TOP TIPS FOR CHANGEMAKERS #4
SELF-CARE FOR VISIONARIES
Let’s not get hung up on words here. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a visionary. Maybe you feel like a fraud reading this blog because you don’t think of yourself as a changemaker. Here’s the thing, the same rules about self-care apply to EVERYONE. So make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up for five minutes and read on.
I’ve written about self-care and burn out a few times already. Why do I think it’s so important? Well, I guess it’s partly because we always tend to teach the things we most need to learn. Self-care is not something I find easy. I talk to my clients about it a lot but I find it hard to implement myself. There’s always more I ‘need’ to do…more blogs to write…more social media content to create…more plans to make, products to develop and clients to help. Not to mention the – very welcome – personal obligations of family and friends to see, chat to and support. The cry of ‘I’m too busy’ ‘I don’t have time’ and ‘I’ll get to that later’…well, let’s just say that I am familiar with these phrases!
So I talk about this because I need to remind myself. But I am also determined to try and help those in this community avoid the same traps I have fallen into, the same mistakes I have made. I’ve burnt out more than once and it was a deeply unpleasant and unsettling experience every time. I had to take months off work. I was exhausted, befuddled, confused and depressed. I felt helpless and hopeless. I temporarily mislaid my natural optimism and it was NOT easy to regain it. If I can persuade one person to avoid that path, I will consider that a major win!
And of course there’s another reason I want you to take care of YOU: it’s because YOU are up to great things in the world. Whatever you’re doing: whether you’re running a social enterprise, a charity, a campaign, a business, a team or a family – YOU have the capacity to change the world. From your immediate loved ones to an entire community, country or continent – you have the potential to create ripples that can become tidal waves of positive change. And I want you to do that. The world needs you to do that. And if you burn out – who will make the difference that YOU alone are here to make?
So here are my top three tips for self-care:
SELF-CARE IS SELFISH
When I was coaching women, I estimate that 98% of my clients had issues around self-care. And when we dug down into why they found it so difficult, it always came back to a variation on ‘It’s selfish to put my own needs first.’
Now I have argued a hundred times that self-care isn’t selfish. But in the interests of mixing it up a bit and for those of you at the back who weren’t listening the first 100 times I said this, I’m going to put it a different way…are you ready?
In a way my clients were right. Self-care IS selfish. BUT it’s “GOOD SELFISH”.
And yes, I did just totally make up that expression…so allow me to explain.
“Good selfish” is based on the understanding that you are no use to yourself, your friends, your family, your community or the world if you are exhausted, depleted and burnt out. It’s the kind of selfish that starts from knowing that to keep giving, you must first replenish your own resources – or you have nothing to give from. It’s the kind of selfish that is built on the principle that you NEED to be your own number one priority so that you can then prioritise others and give them what they need.
So yes. Be “good selfish”. Take care of you. Say ‘no’ when you need to. Be your own priority. And see how much more you can then give, unselfishly, to those who need it.
PICK ONE THING
In my coaching practice I would work with my clients to identify their needs. We’d get really specific about precisely how much sleep they needed; what kind of food and when; how much they needed to drink and what exercises they needed to do. And we’d explore things like connection, solitude, time in nature until we’d built up a pretty comprehensive picture of their needs.
At this point, some of my clients would be feeling pretty good. They would realise that actually they were meeting most of their needs; they just needed to make one or two tweaks. Hooray!
However, some of my clients were in danger of going into overwhelm when they realised quite how far off meeting their needs they were. They weren’t getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating the kind of food their bodies needed, spending enough time with friends and so on, and so on, and so on.
Here’s how I see it: we all have quite enough sticks with which we beat ourselves. Not meeting your needs should not become another one. So before they dissolved into overwhelm and self-loathing, I would suggest to my clients that they pick one need and start there. Some would pick the biggest, most difficult need to work on. Others would pick the smallest, easiest to tackle issue. I don’t think it really matters. Just pick one thing and work on that. It will give you momentum. It will give you the experience of putting your needs first. And it will make you feel better. Then once that is bedded in as a habit – for example, once you are regularly getting 8 hours sleep a night – then move on to the next need.
Guess what? You may think that you are hiding your stress levels, exhaustion and impending breakdown from your friends and family, but I am prepared to bet a lot of money that you are not. If you’re not taking care of you, then your people are worried about you. They may not know how to tackle it. They may not know how best to support you but – unless all of your friends are sociopaths – they are aware and worried.
So, you already have a willing group of people who want to help – even if it’s only to alleviate their own concern! Enlist their support. Pick a friend or a family member or a small circle of them and ask for their help. Be specific. Do you need a daily call? Someone to go for a regular walk with? Someone to go food shopping with you once a week so you don’t buy cr*p? Work it out with them. Brainstorm ideas. People want to help you. Let them.
That’s all for now. I don’t want to overwhelm you with even more things to think about! But if you’d like to know more about my take on this then please do read my other blogs on self-care and burn out.
I hope you like it.
Let’s ACTUALLY change the world – whilst taking care of ourselves!
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