I am a big believer in self-care. For years I wrote a blog series called Self-care Saturday in an effort to get me and women like me to take better care of ourselves. I was over-working to the point of exhaustion a lot during that season of my life, and I assumed many other women were too.
Yes, self-care has been a major buzz word for the last decade, and maybe now more than ever as women continue to try to have it all, be it all and do it all. But what does self-care really mean?
Many people think it means getting a pedicure or a massage or taking a hot bath. And sure that may be part of self-care, but I want to introduce you to a new definition I recently heard from Heather K. Jones, a dietician and wellness coach who before having her own business worked as a part of the team for Oprah’s trainer, Bob Green. And here’s what Heather says that self-care is.
“Self-care is showing up for yourself with respect and kindness on a moment to moment basis. It’s how you treat yourself, how you feed yourself, and how you talk to yourself,”
Self-care is not just getting your nails done or taking a bath. Those could be the activities you do during self-care, but what Heather is saying with this definition is totally different. She really helped me see that self-care is not an activity, as much as it’s a mindset. Because as she says, self-care is showing up for yourself moment to moment. Picking you, and what’s best for you, all the time. I think this is one of the single biggest aha moments of my life so far.
Self-care isn’t doing something to make you feel better for 15 or 30 minutes or an hour a day, occasionally. It is literally showing up for yourself moment by moment by moment, all day, every day. And when we do that, we don’t need New Year’s resolutions. We don’t need diets. We don’t need get rich quick, or get thin quick schemes, because we make the right choices for ourselves moment by moment every day and the results take care of themselves.
I think we can now call self-care “Keeping our word to ourselves”. And no, this is not something that is easy. It takes commitment, it takes getting your mind right. It takes creating habits. And just because you show up in one area of your life doesn’t mean you show up for yourself in all areas. So self-care, showing up for yourself, is a process that needs to become a major priority for us all, pronto!
Many of us will follow through all the time for other people. We have integrity and our word means everything if it’s to someone else. But not so much when it comes to keeping our word to ourselves and showing up for ourselves. And why is that?
Well I think it’s one of these three reasons…
- We don’t believe we have time
- We believe it’s selfish to spend that much time on us
- We believe it’s hard work and uncomfortable and we’d rather take an easier route.
Did you notice that all three of those are about beliefs?
Yes, what stops us is our mindset and more specifically our belief system.
Our minds are so powerful. They convince us that not showing up and not caring for us is a good idea. But in the long run, it’s so much harder and so much more painful to not show up for ourselves. Think about it. Most of the goals, especially the ones around New Year’s, are built around the areas and the things that you keep saying you will do for yourself, but you never do.
And isn’t it painful every year to start once again on those same areas that you never seem to follow through on? Not showing up makes us feel like a failure. It makes us lose faith in ourselves. When we don’t show up, our confidence takes a hit. We feel like we are always lying to ourselves, and letting ourselves down. Not showing up for yourself over and over again leads to not liking yourself, not having faith in yourself, not trusting yourself, and not believing in yourself.
So, are you starting to think that self-care is more important now? Yeah, me too.
What if consistent self-care is the answer to our confidence issues and our self-esteem challenges? I think it is. But how do we make self-care–showing up for ourselves minute by minute–a habit?
First, become aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions. They are all connected. And it’s important to see what choices you are making, each time you aren’t choosing you. If you say you want a healthy body, but you constantly choose watching TV on the couch over working out, become aware of that. And then make a plan to overcome it. How about combining TV with working out? It’s totally possible to do both of these things you desire, at the same time.
Next, take baby steps to create a habit of showing up for yourself by using a technique called minimum baseline. Minimum Baseline is the way to stop “all or nothing” behavior. A minimum baseline is the minimum number of days and for how long and in what way you will do something for a period of time until it’s a habit.
An example of minimum baseline would be “I’m going to walk for five minutes a day, three times a week as my minimum baseline for exercise.” And I get what you’re thinking…“Five minutes? Well, that’s not going to do anything for my health. What a waste of time! If I’m not going to do 30 minutes or an hour, then why bother?” But that’s the kind of thinking that keeps us on the couch.
