Many of my coaching clients feel that achieving health and happiness must be terribly difficult.
Deep down, many of us harbor an innate sense that we must struggle to achieve our health and lifestyle goals.
We convince ourselves that we need to slave away at the gym, count micronutrient levels in our food and sacrifice things we love in order to achieve optimal well-being.
Part of the problem is, for a great many of us, that we are trying to get healthy for the wrong reasons. We know that to achieve long lasting success we must be driven by intrinsic (that is internal) reasons rather than external ones like looking good for our friends’ wedding.
I used to try to get well for all the wrong reasons, and as a result, I just got sicker and sicker. Then I realised that I needed to be well so that I could achieve all the things I wanted to. I learned that I couldn’t give back to others unless I myself was centered, well and connected. I understood that without being well, I might never be able to be a mother or climb a mountain or be there for my friends or family when they needed me. These ambitions were deeply personal and aligned with my values, and they were key to unlocking greater health and abundance.
Once I got clear on my rationale for being well, it was easier to follow through with healthy behaviors and decisions. I started to nurture myself, recognizing that only through doing so would I be able to achieve what I wanted.
As a result the cornerstone of my approach to health and well-being has become self care.
The power of self care is truly phenomenal. Once we start to choose ourselves, nourish ourselves and care for ourselves, we finally start to feel as if we are worthy. That worthiness translates into increased confidence in our careers and life choices. And that self worth also changes the way we relate to others. Once we commit to self care, we start to become aware of the limiting behaviours and, over time, start to replace them with healthier ones. Most of all, when we are caring for ourselves, our capacity to give and love is increased exponentially.
Think of it like this: Imagine our energy is like a bank account. We choose to deposit or withdraw energy when we like. We are only born with a certain amount of energy, and if we withdraw it all in small amounts over time without making any deposits, we will end up impoverished very quickly. Self care rituals are deposits into our energy bank account. When we look after ourselves by taking a bath, cooking and eating a healthy meal, laughing with friends, getting into nature, or reading a good book, we top-up our energy account for when we need to draw on it again. Too many of us are in debt. We constantly draw on the account and spend too little time topping it up.
The question, then, becomes this: How can we expect to be valued—in our jobs, relationships and well-being—when we don’t value ourselves? Why should we be cared for when we don’t care for ourselves? Most of all, what kind of behavior are we modeling to those around us when we don’t look after our own needs first?
Those of us who spend time every day making energy deposits find ourselves being able to give more and more to others. Those of us who understand the power of self care know that when we draw on our account we are doing it from a place of wholeness rather than a place of lack. We know that giving freely to others is fine because tomorrow we will top it back up again.
Self care truly can change the world. If we value and care for ourselves, we are nicer to be around. When we look after our health, we are more vibrant and energized at work. When we commit to a self care routine, we start to give freely and often. When we nurture our bodies and minds, we start to believe we can do anything we choose. And when we commit to self care, we connect instantly with others who feel the same.
We have already, as a species, achieved many incredible things. And we did this all while we focused on externalities for motivation. Imagine what we could achieve if we were confident, nurtured, connected and well? Just imagine what would happen if we all cared for ourselves just a little bit more?
In my work, I outline my Eight Steps for Self Care:
Stop: Self care comes from self awareness. The first step is to simply stop doing so much and start to look inward.
Plan: Having goals that are meaningful and achievable ensures that we can meet our life and health ambitions. Planning to do one thing per day to nurture ourselves can transform our habits and well-being.
Eat: There’s no need to get complicated. Learning to feel what the body needs, drinking more water and swapping plants for processed food is easier when we recognize we are nurturing our beautiful bodies.
Breathe: Learning to breathe deeply can transform the experience of life. Activating the relaxation response through breath is the simplest self care tool available.
Rest: Resting allows our bodies and minds time to detoxify, heal and restore. Committing to regular rest is self care at its finest.
Move: The body can move in an enormous number of directions. Self care is finding new and inspiring ways to move (not necessarily in a formal exercise environment) every day.
Remove: Getting rid of limiting beliefs and emotional toxicity reinforces our knowledge that we are worth it. Removing material stuff and toxins in the home is a self care step for those that want more out of life.
Love: Loving wholly, connecting with others and giving back is the reason we crave well-being. Self care should include rituals that enable us to love and be loved, including those that foster self love.
Author: Meg Berryman
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author’s Own