Category: Self Care

dark picture of a sink for self care

Feeling Hopeless? How To Tackle Boring Self Care

dark picture of a sink for self care
Even basic self care can feel impossible sometimes.

What comes to mind when I say the words “self care”? Is it fluffy blankets, bubble baths and scented candles? Or do you just roll your eyes and try and push away that sickening feeling of shame because you know you should be able to take better care of yourself – you just can’t seem to do it..? Or maybe it’s both. Today I want to introduce you to the concept of boring self care.

You know you should be able to take better care of yourself - you just can't seem to do it? #boringselfcare Click To Tweet

Luxury isn’t boring

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve told  you a bit of my story of burning out. I talked about how I used to go constantly at 100mph and I touched on the fact that the things I was trying to keep myself on track didn’t work.

Some of those things are what you might ordinarily think of as self care. They were what I thought of as self care. Things like those I listed above – blankets, baths, beautiful luxurious things that are marketed as things we deserve, things that will give us a deep sense of calm, that might even transform who we are as people. Yeah, I fell for it too.

The reality is, as wonderful as those things can be, those things are not the full picture of self care.

Boring Self Care

Boring self care is a term coined by Hannah Daisy. Hannah creates brilliant illustrations that show all those sometimes boring, sometimes not, every day tasks that are about caring for your self. There are all kinds of reasons why these seemingly simple tasks might become overwhelming:

  • afraid to talk to people on the phone
  • anxious about leaving your house (or even your bed)
  • physically or mentally exhausted
  • haven’t got the time
  • or maybe you just don’t want to…

One of the most frustrating things about mental illnesses is that it can leave you feeling incapable of doing even basic things for yourself. That well meaning advice to “just get out of the house” can fall flat if you haven’t been able to do any laundry or wash your hair for a while.

Doing the impossible

If you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know I think that kindness and self-compassion are really important. It’s important for anyone and everyone, and especially important if you are struggling to cope with the basics. Criticising yourself, blaming yourself, shaming yourself – all that is going to do is leaving you feeling even lower than you already do. Thank your critical inner voice and say “no thank you, I am not listening to you today. I’m trying something new.”

Think of one task that needs doing that you’ve been putting off. This could be anything from getting out of bed for an hour, to daring to say no when someone asks for a favour. Here are some from Hannah’s instagram:

  • took my medication as prescribed
  • survived a day at work
  • opened a window
  • went to bed early
  • cooked and ate a nourishing meal

So think of just one – no running before you can walk – and do it, just once. Pick something small and manageable. Don’t turn this into a way to prove to yourself that you can’t do it. Just pick one small, manageable task that you can do today. Take a deep breath. And then go and do it.

And congratulate yourself. That critical inner voice might come back and cackle at you for celebrating you washing your hair. Thank her and say no thanks. Not today, critical inner voice. Today I’m trying something new. To other people it might be too small to celebrate but for today, for you, it’s worth at least a fist pump.

Different ways to do boring self care

So you see, self care doesn’t necessarily mean the fancy, often expensive things we think. Those things are nice to have but you can manage without them. Boring self care – the important sort of self care – looks more like:

  • eating a diet that suits what your body needs
  • getting enough sleep
  • having clean clothes
  • having some kind of social contact (preferably face to face)
  • looking after your medical and dental care
  • asking for the emotional support you need

But as I said before – don’t try and run before you can walk. If brushing your teeth twice a day is all you can manage – great! That’s better than once or not at all. You can tick one thing off your list, instead of the list being screwed up and in the bin. It’s one way to show yourself that you matter, that you are worth taking care of.

I still can’t do it…

If you still feel like you can’t do it – don’t panic.

First of all, there are lots of people out there who can support you  – including me.

Secondly – it might just be that it feels new – often new changes can leave you feeling like something is wrong. Give it another go tomorrow. Or have a read of my blog post about feeling like you’ve failed.

And finally – I’m going to be looking at the blocks we put in our way in next week’s blog, so look out for that.

Alice Tew




woman surrounded by other peoples open hands

How To Look After You When You Have No Time

I know I need a break

Last week I touched on how busy everyone seems to be – and in my vlog I touched on the idea that one reason for this is that we feel obliged to do so much for so many sets of people. We need to be good parents, good employees, good friends, good sons and daughters and so on. We just either can’t or won’t make time for ourselves.

All of us are bombarded daily with posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by our friends and acquaintances living seemingly perfect lives. And even though you know they’re cherry picking the best bits to showcase on social media, it doesn’t stop you feeling like a failure when your life isn’t Pinterest-perfect.

