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Self care- the benefits for physical, mental and emotional well-being

What does self care mean to you? Does it seem essential or indulgent? Are you at the top of your list for self care or are you at the bottom? Are you always looking out for others and disregarding your needs? Or are you taking care of yourself so that you can look after those you care most about?

Take care of yourself first

You all know the scenario given in the flight safety information announcement before the plane takes off: in case of emergency please apply your own oxygen mask BEFORE helping other people to apply theirs.

It seems like a no brainer and common sense in that situation. If I pass out through lack of oxygen how can I help my child or elderly parent in an emergency? Or anyone else for that matter? In the immediacy and short time frame of an emergency, it seems obvious.

It is an act of self care. According to the Self Care Forum, “Self Care is the actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, well-being or wellness.”

Yes, you are doing it so that you can help others, but first and foremost you have to care for yourself. Yet self care need not be an emergency situation. In fact, the vast majority of self care is the daily little things you can do that keep your mind and body relaxed, stress free and in a state of well-being and wellness.

Self care in action

I have known a number of people who have had strokes and heart attacks. They all say the same thing: when it first happened it was such a shock that I was jolted into taking action for self care. They ate more healthily, exercised more, worked less, reduced stress, had more fun and spent time with the people they cared about and doing things they enjoyed. Yet, as time went on and the shock of it passed, the immediacy subsided and the urgency is not so great. Old habits return and they find themselves in a similar situation a couple of years down the line. The only exception to that example I know is my Mum who still eats a very healthy diet, exercises regularly and has a personal trainer 5 years after her stroke. She is 87 years old.

Self care is not selfish. It ensures you are able to serve others as fully as possible as well as your self.

So what sorts of things can you do to take care of yourself? You know most of them: reduce fat and sugar in your diet, exercise for longer and more regularly, cut out smoking, reduce alcohol intake, eat more green leafy vegetables, rest more, sleep more, work less, reduce the things that stress you, increase what gives you joy and have clear boundaries to which you say “yes” and “no” to name a few. What others would you add?

Two items of self care I’d like to explore that are less talked about are honouring your values and living your life purpose. These are essential self care tools I believe because they are at the core of why you would care for yourself.

Self care and Values

Some of my values are kindness, trust, transparency, seeing people at their best and giving people space to be themselves. For me there is integrity and peace when I live in line with these values. It can be challenging but I feel less stress and more powerful when I act in alignment with them. I hold myself in that too so I am more self-compassionate and understanding as well as with others. It is a kindness I can offer other people and myself.

So, what are your values? What is most important to you? Get pen and paper and write a list. If you’re struggling, think of a time when you felt really alive, powerful, tingly all over and you didn’t give a hoot about what anyone else thought of you. What was going on? Who were you with? How did you feel? What impact did you have?

Alternatively, consider a time you were upset or pissed off. What angered you about that situation? What was being stepped on that was important to you? These exercises will shed light on what is most important to you- your values. Notice where these values show up in your life? And where they don’t? Where would you like to see them more in your life? How would your life be different if they were more present? Can you see how by living these values more you are doing what’s best for you which means you bring more of yourself to your life? That people would benefit more from your power and passion because you acted from what was most important to you? How stressed and less than your best do you feel when you don’t honour those values? It’s a win- win when you do? Doesn’t everyone lose when you don’t?

Self care and Life Purpose

Connected to values is life purpose. Now don’t get all worried because life purpose has to be something earth shattering that brings you to the Oprah Winfrey show! Life Purpose is about what lights you up inside. Isn’t that self care? What makes your heart sing? Wouldn’t the people in your life benefit from that as well as you? For some their life purpose is to create a bold and loving space for their family. For others it about creating a legacy to reduce suicide, or homelessness, save the whale or create a more compassionate world. Personally, my life purpose is about personal freedom and empowering people to live fully themselves, physically, mentally and emotionally. What is your life purpose?

Can you see how awareness of your values and life purpose make living a more healthy lifestyle, creating and maintaining boundaries and other acts of self care easier to do on a daily basis? They give a context in which your self care can sit. And they give an empowered perspective to keep choosing self care even in the face of challenging circumstances. Keep choosing you and you will always have the strength, clarity and power to serve others.

Self care and coaching

Exploring values and life purpose are central to co-active life coaching. They are some of the foundations of your coaching exploration and journey. Clarity on these so that you can live them with integrity and fullness is an act of self care you can keep saying “yes” to again and again. And the benefit to your friends and family and the world at large will be massive. 

Some may challenge and create barriers as you step into your values and life purpose and you may have your own challenges and barriers as you live them more fully. That is what the coaching journey is about as you grow into that person more fully. Support and having someone in your corner can help make that transformation more readily. Would you like to take that journey? If so, get in touch and we can have a discussion about what your goals are and how I may be able to support in that journey.

