Practising self-care isn’t always easy. Most of us are busy these days. We have stressful jobs, full calendars and long to-do lists. There’s also an enormous amount of stress and uncertainty in the world right now. Climate change events, the looming threat of war, economic uncertainty and the constant pressure to adapt to changing technology.
Most of us are carrying a lot.
In stressful or busy times, self-care is often last on the agenda of things to do. Worse, we can sometimes even feel guilty about making the time to look after ourselves.
But when we don’t prioritise self-care we pay a high price. We become more and more depleted, exhausted and overwhelmed. So this week I’m going to give you a simple technique to help you thrive and stay strong in stressful times by deciding on your core fundamentals.
Why self-care matters
If we don’t practice self-care on an ongoing basis, we can find ourselves slipping down into what is called the Exhaustion Funnel. This concept came from Dr. Marie Asberg from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. She is one of the world’s experts on burnout. Picture a funnel in your mind’s eye, with circles spiralling downward.
Dr. Marie teaches that the top circle of the funnel represents your life when it is in balance between things that nourish you and things that drain you or stress you. This is a sustainable place to stay.
As you get busier though, it can be tempting to start giving up the nourishing things to make room for “important” stuff. What usually happens is, you decide to stop doing the things that give you pleasure and recharging your batteries. You begin to think of nourishing things like family time, rest, play and hobbies as “optional.”
You tell yourself that you’re just putting them on the back burner for a little while since you don’t have time. You have so many other things to get done!
So, this is where you start to slip down into the exhaustion funnel. Slowly, you get more and more depleted because you’re not filling your cup, you’re just emptying it. And life starts to feel narrower and narrower.
Eventually, you are left with nothing but work and other chores in your life that drain you, like an energy vampire. You end up totally depleted and exhausted. And if you go all the way down to the bottom, you burn out, break down, or get sick. And it takes a very, very long time to recover once you get to here.
Exhaustion Funnel warning signs
If you have a feeling of being in a slump, that is often one of the first warning signs of being in the Exhaustion Funnel. You’re getting tired, moodier, you have to push yourself. You may be feeling a bit foggy-headed. This feeling of being in a slump is what happens when we stop doing the things that nourish us, energise us, and keep us healthy and strong.
Let’s face it, when we don’t take care of ourselves, we just make life harder. We lose energy, focus, and clarity. Our mood plummets and this has an impact on our relationships, our ability to work well, and our overall quality of life.
Hint: The Exhaustion Funnel tends to trap more of the people whose sense of self-worth and self-confidence is tied to work performance and achievement.
So how can we maintain calm, well-being and inner strength throughout the journey of our lives? Even when things are stressful or busy? One way to keep a check on this is to have fundamentals. These are habits that you do consistently, usually daily to keep you happy, vital, and energised.
You commit to them as your minimum self-care routine to keep you consistently strong.
The fundamentals concept
While launching and co-leading mindfulness.com, our wonderful COO Holly introduced our team to this concept of fundamentals. Everyone on the team decided on their three fundamentals and wrote them down for all of us to see.
Each week we would then check in on each other, to see if we were getting them done. This was not done with any sense of judgement but rather, to see if that person was keeping their work-life balance healthy and to make sure they were not slipping into the exhaustion funnel.
So, for me, my three fundamentals are:
- Daily meditation for a minimum of 30 minutes
- Daily exercise for a minimum 45 minutes, and
- Time in nature daily
For other people on our team, it was things like getting 8 hours of sleep, doing a hobby they love, spending quality time with loved ones, prayer, or yoga. One person on our team loved cooking, so he set aside time for that because it nurtured him.
Finding your three fundamentals
So, what nurtures and nourishes you? What would be your three fundamentals that if you did them daily or close to, would help you thrive in your life? Start small and be realistic. You could do simple things, like take a 15-minute tea break in the sun. Or some gentle stretching. Or it could be around making sure you eat healthy food.
I encourage you to take some time today to write your three fundamentals down. Make a commitment to honour them each day, as an act of self-love, wisdom and sanity.
It can be hard for us to find extra time. But now more than ever, it’s extremely important to plan regular self-care time. The more you can work these fundamentals into your schedule, the more effective, productive and successful you’ll be over the long term, as well as staying happy, healthy and in balance along the way.
I hope this is of benefit to you. Thank you for practising becoming mentally stronger.
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