If you follow me on social media or read my blog, you’ve probably noticed I talk about self-care quite a lot.
Sharing about self-care and ways to practice it is important to me. That said, I didn’t realise just how much I wrote about it until I was asked if I would speak about self-care at an upcoming conference.
Thing is, it’s not my area of expertise. It’s something I’m passionate about, sure, but I’m not a psychologist or scientist focused on it day-in, day-out. (So I thanked them and declined the speaking opportunity.)
So why do I write about self-care so much?
Last week, I attended a talk by Heidi Dening on resilience. (I know – an actual in-person event!) Her talk and the plan she shared were quite helpful so I recommend checking her out.
During her talk, Heidi shared a graph showing the path from resilience to burnout. I’m far more often on the burnout end than the resilient one. I try to implement strategies to make an impact on this, but they always seem like so much effort.
And that’s why I write about self-care.
If you’ve never experienced it, burnout’s when you’re completely exhausted in every way, and it just doesn’t go away.
It’s physical exhaustion.
Imagine you went for a hike up a mountainside today. You pushed hard and walked further and longer than ever before. When your legs started to tire, you kept going, using your hands and arms to grab onto trees and pull yourself forward.
And now you’re home on the couch. Every muscle in your body screams with pain and exhaustion. You want to go to bed, but the stairs to your bedroom seem far too hard to climb right now.
It’s mental exhaustion.
Now imagine that, after you’d hiked up the mountain, you had a ridiculously crazy day at work. You attended 8 different client meetings, back to back, on completely different projects. All your clients expect you to be at the top of your game, pitching in with new ideas and strategies that would meet their specific needs.
You also had to get through an overflowing email inbox, follow up on a few things with other clients and subcontrators (and no, it can’t wait), and meet two ridiculous deadlines before you called it a day. And all the while that thought that you mustn’t forget to buy milk and you must call your sister for her birthday today keeps playing through your mind.
And now you’re home on the couch. The TV’s on and you’re watching it but you’ve no idea what’s happening – you don’t have the mental energy to focus or care. You forgot the milk but you’re too tired to go out now. You send your sister a text saying you’ll call her at the weekend.
Finally, imagine there’s an awful lot going on in your personal life. You’re not syncing with your partner like you usually do, and you’re wondering if you should walk away.
You’re having an ongoing disagreement with a long-term friend, and she’s not acting very friend-like in response – you’ve heard she’s been speaking badly of you behind your back.
Your father’s health is failing. You’re constantly on calls with your siblings and fielding questions you don’t have the answers to from extended family. You want to help, but you know if you were to offer to do anything, your dad would say no and tell you he doesn’t need your help.
You really just want to have a coffee with a friend who lives nearby, but you just can’t seem to make your schedules work, and when you do finally set a time, one of you always cancels last minute. You can hardly bring yourself to try to organise it anymore – it just feels like too much effort.
Don’t get me wrong – burnout doesn’t happen in a day.
Burnout happens slowly. It builds while you’re busy focusing on life and other things. It’s often not until you’re just one step from broken that you realise what’s happening. At that late stage, it’s near impossible to pull on the reigns and stop the seemingly inevitable.
I’ve been there. I’ve done that. More than once. I’d prefer not to do it again, thank you very much.
And I don’t want you to get burnt out either.
And so I talk about self-care.
Because every time I hear, read and learn more, I find new ways to chip away a little at my “it’s too much” wall. With every new lesson, I get better at it little by little (sometimes very little by very little). With every new tip, I’m finding ways to integrate just a little bit more self-care into my life.
And that’s what I want for you as well.
Although, ideally, you’ll read a tip or two, learn a thing or two, and just apply it with broad brushstrokes to your life and be a massive self-care champion.
It’s really not that hard to take care of ourselves. It requires time, focus, energy and consistency (and getting over our silly guilt about it, of course). But we all deserve nice things. We all deserve to be taken care of.
But even if you apply your self-care learnings little by little like I do, you’re doing better than you did yesterday. And you, like me, are protecting yourself against burnout.
I’m not a self-care expert. But I am a self-care student and a self-care promoter