Over to you

How do you administer self care? What will you do differently now about your self care having read this? Every year in the UK we have Self Care Week. “Whether it is about self-treatable conditions, long term conditions, or lifestyle choices to ensure better physical health and mental well-being, (self care) week raises awareness of the huge benefits of people looking after themselves better.”

Here is a poster for Self Care Week 2019. Lots of additional resources are available at the Self Care Forum website and throughout the Potentiality Coaching blog posts. Here is a video with more information:

Pass it on

If you know someone who needs more self care, please pass on this blog or details about Self Care Forum to them. It may empower them to greater self care and allow them to make a bigger impact in their world which will be gift to everyone.

Resilience- 15 things you can do to top up your Resilience Bank Account

I was recently asked to run a workshop for The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) on resilience.  A dictionary definition of resilience is “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”.  The concern was that employees have tools and resources that can make them more resilient.  This not only makes them more inspired and empowered in their personal lives, but also more effective, creative and productive at work.  Resilience is a multi- faceted quality that can be tackled from numerous angles.

Resilience Bank Account

Your Resilience Bank Account will have resources coming in and going out

As is so often with complex ideas, a metaphor helps to simplify.  I like things to be simple.  So, as a working example I use the idea of a Resilience Bank Account.  Like all bank accounts, the Resilience Bank Account has to have money coming in and going out.  We are all familiar with our own bank accounts and the many demands for withdrawals there are.  Often, our source of income is limited to only one or two.

Any strategist will tell you, this is a weak and vulnerable place to be.  If that single source ceases due to redundancy, illness etc., suddenly there is no way to top up the account and the demands for withdrawals remain the same- perhaps even increase.  So, it is good practice to have as many sources as possible.  To be truly resilient, the more sources of income your bank account has, the better.  If one source of income dries up, you have others to buffer the loss and give you some time and wiggle room.  This might be in the shape of savings, stocks and shares, part time jobs and other investments.  You may even have passive sources of income.

Your resilience and your Resilience Bank account are the same.  You want to top them up from as many sources and as often as possible so that in the event of withdrawals, you have plenty there to cover the cost.  If one of your sources is not delivering at this time, there are others to cover the shortfall.

Resilience Deposits

We will look at the withdrawals later.  For now, let’s look at the deposits.  Deposits are the things that build your confidence, grow you, strengthen you, make you feel enlivened and empowered, move you forward, get you thinking with positive focus and intention. Here are some examples:

Mindset

The attitude you bring to a situation often determines how successful you are, how quick you bounce back when derailed, your ability to adapt and generate positive outcomes. So, a positive mindset which is solution focused is best.  This leads to more creative thinking.

Goals

Setting goals is a positive step to help you move forward. Large goals get split into smaller manageable pieces.   Achieving these smaller goals bolsters your confidence.  Savouring the victory has even greater positive psychological impact.   You may not achieve your larger goals.  Whether you do or not, these smaller steps moved you forward in life, created experiences and learning which all add to your Resilience Bank Account.

Values

It is important for your values to be honoured and appear in the goals and activities in your life. Doing so leads to feelings of fulfilment, contentment and well- being.  Gaining awareness of your values means you can make life choices aligned to them. More deposits for that account.

Boundaries

Have strong boundaries and keep to them. These are the things you don’t want to negotiate on based upon your goals and values.  If you value health and fitness you may want to say “yes” to exercise and “no” to sugary and fatty food.  If family is important to you, you may want to say “no” to working evenings and weekends and “yes” to individual time with each family member (for me details see bogs on “yes” and “no“).  There is no right or wrong.  It is simply a question of creating boundaries for yourself and others to respect and honour so that you live with integrity and contentment.

The Body

Feeling great in your body is a powerful resilience tool. Good diet, exercise, sleep, rest and relaxation are essential to this end.  Correct hydration and breathing are invaluable.  Use massage, meditation and mindfulness to aid in health, rehabilitation and restoration.

Emotion and mental health

Do not suppress your emotion. It leads to all kinds of mental and physiological distress.  Gain awareness and notice your emotions.  Build an emotional vocabulary that becomes more discerning over time.  Finding the right word to describe how you feel is a liberating experience.  It’s like you can “name” it, see it for what it is.  As a result, it loses some of its power.  Find ways to express your emotions appropriately in writing and speaking to the right people who will really listen and give you time and space.  Develop emotional mastery and your life will blossom in SO many ways.

Family and friends

Surround yourself with supportive, positive and nurturing people. One’s whom you respect and enjoy and enjoy and respect you.  Have mentors that can guide you.  Cheerleaders who are in your corner.  You want to have limited access to people who leave you feeling “less than”.  Instead, surround yourself with people around whom you feel great.  Make deep and meaningful connections with people, share life’s moments with them and the bond will deepen.

