As I talked to Sally, she struggled with all the responsibilities that lay on her plate, especially around long her work days and lockdown restrictions with travel and access to family.
She didn’t mean for it to get like this, but somehow she found herself stressed to her eyeballs about trying to get another thing done. Mentally, emotionally and physically, she was exhausted, and things just started to feel completely out of control.
Often, when this happens, we start to lose our ability to make rational decisions, things start to compound, even the most minor things seem too hard, and we feel trapped.
If we don’t catch it, it can lead to us making irrational decisions like completely cancelling on plans, not finishing a job properly or completely ghosting a situation that you’d committed to support someone on.
This extreme action of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”, is making us feel increasingly guilty that we’ve let ourselves and others down and it can often lead to us being physically sick. You have every intention of finishing the task, but it all gets too much and your brain literally shuts down.
Too much of this is often why we struggle to set goals, for fear of letting ourselves down, however, that conversation is for another blog.
When we are experiencing these times, we realise that we need to take time out or slow down, but it all seems too hard. The thing we need the most is a little time for self-care, yet it seems so unachievable that it’s not even an option.
So how do you find self-care without having to do anything?
In Sally’s case, the issue she was struggling with was trying to find time for herself. Between working 9 hours a day in a shopping centre, she would come home, cook the kids dinner and then study. There was no opportunity to take some time out… So she thought.
The start of being able to create a regime of self-care is about taking small incremental steps to shift the status quo – especially if you’re super stressed.
Self-care starts with little moments that pull us out of our heads.
I asked Sally, if she could make a quick escape outside during her breaks and find some grass, but there wasn’t any – not clean enough to sit on anyway. She only had two 15 minute breaks and half an hour for lunch and didn’t see that changing.
So, what could she do?
I believe self-care is about bringing yourself out of your head and into your senses.
She loves crystals, so she found herself wandering to the crystal shop to look at the crystals. She was giving herself some time, but she didn’t think of it as self-care.
Often there are little ways in which you can do this, and you know it, but the thing about stress is, if you can’t see it, you can’t see it, but if you look for it, it’s there.
Since Sally wasn’t able to go outside I suggested she find the outside inside. Find a flower shop or the flower section in Woolworths to smell the flowers.
Her job after our chat was to walk around the centre and find things she could see, sense and feel to bring her back to herself.
As soon as you understand that what you’re doing is self-care, it becomes a lot easier to do it and a lot less stressful to find moments that nourish you.
It becomes a lot easier to create more time to take your mind off what you’re currently doing and stop and “smell the roses”.
Self-care can be small incremental moments of you coming back to you. You are discovering or noticing things that help remind you about what you’re good at, that you’re there, that you matter to yourself.
Do you know why the church bells ring on the hour? In some cultures it was to remind everyone in the village to stop and think of God. Throughout their busy days, people would forget and that was an hourly reminder to connect back to spirit.
When you’re brought back into one moment of time, it triggers a whole bunch of other moments that expand that moment.
For example: You might be knee-deep in lack of sleep and have drunk too much coffee but smelling an orange will bring you back to your love of oranges – you might even make some juice or eat it and nourish yourself with it.
If you smell a flower, it will reminder you of being outside in nature and if you stay there long enough you can expand that thought.
You sort of have to highjack your mind to remind you of things that you would naturally forget or get too busy to think of and even to much in your head to notice that that moments like these are close at hand.
Four times a day I’ve got a calendar alert set for different reminders. This one just popped up on my screen but it also goes off on my phone.
Here are the four daily reminders to myself:
6am - Good morning - you are enough
10am - I am grateful - Pray
2pm - I did good - pray
9pm - Time to set your intentions for tomorrow
You have no idea how many times I’ve read them and said thank you to myself, or reflect back on what I’ve actually done that’s been good that day and had a little smile to myself.
These simple highjacks are useful in keeping me on track with self-care. They can be anything you want them to be but it’s the concept that is significant. The simplest little reminders that you’re doing a good job and stuff is hard but it doesn’t take much to step back and smell the roses.
Since our chat Sally has found a bunch of ways in which she can create moments to help her through her day. Nothing else has changed. She's still working 9 hours, she's still studying and she's still organising her children but she has changed and the ripple effect is her feeling more in control and noticing that she is taking care of herself - one sniff of a flower at a time.
What about you? Do you have little triggers that help you?
I would love to hear about it - send me a message or tag me #nfpplanner in your self-care tips and triggers.