The Day I Learned What Self Care Really Meant

I used to hate the term self-care. Every time I heard it, or read it, I’d cringe.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I used to hate the term self-care. Every time I heard it, or read it, I’d cringe.

I kind of felt like it became one of those buzzy phrases used to justify having a day off when you’re busy, or spending money you don’t have on something frivolous and indulgent. The kinds of reasons that come with a “lol” tacked onto the end.

I’d say right now you’re either nodding your head or furiously disagreeing with me, but either way, please stick around. Because I’m also willing to bet if you’re reading this, you’re going through some kind of battle. You’re probably going through it alone, or with minimal support, not many people seeing what’s really going on underneath. I know this because most of us are, especially me!

This year has been a roller coaster for us. Health issues, financial issues, personal drama, business drama… and through all of it, no matter what the issue, we had to keep going. Like all Small Business owners, if we stopped, so did the business. Wages wouldn’t get paid. The cupboards would go bare. The thought of self, let alone self-care, didn’t even rate a space in our day and through all of it, we had to put on our best brave face and just keep smiling.

We’re mostly through it now, but it’s taken a toll. We’re working very hard to make sure we don’t repeat some of the mistakes we made at the start of the year, but we’re tired. And then last week…

When life hands you a unicorn.

I was just finishing up the school run. My son goes to preschool right on the beach, and as usual, the water caught my eye as we walked in. As I was leaving the breeze picked up and I could smell the ocean, you know that real beachy smell. And instead of getting in the car I started walking.

I got to the edge of the sand, kicked off my shoes, and kept going to the water. It was freezing, but standing there in my suit, pants rolled up to my knees, I physically felt everything from the last year start to wash away.

It must have been about ten or fifteen minutes before I came back to reality and had a little panic. It was a workday, and I should be running to somewhere, shouldn’t I? But I couldn’t leave. I walked back up to the edge of the sand and stood for a minute scrolling through my calendar.

I had loads of work to do but no meetings, nowhere to be and both kids at school. For once I was on my own. I had a unicorn day on my hands here and a decision to make. Head back or stay?

Permission to let it all go.

It turns out the decision was made for me because I couldn’t leave. I’d walked up and back down the beach a couple of times when I realised I was staying. But I was staying with some conditions:

  • No guilt.
  • No worrying about work.
  • No time limit.

I walked. And walked. And let myself breathe.

I don’t know how long I was there, but when I left, I felt like a new person. A different person. Someone who was finally starting to see why self-care was so important. I drove to the nearest café, grabbed a coffee and just sat. It occurred to me that if I’d forced myself back in the car, to the office, to just kept going like I normally do; I was driving myself straight into a wall. Maybe not that day, but it was coming quick.

That evening after the kids went to bed I got settled ready to make up for the day I’d missed. I was more motivated, more creative and got more done in one sitting than I have in months. And then instead of lying awake all night, I actually slept.

Since that day, self-care has become a part of my workday. I schedule it in, whether that means ten minutes of meditation, a walk on my own, or doing something small that feeds my soul. I no longer hate the term because I’ve experienced firsthand just how vital it is to make sure you are looking after you.

Whether you’re a business owner, a parent, a sibling, or a friend, you’re no use to anyone if you’re not looking after you first.

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