What is Your Self-Care?

Self-care. I’ve talked about it before and some of the reasons why we might not make it a priority. Sometimes it’s that little voice in the back of your head that says you don’t deserve it. Or that someone might need you while you are taking your time for self-care. Or that you feel guilty for taking the time for self-care. Or maybe you’re using the old “I haven’t got time” excuse? What ever it is you are telling yourself that prevents you taking your time for self-care, stop it! Right now. I will simply not hear anymore excuses for it. The older I get, the more I’m finding it important to put myself first. Mostly, because no one else will. And because if I’m burnt out, then how do I help others? It’s like helping others with their oxygen mask after you’ve fitted your own.

Some of you are probably aware that I float on semi-regular basis. I started only knowing that magnesium was amazing for muscle recovery (it’s just a big Epsom Salts bath) and since I was around 10 weeks post-surgery from a rotator cuff repair, I was keen to get some movement happening. Floating allowed me to work through different ranges of movement safely without the weight of my arm impacting on the shoulder. It was amazing. I also started looking to the other benefits of floating. Floating is not just fantastic for the body, it is also healing for the mind. I have suffered from anxiety from time to time, sometimes to the point where I don’t can’t and want to leave the house. Those times have been pretty extreme, and thankfully, pretty rare. Most days now, I manage okay. Floating has helped with that. It’s like my reset button (have you tried turning it off and turning it on again? It actually works).

Floating has a wonderful effect on the brain which can help ease the stress of anxiety. When you float, there is no stimulus. Zero. Nothing. You don’t feel anything touching you, not only because that would be creepy, but because of the temperature of the water being the same if not slightly more than body temperature. You are weightless. There’s no feeling of the cotton sheets on your skin as if you were laying on your bed. You are floating. If you choose to turn off the light, you can’t see anything (I’m claustrophobic and I do fine with this). The room itself is insulated from outside noise (and really warm). Music plays to start with but you really don’t remember hearing it stop. If you’ve recently eaten (which they recommend not to do), you may hear the orchestral sounds of your stomach digesting. You become aware of your breath. You just don’t hear anything else. You become aware of where you may be holding tension in your back, your legs, your neck, anywhere in your body. And if you take a deep breath, let it out slowly, that tension may leave with that breath. While you can’t see anything, you will close your eyes because that’s what you do when you rest. You close your eyes.

The first time you float (like what happened when I first floated) your brain will not be happy with you, especially if you have a busy mind. At all. It will come up with all sorts of things to stop you enjoying the peace and quiet. It will pull up this weeks grocery list. And the grocery lists for the next 52 weeks. It will start going through your calendar for the week and all the weeks after. It will remind you of things that are not necessary to be reminded of in that very moment. It will pester you to find out if penguins have knees. It just won’t shut up. But don’t worry, with any new skill, it takes some practice to discover calm. My first float, I think my brain shut off for about 5 minutes out of the hour. The next float a little bit longer because I knew what to expect that time.

My last float, I got in a little bit early because now part of my float routine is to relax in the waiting room before a float. There was a lady who came out from her float, which was her first, who softly declared she was moving in. By her own admission she was well practiced in meditation, hence well in front of many others on the first experience, not experiencing many of the anxieties that can come with a first float. There were other people I met that day, who were all having their first float. One person, I’m sure didn’t even know why they were there. They’d been gifted a float from a loved one. My cynical mind says that might have been feedback for them (“honey you’re a little uptight, go float”), but it could have also been that they just wanted to do something kind for them. I enjoy my float time. My phone goes into flight mode before I leave the car, my watch comes off, I sit barefoot in the waiting room, sipping on water or tea just enjoying the space and quiet. After my float, I sit again barefoot in the waiting room, sipping on tea and water, just enjoying the quiet and encouraging my body to wake up again. I spend time waking my body up, limb by limb. When I do finally get home, I wrap myself into my pjs and spend some quality time with #gymdog snuggled on the couch. Realising about an hour later, my phone is still in flight mode and I didn’t really miss it at all.

Self-care can be so many things. You just have to find what works for you. It could be a yoga class. It could be a walk with your dog, with your favorite playlist on headphones. It could be a quiet drink with your BFF. It could be switching your electronic devices off and enjoying the warmth of the sun on your skin as you read a book in the back yard. It could be a float. It could be any of those things, but what it must be, is something that reconnects you to you and gives you permission to be you. I have spent too much time being pushed in different directions that weren’t for me by people who wouldn’t let me be me. Something else I’ve learnt over time, is that life is too short to not have people in your life that add to your life and allow you to be you. Whether they are friends, family, work colleagues, if they aren’t adding to the richness of your life, you need to find the courage to have the conversation about what isn’t working for you (see last months blog on difficult conversations) or you need to create some distance between you so they have less of an effect on you.

One of the most wonderful things I’ve found recently, is the tribe. The tribe is people who all want beautiful things for me, they want the same beautiful things for themselves and together we all work to get those things. Never a truer word has been spoken – surround yourself with those that lift you up rather than drag you down. That, in itself, is a great act of self-care and bravery. So what is it you need to do for self-care for you? If you’re already doing it, is it effective self-care? If you don’t know where to start, maybe connect with your tribe. They will help you with everything you need.

And a quick shout out to a part of my tribe, Astral Float who have been amazingly supportive with great conversation pre and post float as well as having an awesome facility.