So you do more, you try harder, you push, push, push but somehow it’s never enough and you’re exhausted.

I can’t just “make time”

I can hear you from here. I was exactly the same – I wrote about this last week. How could I possibly stop? People were counting on me.

I thought that if I stopped, my life would collapse around me and then I’d have to spend even more time picking up the pieces of the smashed plate I’d stopped spinning and deal with the shame of everyone seeing that I’d messed up. No thanks.

So I kept spinning until one day I couldn’t. I’d been so busy looking after everyone else and trying to be perfect that I’d depleted all my coping reserves and as my feelings of embarrassment at not living a picture perfect life grew, I’d withdrawn from my friends and family so they couldn’t see the mess I was getting in. I had no one to lean on, not even myself.

The point to this cautionary tale of course is that if you don’t/can’t/won’t look after yourself, you’re going to get sick. It can show up in any number of ways – depression, anxiety, stress, burn out or even physical symptoms like shaking and stomach aches. You know everyone else needs looking after – the same applies to you.

Show yourself the love you so freely give to others

I want to be really clear – this is not another reason to beat yourself. This isn’t about “Oh great, now I’ve got another thing to add to my list that I don’t have time for” and feeling like even more of a failure. This is about kindness and I’m certain you’re good at that. It takes a decent amount of kindness to put others above yourself. Here’s what I want you to know:

You deserve that kindness too. You are entitled to it.

Yep. Entitled. You are entitled to use your time for yourself, to look after yourself, so you can be well. The World Health Organisation said health is a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

I can feel you cringing at the word entitled. You are socialised to be selfless, to put others first. Prioritising your own needs leaves you feeling guilty. So how can you break out of that? Here’s what I think:

  • Acknowledge Where You Are

The first step is to admit to yourself where you are – that you’re doing too much and you need to stop. You can’t change something you won’t accept is happening so you need to look at the reality of what is happening and the impact it is having on you.

This might sound simple but it isn’t always easy. You may well feel like you’re a failure, you might worry what people will think of you and your critical inner voice will crank up the volume to try and keep you doing the same old thing. Now is the time for kindness.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” ― Jack Kornfield, Buddha's Little Instruction Book Click To Tweet
  • Assess the situation

Once you’ve reached the point of being honest with yourself, you can begin to assess the situation that you’ve found yourself in.

What exactly are all the things taking up your time and are they really your responsibility? Really, really your responsibility?

If you’re struggling with this one, I can recommend reading this blog by Carolyn Spring. You know the current situation isn’t sustainable so decide to put a stop taking on too much before it puts a stop to you.

  • Prioritise your time

Imagine you’ve got a cup full of your time and energy. At the moment you share that cup with everyone who asks and there’s rarely a drop left for you.

To live a balanced life, the idea is that you fill your cup with nourishment for yourself until it overflows. It is only then do you share this nourishment with others – not from your cup but from your saucer.

Another way to think of it is that when a plane starts to crash, you’re told to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.

  • Commit to one thing

Making the change to putting yourself above others can be tough so make it easy to start with. Start small.

Pick just one way you can put yourself first. It doesn’t need to be fancy, expensive or time consuming.

Don’t risk jumping in at the deep end – you’ll scare yourself and turn back to what you know. Start tiny if you need – I started with brushing my teeth twice a day, no matter what. As you’re doing it, remind yourself you’re doing this because you matter.

  • Consistency is key

Finally, you need to keep it going every day, no matter what.

Missing brushing your teeth one night out of seven because you’ve done so much you’ve fallen asleep on the sofa isn’t going to matter in the long run. What matters is the message you’re giving yourself.

Every time you do the action you’ve chosen, you reinforce that you matter. You say that you’re entitled to your health and your time, that you are looking after yourself as well as you look after others.

It might be a good idea to find a way to be accountable. Perhaps make tick chart and tick off each day or let a friend know what you’re doing and encourage each other.

Every time you choose to look after yourself, you reinforce the message that you matter. Click To Tweet

With each and every step along the way, remember to be kind to yourself.

Next week I’ll be writing about what do if you’re really feeling hopeless about even being able to do the basics of looking after yourself.

Until then you can find me on Facebook and Twitter or you can book an appointment with me.

Alice Tew

To do list with burnout

Heading For a Burnout? Why You Need To Know About Self Care

What’s on your to-do list this week?

