When I stopped drinking, one of the first things that I realized was that I had no level of self-care – or self-love, or self-respect. Actually, thinking about it now, I had no sense of ‘self’ at all.
Thankfully I learn quick – for good and for bad it seems – and I understood that to give myself the best chance of being the person I wanted to be and to be strong in my recovery, I had to put in place the ‘self’ bits that were missing. Self-care, as it turned out was the easiest, and with just a little of an emotional cuddle in place, my recovery bounded ahead.
I became the most important person in my life, selfish as that may sound. My eating came first, my rest, my emotional comfort – for that I mean removing myself from stressful situations/people at first, and then later, as my sober muscle grew stronger, understanding how to re-frame the situations/people in a more comapssionate light, and owning my own responsibility for my behaviour and responses. Grab that wine? My choice. Getting angry/stressed and using it as a reason to drink? My choice. And all the rest of ‘my choices’.
My self-care changed everything. Literally and painlessly. It taught me I deserved more and so I gave me more and so I became more.
High five me, but how what did I do? Recently I delivered a talk called, You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup to a group of ladies who are struggling with their unhappy drinking habits. It went down a storm because it resonated so well with my audience, and so rather than to try and re-invent the wheel, this is it, along with my top tips for self-care.
“This is my big cup that I pour from every day. It is not full of water, tea or alcohol (thank goodness), it is full of my energy. From this cup each day I pour my energy into smaller cups, my work, my home, my life. 90% of the time, no matter how much I pour out each day, after a good night’s sleep, it is miraculously full of energy again. No-one can pour energy into my big cup, it is something that comes from within me. We all have these cups, at the moment you are pouring from your big cup into one of my smaller ones as you listen to me.
Every now and again though my cup doesn’t miraculously refill. Life constantly throws unexpected challenges and curve balls at us and depending on what are priorities are at any time, they can empty our big cup pretty quickly. Recently I have had to make some hard decisions about situations beyond my control and whilst I am completely comfortable and at peace with the decisions I made, my miracle cup still drained away.
Two weeks ago I went to a meeting where someone took photos, In most of them I was smiling and ‘being Sonia’, but in one that I was unaware of , I saw a drained, tired devastated woman completely depleted of everything. I cried for her and said “enough”, my cup was empty, I had nothing left to pour.
I cancelled or rescheduled all my meetings with total honesty and went away for four days. I took myself and my empty cup to Devon, I walked for miles, took in the scenery, ate properly, slept properly, made a commitment to myself to check in with business twice a day not before 9 and not after 6. Turned my devices off allowed myself to accept how I was feeling, went through the process and slowly refilled my cup. I came home still sad, the situations that had drained me were still present and my cup wasn’t full, but it was slowly refilling itself and I was ready to start pouring again.
I call this self-care –and is the complete opposite of what most woman do in times of stress both at work and home.
As woman we seem to be conditioned to think that in order to be “good enough” we must put everyone else’s needs first. When challenges come what do we do? Most of us batten down the hatches, isolate ourselves emotionally and just push on,. We do the exact opposite of what we actually need. And at what cost.
Tired and irritable, who suffers? Children, partners? Then we feel worse for being snappy.
Poor sleep and not making enough time to eat? What suffers? Our concentration, productivity? And again we feel bad. Horrible cycles!
Every bit of self-care we give to ourselves we get back in all our important relationships, whether they are family or work or whatever/whoever matters most to us.
So, these are my practices for my self-care. Mine won’t work for everyone, we are all wonderfully individual, but these definitely added in my recovery. And, if they are not for you, please because you deserve to care for yourself and to be your best you, find some that do.
Top 10 Self-Care Tips
- First of all I tell myself every day I am good enough. I am good enough for my son, my loved ones, my clients and most importantly myself. We are all good enough, acknowledge that truth of that and the next steps become easier because you know you are deserving of self care.
- Ask for help before you becomes the crisis. People can’t guess what you need. Ask yourself, what help could I ask for now that would make the most difference to me? Working to a deadline, maybe your child’s friends mum could pick up your child as well that day. Dry cleaning pick up, maybe a neighbour goes regularly into town? Help with preparing a document? ask someone who enjoys that aspect of work, they also get to show off their expertise. People like to help. Be clear and kind in your asking.
- Let go of control. If you ask someone to wash up, or change the sheets or run a presentation for you, don’t look at it critically if it is not done your way – people are not robots that can replicate you. Don’t be irritated and feel it has to be done again. That builds resentment in you and will make the one who tried to help feel useless and less inclined to offer in future.
- Routine, our bodies crave routine, it stabilises and reassures us. We run on the circadian rhythm, so for instance when we fly through different time zones, our sleep is disrupted and it can take a few days to recalibrate. Eat regularly, drink regularly. Make these non-negotiable. Our bodies our our greatest asset and will do everything in their power to support us both mentally and physically if we fuel them properly.
- Even in the midst of the most challenging situations, set aside 10 minutes in the morning to have a quiet cup of tea and breathe deeply. No work, no emails, just you, tea and deep breaths. Get up earlier if necessary. Set yourself up for your day.
- Don’t check work after 8pm. set automatic responses if necessary. What will it achieve to read that a client is complaining? A delivery not received? You can’t do anything about it until the morning and it will upset you and disrupt your sleep.
- Sleep well – go to bed a little earlier and get the restorative sleep you need.
- Switch off all unnecessary stimulus in the evening an hour before bed Try a jigsaw, adult colouring book – I am so rock and roll these days – try baking anything creative. Light candles, listen to music, and take a lovely bath. Do something just for you and again make this time absolutely non-negotiable.
- Learn to say no with confidence and love. Don’t agree to anything out of guilt or obligation, again you risk the chance of becoming resentful and further overstretched. People may not like it to start with, but they will learn to respect your needs and will stop asking.
- Acknowledge how you are feeling. Don’t try to damp the feelings down. Feeling overwhelmed, say so, feeling unloved, tell someone, feeling unfairly pressured? Speak it out loud. Once we have articulated how we feel, these feelings have less power over of us. I told myself when I was away, I am so sad, my house is not a home anymore (my home life is everything to me). Once I said those things out loud though, my natural resourcefulness kicked in and I started to view the situation differently. I even laughed at myself, completely alone, I must have looked crazy!
The more we care for ourselves the more we are able to care for others. The more I pour into my own cup, the more I can pour out to those who I need and who need me.
Everyone suffers when my cup is empty and I see them wilting through thirst. That hurts me personally and affects me professionally. So to me self-care is not a luxury or selfish, it is an absolutely vital part of my life.”
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Love & respect