I am a parent and working hard to grow my business. Like many of you, I am currently working from home. A typical morning ritual includes, sipping away my first cup of coffee while stretching, trying to appreciate the beautiful view of Paris, and keeping an eye on the microwave for when our children’s breakfast will be done. In between, I clean the kitchen, unpack the dishwasher, and set up my bicycle to make sure I can jump on and start training as soon as I have everything sorted.
The rest of my day is no different, it is a continuation of juggling work and family life. Your day might be remarkably similar. For a working parent, we see nothing wrong with this. To be productive, I thought I would have to be busy all the time. To be successful at business, the harder I work the more successful I will be, right?
After completing a course on self-care, I felt inspired and took time to apply self-care. Yay, that lasted about 30 seconds… As I was closing my eyes to get into a relaxed state of mind, my phone vibrated, before I knew it my one eye was peeking at the notification. Soon after, I realized I forgot to send that important email…. Then our children needed help with their homework, and I have to admit my husband deserves a break more than I do.
My self-care course was safely packed away in our storeroom, for when I find the time to apply it. I felt such guilt, because I had done such a selfish thing as to spend time on myself. This guilt, drove me to rather invest time into my family and work, while the course was collecting dust. I was convinced my family and my business needed me more than I needed self-care. Who has time for self-care anyway? But then the wheels came off and I was forced to rest because I fell ill. Nothing like forced self-care to make me feel special…
Soon after, I competed in the Ironman 70.3 on the back of a 13-week running injury. People with more wisdom would have withdrawn their entry, but I thought I could do the 21.1km run, relying on my swimming and cycling fitness. At the time it made complete sense to me (not to anyone else). After an exceptionally good swim and cycle, I had a super start to my half marathon. But after one kilometer, the absence of my running fitness kicked in. Another 20.1 km seemed impossible, but I was forced to admit that everyone else had a point – running fitness is not the same as cycling fitness!
I decided to calm down and think about how I could do this half marathon in a respectable time without losing hope. Just running slower was not going to work, mentally this would be suicide. I was hurting all over and all I wanted to do was STOP! I decided to break the remaining distance down into 4km splits, with a break in between each. Water tables were set up every 4 km, so I could use my break to have some water as well. After 4km I stopped, I took time to recharge physically and mentally. It was as if I was filling up an empty tank. As soon as my tank was full enough for the next 4km, I continued. I was amazed at what a few minutes of rest could do to my body and my mind. Believe me it was not easy, but this method worked! I was able to finish my half marathon in a respectable time, while learning one of the most important lessons of my life. I finally understood why self-care is so important.
Taking time to recharge physically and mentally, by applying self-care, is like filling my tank to give what is needed to attend to my family and career. This is not a 100-metre race, it is a journey. My perception about being available all the time, in order to be successful as a parent and at my career, is not true!
My family and business will not fall apart if I take time to ‘fill my tank’. I am required to function at a high level most of the time. To function at this level, I need to make sure I have enough in my tank, because I am continuously giving of myself to others. As I give to my family and business my tank gets empty. If I do not refuel, I will soon have nothing to offer. To be successful, I need to take time to pause and fill my tank by applying self-care. If you are serious about being successful, applying self-care is a necessity, not a nice to have.
Convincing myself that self-care is a necessity took longer than I thought. I first had to challenge my limiting belief about the link between success and being available all the time. This is not true! I am a human and I cannot be available all the time. No one expects this from me, except if I allow them to. By not applying boundaries, I allow people to expect me to be available 24/7. I work with people in different time zones. It is in my power to be clear about my working hours, regardless of theirs.
What you choose to do during self-care, is essential. There are many articles about self-care strategies available, you can even join self-care programs or work with a coach who can help support your progress. It is crucial to figure out which approach works best for you. I collected the course material, with confidence this time. I convinced myself of the importance of self-care and decided on a strategy. I guess my work here is done? No, without a plan, it will not see the light of day. One needs to make time for it.
Many people ask me where I find the time to train for Ironman 70.3? My answer is always the same, I make time! I have yet to encounter a successful person who finds time for anything. Successful people make time for what is important. To apply self-care is no different, I need to make time for it.
I found it difficult in the beginning because I was over ambitious with the strategies I chose. Probably because I had too much caffeine when I chose my strategies. I mixed the decaf with the intensity 11 capsules that morning! It was too much self-care, too soon. If you really want to reap the fruits of self-care, it is important to make this a habit.
I discovered taking small steps works best for my personality, when starting a new habit. I chose simple things at first, like taking a bath without being interrupted. This is a luxury most of us do not have, but you can change this. I have explained to my family that when I am in the bath, I am not available. Even in the case of a fire…. put it out yourself or go to your dad for help! My business is closed during my bath time because I decided to apply boundaries. I am inaccessible and it is my time to recharge and apply self-care. If anyone has a problem with this, they are welcome to take it up with HR, the earliest appointment available is when Covid 19 has disappeared…
When I experienced the effect of applying self-care a few minutes a day, I was motivated to incorporate different approaches, more frequently. I was calmer and more in control. I could function better and found myself being more creative with problem solving.