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Self care is not selfish

The last few months have seen unprecedented changes to all of our lives. Working from home, not able to work, working on the frontline as a keyworker. Separated from family, in lockdown with no escape from family, loving it, hating it. Home schooling might just bring a whole new appreciation for what our teachers manage each day, and may be an additional pressure on top of all the others. So where has that left space for your self care routine?

Self care means different things to everyone. Eating healthily, taking regular exercise, fresh air, music, laughter, friends, meditation, hobbies, reading, mindfulness, yoga and all those things I've missed from the list. And for some people this time in lockdown might have given the opportunity for starting some new good habits. But for many others they are spending longer hours at their makeshift home desk space, lack motivation, feeling frustrated, either finding no time to take leave, or feel there is no point with no holidays away.

More and more I hear about how people are feeling exhausted, spent, anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed. I seem to have had so many coaching conversations of late that have been talking about guilt at feeling that someone is failing at their work and as a parent, because they have no way of managing both without school or childcare. The result? They feel terrible and end up never giving anything their full and undivided attention. And I've been finding myself using one of those tools that every coach carries in their toolkit - the Wheel of Life.


We all have our own version, and with video coaching it has been easiest to simply ask the client to draw their own. We then talk about whatever the eight most important aspects of their life are right now. One that is coming up regularly is 'me time'. They add those to the outside of each piece of the wheel. The client then scores how much time, attention and focus they are giving each area right now - 0 in the centre for nothing at all, and 10 on the rim of the wheel for all of their attention.

Often I simply ask them to 'join the dots' of each of the marks they have made and notice how uncomfortable it would be to ride a bike on a wheel that irregular. I don't need to see their wheel to know that it will be out of balance. If you are experiencing guilt, or feeling stressed about trying to juggle everything, then your wheel of life will be out of balance. The aim at this point is not to achieve straight 10s. The aim is to achieve balance. Self care begins with balance.

You may feel you have the capacity to improve some of the areas that have the lowest scores, but more likely if you have been feeling overwhelmed, the place to start is by reducing some of your higher scores, to create the space to increase focus on the areas you are neglecting. So give yourself permission to pay less attention to some things, and that when you do, instead of feeling guilty, you know that this is the first step to reaching straight 10s.

Have you ever found yourself doing a crossword, or a puzzle, and found yourself completely stuck? And if you leave it for a while, do something else, and return to it, an answer suddenly appears? Sometimes when you stop trying so hard, you find the answer. So step back a little from some of the peaks on your 'wonky wheel' and use that time to pay more attention to some of the dips. What you will find is that as your wheel becomes more balanced, you also find that you can begin to increase across all areas. The key is achieving the balance

So if you are feeling overwhelmed, or guilty about work vs children, remember to first treat yourself kindly. You did not choose this situation, but you can choose how you respond to it.

Draw yourself a wheel, and name the areas that are most important for you right now. Give them a score, an honest score, just the one that tells it how it is. And then give yourself permission to give some things less attention to enable you to move others up the scale. Self care isn't selfish, its essential.

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