SNIPPETS OF INSPIRATION
Tomorrow is the first day of August. From next year it is my plan to take February and August off completely. I’m calling them my ‘Care and Curiosity’ months – when I will replenish my energy, take care of myself, see friends and family and explore things that intrigue and interest me but that I don’t have time to look at during the rest of the year. But for this year, I’m just going to be slowing down a bit. No blogging. No newsletters. And no burning the candle at both ends. Hooray!
As a social entrepreneur, the leader of a charity, a changemaker, campaigner or visionary – it is critical that you replenish your energy so that you can keep on changing the world. So in this, my last blog until September, I want to inspire you to take care, to rest and to slow down.
If you are an avid follower of Actually, you may have come across my blog about burn-out. In that blog I shared how I have burnt out more than once and how the last time I did so, I had to take five months off work to recover. I don’t begrudge that time – after all it was during that sabbatical that the idea for Actually emerged. But if you have a world-changing mission, five months off is a tad inconvenient. Am I right? I am.
The biggest lesson I learnt from burning out was that self-care is not selfish.
This is a lesson that bears repeating. In CAPS.
SELF-CARE IS NOT SELFISH
I shared some of the other lessons I learnt from my own experience in my burn-out blog. Now I want to share some ideas about self-care with a handy little acronym just for you.
S is for Sleep. Obvious I know but get enough sleep. Here is what the science says: lack of sleep increases your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure. You’re more likely to put on weight, to suffer mood swings and memory loss. Your risk of heart disease goes up and you are more prone to accidents and less likely to be having sex (unless that’s the reason you’re not sleeping I guess…) as your libido dips when you are exhausted. So, work out how much sleep you need and make sure you get it.
E is for Eat – as in eat well. You all know the rules for a good diet. So the one piece of advice I can offer here is that even if you’re eating a well balanced diet, take a decent multi-vitamin because our food is far less nutritious now than it used to be thanks to intensive farming methods and soil deterioration. My personal favourite is Life Extension recommended by my nutritionist Nicki Williams. Actually, two more bits of advice: don’t set yourself unrealistic goals and don’t worry about the occasional biscuit.
L is for Love. Love yourself. We all doubt ourselves. We all have flaws, faults and foibles. We are all capable of cruelty, stupidity and meanness. And we are all still worthy of love. If you do not love yourself then somewhere deep inside there is a little voice saying ‘I am not worthy of being cared for’. If this is a struggle for you, find a coach or a counsellor and get to the bottom of it.
F is for Forget. At the end of each day, forget work. Forget about the row you had with Bob in accounts. Or the 500 emails you still haven’t had a chance to reply to. My favourite end of work ritual is this: before I leave the office (or my home office), I visualise putting everything relating to work into a large box. In my mind’s eye I close the lid; wrap a ribbon around the box and place it on a shelf where it will still be waiting for me in the morning. You don’t have to do the same but find a ritual that marks the end of your work day and then forget work until the morning.
C is for Communicate. Work out what your needs are and communicate these needs to your friends and family. Enlist them to hold you accountable. I had a coaching client who developed a list of her needs and shared them with her children. She explained that if she didn’t get her needs met (if she didn’t get enough sleep or enough water for example) then she was ‘not OK’ and might be grumpy. From then on, whenever she was irritable around her children, one of them would go and get her a glass of water!
A is for Acceptance. Accept that you will get things wrong. That sometimes you will binge-watch Game of Thrones whilst eating large bags of Doritos and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s and not get to bed until 3am. In the words of someone much wiser than me: sh*t happens. Don’t allow a night of self-indulgence to become either a) a stick you beat yourself up with or b) an excuse to stay off the self-care wagon that you’ve temporarily slipped from.
R is for Review your self-care regime. I am a certified One of Many coach and in my coaching practice I advise people to start the year by writing a list of what One of Many calls ‘soft play’ ideas. Soft play is something you do every week, for at least an hour, by yourself and for yourself. It should be something that nurtures you and brings you joy and it should be different each week if possible. It can be reading a book in a coffee shop or a pottery lesson; visiting a museum or having a massage. The trick is to keep changing it up so that self-care doesn’t start to feel like a chore or an obligation.
E is for Educate yourself. If I cannot persuade you that self-care is important then please, research the topic. Look at the statistics on burn-out. Read about the long term damage caused by stress, lack of sleep, poor diet. And then make the commitment to take care of yourself.
I know, I know. All much easier said than done. But just pick one and start there. And because I’m in a generous mood – I’ve created a downloadable PDF that you can print off and stick to your wall to remind you.
Let’s make a difference…and take care of ourselves in the process.
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