What does self-care look like?

I’m writing this article during the month of July in the year 2020 and I’m asking all sorts of questions to get you thinking about your own self-care. Recently I wrote about how to stress less in nature. Nature offers a rich and beautiful set of self-care tools that you can easily and affordably access. In the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast last week I shared a guided mindfulness practice that you can do outdoors – once again this is a valuable self-care tool.

But today I want to get back to exploring the true meaning of self-care including what you most need to focus on so you don’t get distracted or led up the wrong path when it comes to self-care. Next week you’ll get some tips on managing one of the most common obstacles that women stumble over with self-care, and that’s time – juggling all the things, the competing priorities and responsibilities.

self-care month

Self-care is never skin-deep

Self-care is never skin deep. If you believe the advertisements trying to sell you a glossy image of self-care, it might look like having your nails done, having a holiday in Bali or spending a whole day shopping for new clothes and handbags and shoes. And these activities can be part of self-care. But if we only focus on buying luxury and often expensive activities, services and products to make ourselves feel good, then we’re missing out on the vital aspects, the very foundations of true self-care.

Finding a common thread between Child Care, Aged Care and Self-Care

Let’s look at it another way. If I asked you what’s child care, or aged care or neighbourhood care, what do you think of? What are the tasks, the activities you actually do when you’re caring for children or older people in poor health or your neighbours?

Child Care – tasks and values

When I think of child care for example, I think about looking after children’s physical and emotional needs like:

  • providing a safe environment for them to play
  • giving them plenty of running around time outdoors
  • preparing food
  • buying the groceries and bringing them home
  • getting the house in order
  • making sure the kids have educational activities like great books and games
  • setting boundaries on their bedtimes and use of devices
  • cooking nutritious meals
  • packing their lunches with care and attention (sometimes leaving a special treat or message in there for them)
  • making sure they get to sports practice and get their homework done
  • supporting them to rise up to challenges and celebrate the joys and successes
  • helping them settle down to sleep with a good evening routine
  • listening to the children with compassion when they’re upset, giving them some gentle advice and checking back in with how they’re going later on
  • organising medical advice and treatment when they are unwell

Caring for children, aged and sick people, and our neighbours generally starts with making sure that physical and emotional needs are met. Care also goes beyond those basics because our actions align with values such as love, kindness and compassion.

Self-Care – tasks and values

When it comes to self-care how many of these tasks do you routinely do for yourself, and when you do, are you doing them with love, care, kindness and compassion?

Which of these tasks or values get left out?

Where are you at with your self-care?

Here are some reflective questions you can ask yourself to identify where you’re at with self-care right now. These questions are intended to be a prompt to identify where you might be able to focus some extra energy and attention. They’re not meant to be a judgement or comparison between yourself and anyone else. Self-care looks a bit different to each individual so there is no right way of doing it. But you’ll know when you’re doing self-care better because you’ll have more energy, attention and compassion for the other parts of your life – your relationships, the people you care for. You’ll feel like your cup is full enough to be able to share your time and energy being with others and helping others at work or in your personal life.

Self-Care Audit and Reflection QUESTIONS

• Am I choosing carefully and lovingly what I feed myself with, what I put into and onto my body – food as natural as possible, water, cosmetics, and anything else?
• Am I looking after myself by moving my body throughout the day? This is the single biggest factor that will improve your health prospects.
• Am I getting outside everyday to enjoy the fresh air, or sunshine, or rain, the garden, the clouds, the breeze?
• Am I exercising? Exercise is physical movement for a specific purpose for example to improve cardio-vascular fitness, flexibility, endurance, strength.
• Am I nurturing myself with social activities that feed my mind and soul? Am I connecting with people who lift me up and add great value to my life?
• Am I getting enough sleep?
• Am I self-disciplined with using devices and how I spend my time including getting to bed and getting up in the morning?
• Do I listen to my body and my mind and my heart?
• Am I compassionate and caring towards myself in ways that I’m compassionate and caring towards others?
• How am I speaking to myself today? Am I speaking to myself as I would speak to a friend?
• Am I spending time in nature? Do I check in every week to find my place in the natural world? 2 hours a week is good amount of nature time to aim for to enjoy its benefits the most.
• Do I gift myself time and space to reflect, to think, to pause, to just be?

self-care nutritionself-care sleepself-care move more
Are you neglecting or nurturing your self-care?

These questions dig down into the very foundations of self-care that we often neglect. These are the aspects of self-care that build your health and energy, your sense of vitality and self-worth. They don’t sound super-exciting or dazzling but they are essential. If you neglect these foundations, and spend your time, energy and money constantly seeking other activities to fill your self-care cup, you’ll never be content.

What parts of self-care do you most need to focus on?

What aspects of self-care are you currently practising and feel satisfied with?

And which ones would you like to work on?

How are you going to do that?

What might get in the way?

Share your story with me!

I love having conversations like these with the women in my communities and I’d love to hear from you too. Let me know how your self-care practices are going, what the challenges are and what’s working well. You can also request a complementary 30 minute video chat (for a limited time, maximum numbers, Australia only).

