What does the notion of self-care mean to you? A growing awareness within society of the importance of personal and emotional wellbeing recently has seen self-care become a bit of a cultural buzzword. But has this led us to slowly become immune to the term? What does the concept actually mean, on a deeper level?

At a recent Harmonizing Retreat, one of our delegates described the style of self-care that we teach as “fierce, hard-hitting and life-changing”. The reality for us is that when we are coaching someone with depleted energy, fragile mental health, a compromised immune system or a traumatised nervous system then ten minutes of meditation, a bubble bath or a quick walk on the beach just won’t quite cut it.   

Our approach is not fluffy and implementation not necessarily easy, however when clients embrace our approach their quality of life improves exponentially. We are living in fascinating times, where so many of us are living beyond our physical and emotional capacities. Our modern society has seen stress, overwhelm, anxiety, depression and burn-out become our new normal. 

With 39% of people in the UK saying that their lives are too stressful to handle, we firmly believe that some baseline education is needed to help bring us back into balance. If we are to avoid physical or mental breakdown, we need to adopt a fiercer approach to preserving our physical energy and emotional stability. 

Here are some powerful tools to begin to reclaim your life.

prioritise yourself

Growing up, we are taught to always be kind and to put others first. Yet we aren’t often taught about how this affects our needs, energy and desires. It is vital to remember that you don’t have infinite amounts of energy, and cannot pour from an empty cup.  

If you always put others first, you are never fully respecting your own needs. Maybe you see this as your role, and feel that if you stopped prioritising others ahead of yourself then everything would collapse. Maybe you don’t really know who you would be if you started to put yourself first. 

Acknowledging the value of your own needs and desires, and truly recognising these as deserving of the same space and importance which you bestow upon the needs of others, is at the core of fierce self-care. 

The truth is that once you begin to properly prioritise your energy, desires and goals, you’ll find that you have so much more to give.

say no when you mean no

We often worry that by saying ‘no’ people will stop liking us, that we might lose connections, or that people will think we are letting them down. The result is that we often find ourselves agreeing to things we don’t actually want to do, sacrificing our own energetic and emotional needs in the process.

If you feel a need to always say ‘yes’, this is rooted in a misbelief in how others see you. You believe that by constantly saying yes, people will think that you’re kind, fun and giving. This is closely linked to a belief that if you were to say no, people might think the opposite. Yet this belief of how others will view you is not reality. Those who truly love and care for you will always want to support you, whether you sometimes say no or not. Saying ‘no’ when you don’t have the energy, the time or the desire will be respected by those that matter – and it won’t change their opinion of who you are as a person.

Honouring your own needs doesn’t mean you don’t respect or consider the needs of others. By saying no to something you don’t want to do or to accept, you are simply making a deliberate choice to take care of yourself first, and allowing yourself to place priority on your own feelings. There is nothing selfish or unkind about this – in fact it will have the opposite effect, as it is only by keeping your own cup full that you can build up an overflow to give to others.

speak your truth

Many of us stuff down our true feelings due to a fear of hurting others. We are scared of confrontation and think that by speaking our truth we might lose people close to us but, again, this is not the reality. 

There are many kind – and assertive – ways to speak up and express your opinion, and doing so might even improve a situation more than you ever imagined. Just like with any fear, facing a fear of confrontation gets easier with practice. The more you speak up for yourself, the less frightening it becomes. By speaking your truth, you will be not only telling others how you feel but also showing yourself that your feelings are valid and that your voice matters.

give yourself what you need

When you have neglected your needs for a long time or have got used to putting yourself at the bottom of the pile, it can be hard to know what you need or desire. You may have lost connection with yourself and your feelings, and don’t even know where to start. 

Take a moment to breathe with awareness, and to notice what your body might be telling you. Even your basic functions might have been put on the back burner to care for others. For example, you will automatically feel more at peace and generally happier if you are getting enough food, water and sleep, compared to when you are hungry, thirsty or tired. Once you are able to have your basic needs met, you will find more space within yourself to listen to your mind, your desires and your needs.

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