I am tired, so now I will sleep.
I feel stiff, so now I have gone to the gym. (I haven't been all week).
I am depressed, so now I will go to therapy and take medication.
Somewhere along the line, I've realised that, yes I did need to be reactive at times and sort things out, but that - actually - self-care just need to be an ongoing thing for me.
I needed to integrate self-care into my life, and I feel that every one of us does.
This actually brings me briefly back to my time in group therapy. "Why are like this? It feels like we have to do a lot to look after our mental health. Like it's going to be a lifelong thing..."
Well, you know what, I've since realised that being a sensitive, emotional, empathetic person seems to come with certain stipulations which I am more than happy to make room for, if it allows me to be me in my entirety.
I've talked on the blog about self-care previously, and I know I will keep talking about it as it's one of my highest priorities - and always will be. Feeling calm, happy, aligned is an ongoing thing and it feels like - over time - my relationship with myself is only getting deeper.
I have realised that my depression/anxiety is not me as such, but it's arisen from my being misaligned in some way.
In the past, my energy levels have felt depleted (e.g. long days), my soul was not nourished (e.g. doing meaningless work), or my emotions have gone unexpressed (for a whole host of different reasons).
I have realised that so long as I better manage my energy, develop boundaries, and start to express myself better - whether that's bringing deep thoughts and feelings and worries of mine out into the open on paper, or actually expressing how I feel to those whom I feel safe with, whether in a 1:1 therapeutic/coaching setting, or with a friend or family member. I've noticed that the more I do that, the happier and more aligned I feel.
And not just in the moment, but... as a whole.
More than anything, this is me being more conscious of myself, and my energy, about what lights me up and lifts me up and about what/who does the opposite. About how much I can take before I become depleted, or unhappy... whilst also being open to stretching myself and not denying myself the growth that comes from exerting myself, but not too much.
It has meant doing more stretching and yoga and bodyweight stuff at the gym, rather than heavy weights.
It has meant allowing myself to stay in bed an hour later, rather than be up at 'commuter time'.
It has meant making the time for journalling and writing to process, to reflect, and to get less out of my head and more into the body.
It has meant being conscious about friends whom I want to spend time with, in--real-life (IRL) or in video calls online, the sort I want to have those honest and vulnerable conversations with, and practice expressing how I feel.
It means really listening to and trusting myself and what my intuition is telling me, rather than listening to well-meaning family members or others in positions of authority who seem like they know what's best when, actually, they don't and they only one who knows what's best for me is, well, me.
It has meant taking daft, illogical, risky leaps even if everyone else around here doesn't understand, people who love you and want what's best for you but just.don't.understand. People who logically explain to you why you need to "grow up", that "actions speak louder than words" and that the way you're acting doesn't instil them with confidence... it's all the more harder when these are the family members who love and care about you the most.
Self-care is all of these things and more.
It's learning to look after yourself, to do what's best for yourself, and really becoming your best friend.
It's hugging yourself as you lie on the yoga mat, it's giving yourself permission not to have to work out today but sit in the sauna for a few minutes to feel that nourishing and restoring heat on your body, it's reaching out to that friend to catch-up, but saying "no" to that other person who isn't serving you - or who you just don't have the energy or space for right now.
It's knowing when you need to spend less time on your mobile phone, watch the news less, and when it's okay to have a couple of sweets but any more than that will give you a sugar rush, artificial energy spike and less-than-ideal crash.
Amongst everything that has happened for me in the last 5 years, there are probably two things which have impacted me more than anything, and they are connected.
- To connect with and trust my intuition
- To prioritise my self-care, and explore different ways of doing it
The more I look after myself, the more I'm in my body, the closer I feel to my intuition and so the better I can be guided by it.
I've already talked about how managing my energy is an important part of my self-care (they actually feel like the same thing). When I keep my energy as my own (i.e. not taking on other people's stuff), when I don't let it run out or become depleted, when I keep my energy intact or restore it with stretching, or writing, or sitting in the spa... what I'm really doing is getting into my body more and more. It's honouring and exploring my deepest self, leaning into it rather than let it feel numbed and suppressed (like the time in my life where I was up early and working late, drained each day in my sales job, and letting myself be pushed-and-pulled along the current, rather than building a raft to ride the current in my own way and at my own pace... and to even change directly completely).
And that just happens to lead to feeling more connected to my intuition, so the benefits that come from self-care only feed on themselves and multiply.
It sounds pretty deep to say it this way, but I honestly feel that looking after myself in these ways is actually tending to my soul - and, more than that, actually getting to know my soul better. In the process, it feels like I am becoming more content (I prefer that to 'happy'), more aligned, and closer to my true self than ever before.
I used to read about the gut, about intuition, about emotions, about synchronicity and the laws of the Universe, and I used to feel it was New-Agey and not connect with it at all.
What a difference 5 years can make.
I studied a Masters in Positive Psychology, but it many ways it feels like I have learnt more about myself and my happiness outside of my psychology/scientific reading... and that journey continues for me.
I stand by the most important thing you can do is to look after yourself, and to find the self-care that works for you. It looks different for all of us, though there are some things it feels that many of us find useful (e.g. yoga, stretching, walking, exercise, journalling, meditation); many of these things, I feel, help us to be more inside our bodies and the present, rather than inside our heads and concerned with things from the past, or worries for the future.
And thus, these activities just connect us more with our true selves and our intuition.
That's why self-care has been so transformative for me, and continues to be.
It might look similar for you, or a little bit different, but you’ll know that you’re on the right track, because… it’ll just feel right. And, because you’re an intuitive person (that’s the ‘N’ part of INFP/INFJ/other types), you’ll really be able to feel that it’s helping you.
So, don’t think too much about it, I encourage you just to get to it. However slowly, however small, you’ll feel so much better when you actively and consciously choose to put your SELF first. Because that’s what self-care is.
To start, add just one small thing that helps, or eliminate one small thing which doesn't help. And then go from there.
Published: Friday, 26th June
👉 Read also: Why I started prioritising my self-care
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