The first time I considered self-care as an option was in a workshop about hormones. Hot flushes, uncontrollable peevishness and a refusal to pop a pill to fix it, saw me sitting in a room of 30 or 40 other middle-aged women, with pretty much the same haggard look and too-tight jeans. All of us with fans.

The speaker was a relaxed, flowing-skirted, barefooted (probably bra-less – I didn’t check) clear-skinned, bright-eyed, confident, skinny woman.

What did she know?

Amidst complicated explanations that included words like ghrelin, endocrine system and cortisol, she dropped in the words ‘self-care’.

I blinked.

Unlike my fellow menopausers who were inwardly shouting a collective ‘yes, but…’, I stopped wondering whether my cheek had a red mark on it from using my finger to prop my head up, and started paying attention.

I can’t remember her exact words, but the sentiment is sweetly echoed by Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame, in an interview with Elle magazine.

“If I am acting out in any particular way that is harmful to myself—even if it’s just a mood or attitude on a particular day, eating way too much chocolate, or whatever it is—without a shadow of doubt, I ask what it is that I am not getting for myself, what it is that I need, what it is that I am feeling,” she said. “Often, it is that little voice I haven’t paid attention to.”

You see, self care isn’t just about a pedicure. It’s about looking after yourself on a deep level. It’s about giving yourself permission to live life as a well-rounded person. It’s about treating yourself the way you’d treat your favourite cousin or best friend. It’s about paying attention to your needs.

Google “tired but wired” and you’ll see it’s the newest crisis sweeping the globe. Cortisol (stress) levels are so high we can’t sleep even though we’re exhausted. And then we spend the next day eating and drinking stimulants in order to get through another item on our to do list. And another. And another. As busy entrepreneurs or mothers or career-builders, it’s easy to postpone self-care until we’re ‘successful’. But by then it’s too late. Adrenal fatigue will stop us from doing what matters most.

Can you relate?

Knowing you need to re-center yourself is the easy part; making time for it is hard. But re-centering can exponentially impact on your impact on others. Self-care is a mindset, not a logistic.

So what can you do?

Here are three things I do. They might resonate with you, in which case feel free to do the same, or use as inspiration. If not, please share your ideas in the comments or via email so that we can all benefit.

  1. I don’t take clients on Mondays. Mondays have suddenly become my best friend. For years I suffered with Sunday evening blues. Now Sundays are great, because I know I have Mondays all to myself to catch up on emails, write proposals, reports and other things that can be done from my desk in my slippers (after I’ve worked out in a heated swimming pool with my friends).
  2. I’m weaning my clients off instant gratification. Look, I love it when someone responds to one of my requests immediately. But staying up all night to respond to emails that came in while I was in meetings during the day has become unsustainable. The next day I’m ratty, unfocused and unproductive. Now I tell clients when they can expect a response from me. I’m not sure yet if there’s going to be a fallout, but so far so good.
  3. I got help. Not really in my business, but my house, with childcare, and getting the printing done at PostNet (because those *&%! generic printer cartridges mucked up my printer).

Bottom line: I still feel a twinge of panic when I choose hot chocolate and a book instead of emails after lights out – is it lazy or deserve-y? – but I’m way, WAY more content with my life.

Now you. Is self-care part of your regular routine? What do you do – at a deep level – to nurture yourself?