  • Plan a week of enriching activities for your children
  • or go to work and exceed all your targets (or both!)
  • race to pick up the children from nursery or school
  • feed them, try and remember to do their homework, bath them, get them to bed
  • wash the pots, push the hoover around, iron clothes for tomorrow
  • pick up an email from your manager
  • argue with your partner about whose turn it is to put out the bins
  • ring your mother before she panics that you’ve dropped off the planet
  • burnout
Burnout probably isn't something you've written on your to-do list but if you're neglecting your self-care, you might as well have. Click To Tweet

Why is self care important anyway?

I used to be one of those people that just kept going and going. People seemed to look at me and marvel. I would regularly get comments like “I don’t know know how you do it” and “When do you sleep?!”. To me “it just needs to be good enough” and “you can only do your best” meant giving 100%, 24/7. As soon as I’d achieved one thing, I was on to the next thing – barely even leaving space to celebrate and enjoy my successes.

I was spinning all kinds of plates like a spectacular circus performer. Every day there were more and more plates to spin and they were wobbling faster and faster. Every day, I pushed myself harder and harder to spin, spin, spin. I tried dropping out some plates but new ones just appeared in their places.

Then, one day I had an unexpected shock – someone tried to hurt me in a way that left me feeling painfully vulnerable. I felt shaken at my core. With hindsight I could see there was no truth in this malicious attack and therefore no real risk to me. At the time, I was so exhausted and overwhelmed with everything else that I really believed there was.

My heart was racing, I couldn’t focus on anything, I kept snapping and crying. I didn’t recognise myself.

I had reached burnout.

Everything I had worked for was falling apart.

The plates all crashed to the ground. I didn’t feel spectacular; I felt sick. Everything I valued, everything I had worked hard for was at risk (or so it felt at the time). I tried a few different things – mindfulness, medication, positive thinking, but nothing worked. In my constant busyness, I had neglected all of my friendships and I felt completely alone.

I have to be honest – at this point, my critical inner voice was shouting “Therapist, heal thyself!” so loudly I thought other people might hear it. “Come on, sort yourself out, just get a grip.” I was trying to fix my problem in the exact same way I’d broken it. I didn’t want to ask for help, I didn’t want to tell anyone I was struggling and I was push, push, pushing myself to just fix it.

How do you heal from a burnout?

Thankfully, the therapist in me knew I couldn’t heal alone this time. She knew I needed help and so I found what I needed by returning to therapy.

This was a nerve-wracking experience but one that I am grateful for as it reminded me of what my own clients might feel when they contact me for an appointment or come for their first session. Click To Tweet

My therapist was exactly what I needed – calm, solid and most importantly she encouraged us to work at a steady pace. I knew this work as therapist but I had forgotten the sheer relief of what it was like to be on the receiving end of it. I didn’t need to struggle alone anymore, my therapist had my back.

Piecing my life back together

Together we began to survey the rubble of smashed plates and start to think about how to put the pieces of my life back together. They needed to go back together in such a way that I didn’t keep repeating the same mistakes.

It started with the basics – with self care. I don’t mean hand cream and spa days (though if that’s what works for you, keep doing it!). For me the basics was choosing a single, basic hygiene task and doing that consistently. It felt ridiculous at first – I was a qualified therapist, why on earth was I talking about brushing my teeth – but it soon became a way to show myself that I mattered, every single day, no matter what else needed doing, looking after myself came first. I had spent so long putting everyone else first, thinking burnouts wouldn’t happen to me. But it did. And this is why you need to know about self care.

No-one is immune to the risk of burning out.

Not even therapists.

Not even you.

So how can you prevent it happening?

  1. Self care.

No long and complicated lists. It doesn’t even have to take a long time. And it definitely doesn’t need to involve painting your nails or taking bubble baths.

How do you stop yourself from reaching the point of burnout? Stop firing on all cylinders. It’s a scary prospect and one you might need some support with but it is both possible and necessary.

Self care is both possible and necessary, no matter how little time you have. Click To Tweet

There’s no judgement here. If you’ve read this far, you know I’m in no position to judge.  Even if I was, one of my core beliefs is that judgement and shaming doesn’t lead to lasting positive change.

This is about kindness – showing yourself kindness. Letting yourself rest and recuperate.

But what if you haven’t got time to even think about it?

Let alone do it…

My unhelpful answer to that is “Leaving yourself to burnout will leave you with even less time to do the things you need to do.”

My helpful answer is in next week’s blog…


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