Who (self) cares?


It is currently National Self Care Week. Self care is something many people running a Start Up struggle with, so Marketing Director, Sarah, has kindly written a guest blog about her experiences:

The buzz around Self Care Week is music to my ears because I am a recent convert. I am proudly looking after number 1.  Not in an arrogant, ‘I don’t care about other people’ way, but every week, I am intentionally dedicating some of my time to ME. 

However, in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, our ‘always switched-on’ culture means that this essential topic is left off most peoples’ weekly ‘to do’ list. That’s because, as children and adults, looking after oneself is often misrepresented as self-indulgent and low priority in comparison to filling every waking moment working or looking after others.

Most people are pre-programmed to be busy. But research* shows that most successful people (and I mean this in the holistic sense of the word) dedicate a significant chunk of their time to focusing on their physical and emotional wellbeing so that they can be the very best version of themselves. 

Time management expert Laura Vanderkam studies how busy people spend their lives, and she's discovered that many of us drastically overestimate the importance of our commitments each week, while underestimating the value of time we have to ourselves. 

Until recently, I certainly fell into that cycle. Squeezing in an extra meeting, missing appointments, not exercising, eating poorly…the list goes on. Every passing week, a new blur of busy-ness. Because, like the majority, I am lots of things to lots of people. I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. I am a marketing director, homemaker, volunteer, bedtime-storyteller, meal-planner, present-buyer. And I want to do it all brilliantly, which takes a lot of plate-spinning and planning.

For years I have written lists. Arm-long, SMART lists of tasks categorised by deadline and importance.  And I can say that very few of the items, unless you count the occasional/necessary haircut, ever focused on ME. This didn’t make me unhappy and I wasn’t stressed about it, but I realised that seemingly overnight, I had forgotten what it was like to just be ME.

I saw Laura’s TED talk shortly after the birth of my second child and it inspired me to make a change. Her practical approach was exactly what I needed to reprioritise my lists and focus on self-care. She recommends that you take 15 minutes on a Friday afternoon to plan out the week ahead. But, the list should be split into three headings: self, relationships and work. As hard as it may be, the lists must be balanced and dealt with in that order. This is not about quick fixes. Lasting behavioural change requires commitment but for me it has worked. 

Practicing this approach, I have found that self-care is quite the opposite to being selfish or indulgent. It is about finding a balance and intentionally prioritising self, others and work, in that order.

My version of self-care is quite simple. It’s going for long walks with friends, spending time with my family, reading, learning, eating well and exercising. And I fit it all in because they are at the top of my ‘to do’ list. My week is built around it. They are always the priority. When I hear myself saying ‘I wish I had more time to…’ I take Laura’s advice and think, I have 168 hours every week, what would I have to say no to in order to fit that in? 

If that sounds familiar, I highly recommend that you find 12 minutes for yourself to watch this TED talk.

And if you want to go further, try a ‘Time Makeover’.

*There are lots of studies but I learned a lot from Laura Vanderkam, Kelly McGonigal and David Steindlrast – Google them to find out more.