The way I see it, there are two types of self care.
The stuff we do before, to avoid burnout, and the stuff we do after, once we have already burnt out.
I like to think of this as proactive self care versus reactive self care.
People who are proactive about their self care, engage in behaviours that move them towards a state of wellbeing, before experiencing burnout…
People who are reactive about their self care, engage in behaviours that move them away from burnout, once it’s happened. .
Self care is a buzz word, everyone is talking about it, but few are doing it responsibly and effectively.
Most people wait until they are feeling stressed or heading towards burnout until they do something. Their self care usually looks something like…
A day at the spa… green smoothies… yoga… sleeping in… a night ‘off’ watching tv…
These behaviours are not necessarily bad. It’s simply that they are done when it is already too late. They band aid the problem. Sometimes they even result in avoiding the problem, meaning this escalates over time. This leaves the individual feeling like they are stuck in a hamster wheel of burnout and sporadic reactive self care.
Around and around and around…
Which, in itself, just looks exhausting.
No wonder they are tired.
Adding these additional activities to the life of someone already stressed usually means added pressure and an expectation that one will feel ‘better.’ And worst of all, it’s not sustainable. Because these strategies are not teaching any specific self care skill (i.e. they rely on something external rather than internally managing the stressors), as soon as they stop these practises, burnout rears its smouldering head.
Hal Enrod, author of ‘The Miracle Morning’ said “The moment that we begin to take responsibility for everything in your life, is the moment that you can change anything in your life.”
Proactive self care is about taking responsibility for those areas in your life that create stress, overwhelm and burnout.
It’s about having habits that move you consistently towards wellbeing, not just when you start to notice the shadow of stress creeping in.
The consistency is key.
“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
Be proactive in these areas of your life:
Ditching the drama:
Bills are paid on time, dramatic co-workers are avoided, bitching is minimal, traffic is planned for and you’re always on time.
Sleeping, eating, exercising are all priorities. Enough said.
Routines and habits:
Morning and evening routines of self care are structured to foster wellbeing, based on benchmarks of the most successful people in the world.
Okay, it’s impossible to live in a stress free environment. So when stress does occur, proactive people know that this is a time to use effective strategies and exercise self-compassion, not sit on the couch binging on take out and tv series.
Yes, you are going to feel sad sometimes. Angry, disappointed, frustrated, annoyed. I would be worried if you didn’t. But, being an adult is about knowing the appropriate times, places, people and ways to express emotions. At work in the boardroom is not the place to express frustration with a client. The proactive thing to do here is decide to park it, earmark it for later, and express it in an appropriate way, instead of letting it build up and boil over later.
Self awareness and self compassion:
The big kahuna.
Of all the people I’ve studied, coached, interviewed, those who have the most self awareness of their own behaviours that contribute to burnout, are the most successful in sustainably reducing burnout.
For example, Sharon Pearson, highlights in her book “Ultimate You” that we all have roles that we play as adults, as a result of which behaviours were reinforced in us as children. Roles like people-pleaser, hero, perfectionist… These have behaviours inherent in them like:
- Difficulty saying “no” to others
- Saving other people/putting them ahead of themselves
- Having unattainable standards on themselves and others
- Attempting to control other people
These behaviours are huge contributors to stress and burnout, because they add additional pressure to our lives.
By recognising these in ourselves and deciding which behaviours are no longer serving us, we can act with greater self awareness and compassion, putting ourselves in fewer situations that increase stress.
It all comes down to responsibility.
We choose to build our lives with habits and routines that build wellbeing.
We accept that behaviours that were once reinforced, no longer serve us.
We make the choice to become more self aware, compassionate of the way we ‘once were,’ now moving towards wellness and sustainable recovery from burnout.
We know that it is a journey, not an overnight fix. No magic pill.
What are you choosing to start being proactive about?
Originally published at medium.com