As a recruiter, I have a lot of people asking me for 5 minutes of my time that turns into 30-minutes every day, with the hope of helping them to find jobs that I’m not able to do. I have hiring deadlines and meetings that require my focus. In all honestly, at the end of the week, I feel like I’m running on an empty tank. So,I began to look into self-care. According to the emergency announcement on the plane, we all should put on our mask first before helping others to put theirs on, right?
At first, I thought “self care” was about engaging in activities that will “oil this bodily machine.” So, I consider activities like climbing, biking, reading as ways of taking care of myself. I assign purple as my “self-care” block on my calendar. So, you’ll see that I have purple blocks on my calendar every day – 30 minutes of biking to work, check; 30-minutes of reading and 10-minute meditation in the morning, check; 2 hours of climbing 3 times a week, check. But at the end of the week, I still left feeling drained. Why? Haven’t I been taking care of myself on a weekly basis? What’s wrong with me? Why do I still feel tired and drained?
Happening in parallel – I’ve been following this person in my professional network on LinkedIn for about 2 years now. He’s a successful individual diagnosed with anxiety disorders; as his business grew, so did the amount of stress he was experiencing. Needless to say, self-care is big for him. He’s super open about his journey of self-care on LinkedIn and I really look up to him for that. He shared a lot about taking time off, making sure he wouldn’t work more than 40-hours each week, carving time out for his loved ones. So, I thought that’s what self-care was about. I made it a goal to schedule in date nights and find ways to be more efficient working within a 40-hour window. However, my cup still self more than half empty.
By now, I’m convinced that I had no idea what self-care is. So, I decided to learn more about self-care. Like many people, I went to Amazon and downloaded some samples of books on self-care. I went through several books, and I came across this book that really resonated with me – The More Or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care.
According to the author, Anna Borge, “It’s not always easy to tell what you need. You can only find out through experimentation and by listening to what your body tells you – and then honoring those findings.” And that’s when I realized that I’ve been following other people’s idea on self-care, not mine. So, it’s OK that I feel nourished and destressed from following a climbing, meditation and yoga routine. But if I had a really long day at work, and I actually want to let off some steam by going climbing, by me going climbing is a way I’m honoring my body and my desire…THAT…is a form of self-care.
Another lesson I learned about self-care is – if I’m being the happiest version of myself, what will I be doing this week? That’s another way of asking myself “what brings me joy.” I don’t know about you, but if I have all the times in the world, I will be looking for recipe inspirations and trying them out, finding time to research on an epic hike near me and explore those routes with my partner, going climb, playing my guitar, editing videos. When I think a layer deeper, it’s not necessarily cooking or hiking that brings me joy, it’s about the journey to finding out the recipe, thinking through the steps of making the dish and the satisfaction of my partner’s face when eats my food…all of them brings me tremendous amount of joy. Similarly, it isn’t necessarily hiking that brings me joy, but the finding of a great route, the lovely conversations we’ll have while hiking and basking in the quietness of nature that brings me joy. How about you? If you’re being honest with yourself, what brings you joy?
At the end of the day, self-care has a lot to do with learning about yourself – what brings you joy and what sucks your energy. As much as my insecurity leads me to think that I’m the only person on the planet who doesn’t know to “self-care,” I also don’t buy that. If I’m the only person who doesn’t understand self-care, how come there are so many books out there addressing this issue? I’m not talking about books that addresses scientific proof of the importance of self-care, I’m talking about books detailing ideas on self-care.
As someone who didn’t know how to self-care, I came up with the following steps:
1.) Write down what self-care means to you. Don’t think about what I just wrote above, but really write down a list of activities you want to do based on the term “self-care.”
2.) Schedule yourself to perform those activities. If they bring you joy, great! If you end up feeling more stressed, seek to understand why.
3.) Then, ask yourself the question – If time is not an issue, what activities bring you joy?
4.) Repeat 2 to 4.
Self care is a journey. I hope you will have the chance to begin this exploration the way I have. It does take me approaching burn out to ask myself the question of “self-care.” But I hope you don’t have to get to this point to ask yourself the same question.