Right now, self-care is having a moment in the spotlight.
Scrolling through social media and scanning the magazine cover articles reveal eye-catching headlines telling you the next 3, 5, or 10 ways YOU can take care of yourself. These often include spa days, baths, and quiet time…all sound great in theory, but who has time for some of these extravagant things?
No really, even myself, with no kids, a relatively low-stress job, and a life schedule that I honestly love – I don’t even have time for some of these things.
But that doesn’t mean self-care isn’t important.
In fact, I would argue that putting yourself first is one of the most selfless things you can do.
There’s a saying that goes: “You can’t fill from an empty cup.”
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E032 | What is Your Pre-Workout Routine? – Fuel Your Freedom
Picture your life as a series of buckets: family, faith, work, home, friends, hobbies, etc. There can be any number of buckets. Then, you have a bucket for yourself. Throughout the day, week, year, etc. you’re expected to put a little bit of water into each other’s buckets. You pour into your spouse; they pour into you. You pour into your job; it pours into you.
We always need fluid in our cup. But if we’re pouring out more than we’re taking in, our cup will eventually run dry. We will have nothing to pour into others. THIS is why we have to put ourselves first. It benefits others when we can be a little selfish – I’ve actually talked about this in a post previously. In that article, I talked about the importance of putting yourself first.
Today, we’re talking strategies and things you can actually DO to incorporate self-care and fill your cup.
But first, why is it so hard to fill your cup? Why do I feel like you had an immediate reaction when I said “self-care” that you thought to yourself: yeah, freaking right!?
In today’s world, we’re all immensely busy. I think, if nothing else, the last year of forcibly slowing down, showed us how truly busy we are on average. It’s hard to find time to unplug from the rest of the world because it feels like you’ll be letting someone down when you do. But what if, by trying not to let others down, you’re really letting yourself down in the process? This isn’t an easy task, to take time away, but it can be done. In fact, it has to be done.
If we don’t take time to step back and fill our own cup, we’re going to hit a point of burnout. Our body and mind is going to tell us not-so-subtly to slow down and take a step back. While the human body can handle small amounts of stress, it’s not built to handle long-term, never-ending bouts of stress. When we take time for self-care, we’re destressing and taking time away from everything that requires us to pour from our cup.
When I say self-care, those headlines likely spring to mind: baths, spas, and “me” time. But self-care can be so much more. One of the best analogies I’ve heard is that filling our cup is like white space on the calendar. It’s the blank space that we can fill with anything we choose.
Picture this: It’s a Saturday afternoon. There’s nothing on the calendar. You don’t have meal prep, house chores, or yardwork on the to-do list. There’s no one calling your name. You have legitimate free time. What are you doing? What activity will you use to fill your time? It can be most than one, but I’m challenging you to make a list. If you’re able, start that list right now.
This is the beginning of the list we can use to fill that white space.
Self-care and filling our cup should start with activities we love – activities that we want to do and use our time to pursue. It doesn’t have to be the frivolous ideas that are splashed across magazine cover pages. This is one of the most common objections I hear, that spa days, nails, or other headline self-care items are a “waste of time”. Let’s assume this is true. (I don’t think it is, but more on this later.)
What are things we can do that are both cup-filling and (sometimes) productive? Before I get into the list, it’s important to note that these are not all applicable to all people. Run them through the Saturday afternoon test. Do you see yourself choosing these during that free, Saturday afternoon time? If not, it’s likely that they won’t fill your cup. Cross them off the list, or don’t include them in the first place. With that, let’s explore ways to fill our cup.
They also don’t have to be productive. This is a trap that I quite often fall into. I love having a clean house and can enjoy the process of cleaning, sure. But my daily cleaning doesn’t always translate to self-care. It’s productive, but not cup-filling like some other practices. As you choose your activities, be careful not to also fall into this productivity trap.
We can: do a hobby, learn a new skill, go for a walk or hike, call a friend or family member, read for pleasure, watch TV or a movie, play a video game, color, sit outside, yoga or deep breathing practice, try a new restaurant, take a bath or shower, look up sometime you’re curious about, garden or take care of plants, take a nap, cook a new recipe, or explore a new local attraction.
The options here are endless and this list is FAR from exhaustive.
These fall all over the board. For a more organized list, we can organize and create activities that fall within each of the dimensions of wellness. If this is the first time you’re hearing about these dimensions of wellness, they form a comprehensive picture of what true health and wellness can look like for a person. They include: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual.
When they’re kept in a healthy balance between all eight dimensions, they can predict a greater level of wellness in the majority of people. To use this list, think about activities that would fall within each category. What practices fill your cup in each of these areas? Organize activities under each major category. Keep this list handy for when you want to fill up a specific area.
But once we have our list, the tough work begins. We have to schedule time into our week for these practices.
This is where most people start to push back. We can all agree that those things listed above can be important. But other priorities and people take precedent before ourselves. Kids and family are the top two here. And with good reason, I’m not saying to neglect your family. There are times that your family and kids (especially If they’re young) have to take the front seat.
But here’s where the scheduling comes into play.
Is there any moment throughout the day when you can fit in even 5 minutes, heck even 30 seconds, of self-care time? Of course, when time is short our choices are also limited. But if we can find 30 seconds throughout the day just to get a few breaths in or 5 minutes to spend time outside, this can be just enough to bring ourselves back into the moment and fill our cup.
It doesn’t have to start with a big, grand production. Start small and build from there. Schedule times throughout the day that are short to include these activities. Then, try to find a longer time during the weekend or a quieter day to include something bigger – gardening, hiking, a movie, etc. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a full day, but a few hours to fill your cup can make a huge difference in how much you’re able and willing to help others.
If we neglect self-care and slowing down, it can lead to burnout, depression, anxiety, resentment, and a whole bunch of other negative emotions. Self-care can reduce and minimize (sometimes even eliminate) these negative emotions. It can even help improve our physical health.
I’ve been dropping hints about this empowered action all throughout the episode, so you can likely guess where I’m going to go with this one. Create your list of activities that are self-care for you. Organize by the dimensions of wellness, if that sounds like something you would enjoy and find beneficial. Schedule times into your day where you can add these into your day. Are there times you know will be yours? Perhaps a few minutes at the beginning or end of the day? Start small. Start with what you KNOW you will be able to accomplish. Then add more. But give yourself a win and don’t over plan from the start.