The term “Self-Care” is used widely these days as the antidote to stress in our increasingly busy lives. But what is self-care? Many people think it’s going to the gym or having an outside weekly hobby or class that you attend.

These activities are great for our bodies and there is no doubt that exercise and social interaction are important for keeping us healthy, however it’s essential that these activities don’t become another thing on our to do list. Gym – tick, Yoga- tick. I have seen this so often amongst my friends and colleagues – they really want to attend a class or activity and are stressed as hell just trying to get away on time.

I used to be terrible at self-care on all levels – I would never do something entirely for myself – I even felt guilty when watching TV as I considered it unproductive time and there was always something that needed doing. So, for me self-care was a low priority and frankly I didn’t want to commit to some regular class and find myself stressed out trying to get away to it.

What changed? Through coaching and training as a coach myself I realised that self-care was about something much bigger. Self-care is about recognising our basic needs and making sure that they are met. Knowing your personal basic needs – those things that without them you are not OK- is essential if you are going to meet them.

How much sleep do you need, what food and drink do you need?
Do you need time alone or in company?
Do you need physical contact, time with nature or animals?
Do you need exercise?
Self-care is about being OK with doing nothing if that’s what will ensure your needs are met.

It’s about recognising which of your needs are not adequately met and then setting aside some time to meet them.

The strange thing about needs if that once you know what you need to be OK, you can recognise the signs that your needs have not been met.

This might mean you are ratty, tired, or even supercharged and determined to push through even if that is likely to cause burnout. The problem comes when we fail to recognise that our needs have not been met and think that powering through will be just as successful, as pausing and doing whatever is required to meet our needs.

Meeting your needs is not selfish – if you bought an expensive piece of equipment for your practice or business you would follow the maintenance instructions, you would get it serviced regularly, as you would see it as an important investment which needs to be cared for to ensure it lasts as long as possible.

So why don’t we do we do that for ourselves?
One of the biggest investments any business makes is in its staff, but what do we do to ensure that people are maintained properly?
We seem quite comfortable with allowing ourselves and those around us to work constantly without breaks and encourage each other to power through. It’s no wonder that, from time to time, one of us will burnout or get ill.

If our important piece of equipment broke, we would be looking at the maintenance log and the service schedule and would get angry when we realise that the maintenance and servicing haven’t been done!

It seems a no-brainer to think of self-care as the regular maintenance of a vital piece of equipment and holidays as the regular service. It is important for all of us to help each other with the maintenance of self-care.

Check in with yourself and your friends or colleagues. Show compassion to yourself when life seems tough– have you been doing your regular self-care and have all your needs been met? If not, then it’s no wonder you are not your best self.

If we all start to appreciate the importance of true self-care then we can hold each other accountable and instead of competing to be the one who works the most, or the longest each day, we can be the one who knows what they need to be able to work consistently each day and who has the energy to help support others around them.