or even nothing to do so. The example of the oxygen mask on a plane is a very well used metaphor, but an important one. We can only be the best for others if we are first the best for ourselves.
My personal productivity and enjoyment of life have skyrocketed over the past 6-12 months as I have crafted a job-role to meet my needs first, as well as that of the organisation. I am much less impulsive and far more present than I have ever been in my 42 years on this planet, and most importantly, I am ok with who I am as a human being.
Yes, finally after 42 years I feel I am enough. I wrote a blog about this titled Acceptance.
Prioritising my own self-care has been a major catalyst in me getting to where I am right now. I know that you are only a few tweaks and new practices away from experiencing the same level of acceptance that l now have.
We can use a very simple equation: self-acceptance = optimum self-care
Garry Turner is an experienced international sales & marketing manager and a chartered member of the CIPD. He has a deep interest and passion for re-humanising the world of work.
Self-care is a central theme to wellbeing and is just one of seven modules that makes up The Listening Organisation, a human-centred organisation design model that is currently being piloted. Other modules include mindset, trust, listening, inclusion, purpose and values, and curiosity.