What looking after yourself DOESN’T look like.
Last month we were talking about self-care and self-compassion. My colleague put her hand up to write on the subject and did an excellent job. I bumped into her today as our working schedules crossed paths and we chatted some more. One thing we both recognised was, in writing articles on how to improve the quality of our lives and relationships, we noticed how our own ‘kindness radars’ had picked up on incidental acts of compassion around us. These accidental acknowledgments of how kind and thoughtful most people are, reminded us how good it feels to be aware of the positive actions of others always happening always around us. If you look for them. From her local florist’s heartfelt words as she sent flowers to a neighbour in need, to the warm thoughts of my team when I came down ill this week, it is important to take a moment to focus on the good stuff. To look after yourself and others.
Which brings me to what putting self-care into action looks like. Apparently, it doesn’t look like me when it comes to being ill.
A lurgy spread by a family member, (yes you know who you are), had me waking up on Thursday, dizzy and nauseas. Now, normally people recognise that they are very ill and that going to work is not an option. Not me. My mantra, ‘I am too busy to be ill,’ gripped my rational brain and refused to let go, as I got up and wobbled to the bathroom, sick and giddy, with all intentions to shower and get ready for a very hectic and very long day.
I was thinking of all the clients I needed to see. The paperwork I had to finish. The preparations for a new staff member I had to train the following day. Not only that, I had organised a meet and greet professional development for all my team and staff at a bar that evening, (Pizza and PD, you have to eat, after all). I was far too busy to be wallowing around, feeling sick.
So, this is what I did.
I rang my admin team and asked them to cancel the first client. (I was certain I would shake this annoying bug in an hour or so).
I rang again in an hour and said better cancel the next two clients as well. (My thinking was a short sleep, something to eat and I’d be back in gear).
Another few hours later, I realised I could probably go to work as long as the clients didn’t mind how distracted I would be watching the room spinning, or if I suddenly jumped up and ran to the bathroom, hand over my mouth in a desperate race to reach a sink. Yes, not going to happen.
At this point, I bit the bullet and called off the day, feeling guilty and irritated that I had let people down. I had to send an email to all at the PD event, saying I wasn’t going to make it, which was even more disappointing. It is like herding cats getting everyone together at the same time, on the same day.
As I lay on the couch, drinking tea and replying to text, emails and phone calls, (I worked out if I kept my head still I could work), I had a little epiphany moment, (or as my wonderful old friend calls them, a Disney moment).
What the hell was I doing?
I was sick as a dog and still working away. Seriously! Did I not just read all those articles on self-care and self-compassion? Where was my head, (well to be fair, it was spinning a little, but that’s no excuse)?
Self-care is about saying no when you are sick, even when your working ethic screams at you to get up and get going.
This is what I should have done.
Realised I was too sick to work and taken action. I should have called my admin (the ATeam as I like to name them), in the morning and cancelled the day, clients and PD evening. Instead of drip feeding the realisation Thursday was just not going to happen, it could have been managed all in one go. I could have gone to bed and slept, then I may have felt better instead of getting up and making another call to work and whoever else needed my time on that day every hour.
I could have allowed myself a sick day.
I could have turned my phone off.
I could have not opened my computer to check on emails and replied to them.
I could have not written and edited more of my book, or answered the phone, or replied to texts.
I should have snuggled under a blanket and watched a movie, caught up on a series I love, rested, drank tea and looked after myself.
Self-care is about noticing when you mistreat yourself and that includes putting unrealistic expectations on what you can or should be able to achieve, particularly when you are unwell. It is giving a little bit of nurture and love to yourself. Permission to say no I am unavailable, can’t make it, will need to reschedule.
None of which I did until it was blatantly obvious I could not even drive to work in the first place.
On Friday, I was a little better. I still went in to train the new employee, (yehhh, it might take a bit more time to implement the self-care all the time!). But instead of spending the day working and trying to catch up, I did the training and then packed up and came home. I cancelled an evening at the theatre (so annoying, I had been looking forward to it) because I was still not 100%, and then?
Then I did nothing but look after myself.
Like all of us, learning what is important is half the journey. Actually putting it into practice is the hard part. Yet, if I can do it, okay start to do it, then you can too.