Self-care, or laziness? How to know when you need some self-care, and how to do it.

April 17, 2018

It seems as though we are inundated with conflicting messages lately.

The radio on the drive to work, a quick scroll through Instagram or Facebook, or even just the ad-break while watching some evening TV. They all seem to bombard us with ways to push through that cough or cold, to try ​this to get more done, or applaud how much someone manages to cram into their day. Yet within that same scroll, or in the very next ad, there’s an article, media personality or internet blogger telling us that it’s important to spend a day in your comfiest trackies eating chocolate, taking time out to ‘get back to nature’, or to get going on our next holiday because we “deserve it”.

So which is it? Push through or take time out? And if we do take time out, do we need to justify it? Isn’t a day on the couch, doing ‘Netflix and Chill’ (or maybe it’s Foxtel, Stan, or just ‘daytime TV’ for you) just an excuse to be lazy?

To my way of thinking this “justification” comes down to our ability to recognise that maybe some self-care is needed. To be aware and listen to ourselves – to our bodies and our minds.

Here’s a few things I would consider to be listening to yourself, and good reasons to implement some self-care….

You’re body is giving out the tell-tale signs of an impending ‘germ invasion’.​ Now this is different for everyone, and I don’t claim to be an expert on physical health or infection control, but for many this applies…

A runny nose, a scratchy throat or the start of an annoying cough. Or perhaps it’s a constant headache or a rising body temperature (cranking the a/c just a little too much lately?). I even know of people who will even “go off” certain foods, right before their symptoms start appearing!

Your mind is in struggle town. ​I think everyone will know this one. It’s the times when every day has become a serious struggle. Not just a ‘tough day’, but the days where you genuinely feel like you might just be at breaking point. Some refer to it as ‘burn out’, and it’s not to be taken lightly (in fact, I could probably write a whole blog on burn out alone).

I often think of it as that feeling when your mind just can’t “go there” anymore – all those skills you normally use to cope and push through (breaking down tasks, taking breaks, getting help, organising and planning) just aren’t cutting it and it’s like your mind is just, well, done.

Your body and mind are ‘tag-teaming’. ​Let me explain this one with a few phrases….tension headache…insomnia….unhappy tummy. If any of these sound familiar then ​maybe they are signs you need some self-care (again, I’m not a doctor, so treat this information as it is intended – to get you thinking).

Our body and mind are connected and try as we might, we cannot listen, or try to help, by excluding one of them. You’re stressed and you hold it in your tight muscles, especially around your neck and shoulders. You’re wound up so you can’t sleep, despite being exhausted. And your gut is churning or ahh, not functioning ‘as normal’ but you’re diet hasn’t changed (or perhaps it has because of the reasons we’ve already mentioned – I know I’m not the only one guilty of caving to un-nutritious take out when I’ve just ‘hit a wall’).

Lastly, have a think about ​time. ​Now here I don’t mean the obvious “I just don’t have enough time”, but rather, I’ll often ask myself “for how long do I have to push?”, in other words, how long until I can take some time for some serious self-care?

If I know the above signs apply to me but I only really need to push through a few more days, then maybe I’ll ​postpone the self-care until then. But if this is my ​‘normal’ or it’s a longer period of time (I’d say more than a week), then I’m going to try my very best to squeeze a little self-care in there!

Now, I’m hoping your mind said the exact same thing as mine did as I mentioned ‘squeezing in” self-care….“well you’re not going to ​squeeze in a holiday now are you Cara?!” (my mind leans toward the sarcastic at times). And no, of course I’m not! Despite what the latest travel ad may say, taking myself off to a blissful sandy beach somewhere isn’t always practical, for many reasons.

But holidays are not the only form of self-care.

“What is MY self-care?”

Ask yourself, what replenishes you? What do you do and it doesn’t feel like a duty, or a job, or something that ​takes anything out of you? There’s your self-care!

For many, we share things on our ‘self-care’ lists.

Reading or listening to a good book
TV, a movie, or other forms of ‘couch time’
Exercise (for some, for others this may fall into the ‘takes’ category)
Time spent on a hobby
Getting a massage
Time alone (in a busy world, this is sometimes forgotten)
Time with others (time spent with loved ones can be nourishing, we may just need to consider how it happens so it’s nourishing and not stressful)

“What makes it self-care?”

Whatever activities you have come up with, I would encourage you to take a moment and have a think about what it is about those activities that makes them self-care for you.

If it is time spent with others, do you feel recharged by the connection with others?

If it’s reading, do you value the escape or perhaps the learning that happens when you read? And if you value exercise, perhaps you value your physical health, and a walk or even a sweaty gym sesh gives you that satisfactory feeling of moving your body and experiencing what your body is capable of.

Identifying what it is about these activities that you find nourishing will help you find others, and be more flexible about getting them into your day.

For example, if time alone is something I value because I can be alone with my thoughts or just get some ‘quiet’, then perhaps listening to a short guided meditation or even just ‘tuning out’ to some music or other background noise would be helpful – and this I can do for any length of time, anywhere!

Or if I was a mum who valued connection with her children, then perhaps really tuning into them for 10 or 15 minutes in the day will give her that same feeling – imagine if, instead of nodding “mmmhmmm’s” to your children’s thoughts as they spill out in the car after school, you really listened and took a moment to connect with them. To enjoy their exuberance and join them in it.

One last point to think about…

Now, there’s one last thing I would like you to think about.

Self-care does not have to be “chucking a sickie” from work, nor does it have to be taking yourself off to a yoga retreat in the Balinese jungle! It can be as little as giving it priority for just 10 minutes a day, or even having a different look at something already in your day (perspective can sometimes change something from a chore to a choice).

Self-care is about consciously choosing to give yourself time and perhaps even a little space, to connect with and ‘live’ the things that replenish and recharge you. You won’t necessarily end a 10 minute meditation, or a few chapters of your book, feeling like a superhuman ready to take on the world, but just spending that time being a little self-compassionate can help us find a little more vitality in what has become a very busy, very draining (at times) world.

If you’re finding it tricky to manage the balance between pushing hard in life, and caring for yourself within it, then feel free to contact us on 8361 7008 and one of the experienced psychologists at Attuned Psychology who are are well-versed in helping to manage this balance and can help you learn to do so.

Cara Crothers,

Clinical Psychologist


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