Environment

Make sure your working and living environments are tidy, clean and ordered. Have calm spaces, places for family activities and space to be alone, restful rooms for sleep and garden space that allows you and the family to do more of what you love to do.

Self- Care

Ensure you have “me time”.  What do you want?  Go out and get it.  It’s so easy to put others at the top of your priority list while never meeting your own needs.  Sometimes put you at the top of the list.  Buy yourself gifts sometimes.  Take yourself away or go on a trip with a friend.  You’re worth it.  So often, you forget about your needs.  Please don’t.  Sometimes it’s because you cannot think of what you want.  This is something I struggle with.  It may be because you are out of practice recognising what you want.  Please, get practising and begin to notice what you desire in life and go out and make it happen.  Like all things it gets easier with practice.  If you are not well cared for by you, you cannot be fully of service to anyone else.

Spirituality and Contribution

Do you have a spiritual practice(s): Meditation, prayer, contemplation, reflection, mindfulness, writing, music, charity and movement?  Anything that connects you to something larger (Source, God, Universal Energy).  If that seems too big, what makes you feel like you contribute in a significant way?  Moments shared with others, or alone, nourish the flame within that burns in your heart or soul and makes you feel alive, connected and enamoured with life.

Hobbies

What brings you joy? What activities beyond work, with or without family, with or without friends, also makes you feel alive?  Adventure, exploration, learning, new places, people and cultures, exercise and fitness or things that bring pleasure to the mind and senses like gardening, collecting, making and designing. They all deepen your connection to life.

Short- term Stress

This is the good stress.  Things that make your heart pound and quicken your breath can really deepen your resilience.  The little things that scare you can give you a buzz.  Most especially if they are aligned to your goals and values.  You sign up to give a talk or attend a networking event and beforehand you’re wondering what possessed you to commitment to it.  Once you’ve done it you feel pride and achievement.  It also takes your life towards new directions, experiences and learning.

Balance this with Relaxation

It’s important to relax too. Sleep, rest and rejuvenation are essential.  Weekend breaks, holidays, spa days, adventure days with friends, dinners, lunches and get- togethers are all active relaxation opportunities that help you thrive. Chilling on the sofa, reading a book, watching TV or soaking in the bath can all rejuvenate your body and soul.  Just don’t do too much- it has the reverse affect if you do!!!

Education and Growth

Constant learning, challenging, experimenting and enquiry help to keep you sharp physically and mentally. Education can bring you all kinds of information and learning experiences that may come to be really useful as resources towards resilience.

Energy

You are not a robot. Nor can you work all hours, sleep little, rest little, eat poorly and drive yourself endlessly.  You are human- in need of change, variety, and diversity.  Humans adapt to subtle cycles and nuances through the day.  If you were a battery, you would need to recharge regularly (see blog: Recharge).  Much of the above points will do that for you.  Energy is an essential resilience resource.  Learn to conserve it as well.  Use your boundaries to protect yourself.  If your energy drops too low, your health and well- being will suffer.

Resilience Withdrawals

That is a list of the things I have learned to use to make deposits into my Resilience Bank Account.  Together they make a formidable set of resources that can give you a cushioning when life gets tough and set- backs occur so that you can bounce back.  The more of the list you use, and the more often you use it, the more resilient your Resilience Bank Account.  Not all of them will work for you.  Perhaps you have some of your own?

Keep track of them and use them to keep your Resilience Bank Account topped up.  You have control over these fifteen inputs.  You can choose.  Make changes to build your Resilience Bank Account up every single day from multiple resources.

You will enjoy better health, contentment, meaning and purpose.  Life will feel more fulfilling.  You’ll have more fun, feel part of something larger to which you positively contribute.  You will love and be loved.

And so when the inevitable pains of life come: the annoying work colleague; someone cutting you up in traffic; redundancy; relationship breakups; disloyalty; death; illness; financial issues; machines breaking down; internet going off- line and so on…….. you will have plenty in the Resilience Bank Account to ride the storm.  You’ll be able to make the withdrawals required for yourself and others and still have resources left.

And, if you run out of resources, you know there are at least fifteen ways you can build yourself up again.

Over to You

How do you stay resilient?  What do you do to keep your Resilience Bank Account topped up?  Which of the one’s listed do you use?  What one’s are missing?  Do you find that you bounce back from set- backs and challenges quickly or do you struggle?  What does resilience look like to you?  How could you become more resilient?  Why not post in the comments box or on social media and let us know your thoughts and experiences?

Pass it on

If someone sprang to mind while you were reading this because you thought it might be useful to them, please pass it on and send them the link.  Please share the tweets and posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Thank you.