Here’s why to bother with five minutes three times a week. It’s not about the health benefits, at least not yet. It’s about showing up for yourself. And it’s not very hard to show up for yourself for five minutes three times a week now, is it? You can do it between appointments, between commercials of your favorite network TV show, or right before you start to binge on Netflix for a few hours, right?
Five minutes doesn’t really create an either-or scenario. It’s not, I can work out or, I can work, or I can watch TV, or I can go to dinner, or I can go to bed. Because you can always do five minutes and still do everything else. It’s in the consistency that the habit forms. Show up for yourself five minutes, three times a week for a month or two and it’s a habit. And then and only then are you allowed to increase your minimum baseline to more than five minutes.
And please trust me on this because I know you will do five minutes once, maybe twice, and then you will want to do 10 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour. And I hear you. I get it. Once you’re on the treadmill, or you’re heading outside with your running shoes on and your headphones on and you’re ready to go, you think it’s just as easy to walk longer than your minimum. And you’re right, it is. But you can accidentally undermine showing up for yourself with this kind of thinking.
Remember, five minutes does not create an either-or situation. But 30 minutes or an hour might. And if you haven’t built a strong habit of keeping your word to yourself and showing up for yourself in this area, this is often what our attempts look like:
Day One, Five-minute walk
Day Two, 30-minute walk.
Day Three, 60-minute walk.
Day Four, Too sore to walk or work out at all, so we lay on the couch.
Day Five, Think about working out…even think about five minutes of working out. Still don’t work out, still on the couch.
Day Six, 20 minutes complaining, resentful and thinking about what we should be doing (walking or exercising), basically have an internal tantrum from our emotional child, and then we still don’t work out. We convince ourselves we don’t want to be thin or healthy anyway. Back to the couch.
Day Seven, Situation blows up at work or at home, we get distracted and walking just doesn’t happen. We justify it because it wasn’t our fault, and we had to handle the important situation at work.
Day 30, We forgot for three weeks we were even supposed to be working out and now feel like a failure again because we have to start all over. We’re hopeless. Why bother? Back to the couch.
I have been there far too many times to count. Whether it’s eating right for just one meal a day three times a week, or exercising for just five minutes a day three times a week, or working on something else like personal development, or self-care just a few times a week; minimum baseline is the holy grail to getting you in the habit of caring for yourself, for your business, and reaching your goals like you were never able to before.
It’s the shortcut to keeping your word to yourself. It’s a life hack. It’s a baby step.
Following through with the actual work or exercise is easy, because anyone can do the five minutes or the 15 minutes of something a few times a week. But the mindset work of consistently doing the minimum version until it’s a habit is the hard part. Your brain is going to keep telling you it’s stupid, it’s a waste of time, and it’s for wimps if it’s only five minutes, So why bother?
But I want you to ignore your brain and keep bothering, because if you can learn to show up for yourself consistently in this way in even one area of your life, it can be the gateway to showing up for yourself in all areas of your life all the time. I think minimum baseline is the path to self-care.
When we believe in ourselves and we trust ourselves, then we can begin to show up for ourselves, not just three times a week for five minutes, but moment to moment in every decision and every situation. And that is when we create the life, the body, the business and the relationships that we truly want.
So how about you? Will you practice this new version of self-care by showing up for you every moment? And do you need to start first with baby steps? Remember, there is nothing wimpy about baby steps.
For a baby to go from crawling to walking, is a giant leap in their development. And for you to show yourself that you will show up consistently for you, no exceptions, no excuses, no matter what, even if it’s just for a few minutes a few days a week, then there is no limit to what you’re capable of.
So, my friend, let’s do this. Start today. Create a minimum baseline in one area of your life that you never seem to show up for yourself in, and start now. It’s the ultimate in self-care.
To hear more on this topic, listen to my Design You podcast episode #18 here, called Showing up for yourself.