If you haven’t already, join the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Community where there’s lots of sharing of inspiring ways to practise self-care in the outdoors. You can also sign up to receive my fortnightly Grounded Inspiration email newsletters filled with snippets of information and inspiration to keep your self-care, health and happiness rolling along.

Listen along to the podcast episode “What does self-care look like?”

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups, workplaces and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

Adventures are for everyone

I believe that adventures are for everyone. Yet people tell me all sorts of reasons why they don’t or can’t have adventures in their lives.

wild flowers in background with text that says adventures are for everyone

What’s stopping YOU from leading a life of adventure?

The most common reasons people give me are:

  • I’m too old, my adventuring days are long gone
  • I’m not fit / strong / co-ordinated enough
  • I don’t have enough money
  • I’ve got too much pain
  • I’m too scared to do adventurous things
  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t have the energy
  • It looks too hard
  • I can’t leave my children / partner / dependants / pets
  • I can’t have time off work
  • My health won’t allow me
  • I don’t know anyone else who would want to do it
  • I’ll wait till I feel motivated

Acknowledge the obstacles but don’t let excuses paralyse you

people having a picnic on a grassy road verge with bicycles lying down on the grass
Don’t let your fears and lack of confidence stop you from having adventures in life

These are all legitimate issues that need to be acknowledged and talked about. But it’s vital you don’t stop there with simply talking or whingeing. You see, the thing is that whingeing can turn into excuses. Excuses can turn into paralysis because you can’t see a way forward. Being stuck in a rut is no fun and the downward spiral can be terrifying.

The excuses that have paralysed me

I’m writing this post, not only because I’m a mental health social worker and it’s my job to share information that improves your wellbeing. I’m also a human being and I know what it’s like to be sick and in pain and to care for dependants who are sick and in pain. I’ve spent 29 years as a stay at home Mum prioritising my children’s needs above all else, working part-time jobs and building a business around them as they grew up. I know what it’s like to be sleep deprived, devoid of energy, overwhelmed and scared. I’ve often been geographically isolated from friends and didn’t want to go along to activities on my own. Money, fitness and skill have definitely been obstacles to enjoying adventures. And as I get older I’ve had those thoughts of “Hmmm….am I too old for this? Will I hurt myself? Does anyone else my age do this?”

Learn to manage the obstacles

So I’m not anyone special when it comes to adventures. I don’t have any superpowers, and I don’t have any magic fixes but I have learned a lot about the link between mental health and an adventurous mindset. By learning to manage my obstacles I’ve stepped into another world of excitement, confidence and hopefulness and I’d like to share my ideas with you so that you can too. My way of managing my obstacles and excuses may not work for you. After all, we’re all different, so you’ll need to spend some time experimenting to see what works for you.

Are you open to the possibility of adventure? And all the benefits that go with it? Read my blog post about Why You Need To Have An Adventure Goal

Getting past your obstacles

You’ll need to think creatively about your obstacles, those things that get in the way of you having adventures in life. Thinking about the problems in the same old way you always have probably won’t get you anywhere. A great place to start is rethinking your ideas about exactly what an adventure is.

Adventures DON’T have to be physically demanding!

Let’s get the definition straight here – adventures DON’T have to be physically demanding, world record-breaking feats although that’s what we generally think of when we hear the word. These sorts of activities make for dramatic headlines but there’s much more to an adventurous life than that.

Adventures stretch you outside your comfort zone

An adventure is anything you do that challenges yourself in some way. It usually involves an element of RISK (eg physical, emotional or social) and stretches you OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE either a little bit or a lot – and that’s different for everyone. If it makes you feel nervous or excited and is outside your comfort zone, then it’s an adventure! How cool is that! No comparisons with anyone else (or your younger self) shall be entered into! So, no matter your age, gender, time available or what other responsibilities you have in life, there’s a suitable adventure waiting for you.

Every single day is chock full of opportunities for you to choose your own adventure. So let’s get going!

Choose your own adventure!

people looking up at a waterfall
Hiking to a waterfall is a favourite outdoor adventure

We’ve established that adventures don’t have to be crazy headlining stunts, and that there are opportunities in our everyday lives to experience adventure. Now it’s time to discover some adventures that are just right for you – no matter your age, fitness level, areas of interest or ability. Remember, you need to choose your adventures based on what makes you feel a bit excited or nervous and that’s slightly outside your comfort zone. So grab a notepad and pen, and as you read through the list below, allow yourself to be inspired to create a list of adventures you’d consider taking on this year.

Social Adventures

Contact an old friend
Join a club or social group
Invite someone over for a cuppa
Go to a class and learn a new skill
Connect with an online group
Research your family history
Volunteer at an event or fundraiser
Organise an outing with friends
Meet a friend at a cafe
Go to a conference or community event
Go to a festival you haven’t been to before
Organise a meet-up of extended family, friends or colleagues
Throw a party or have a family picnic

Physical Adventures

Learn a new sport
Join a sporting or exercise club or group
Climb a mountain
Go on a multi-day hike
Try white water rafting
Enter a race
Participate in a charity walk
Explore a National Park
Take up a new hobby

Spiritual and Cultural Adventures

Go to a meditation class
Take up a daily mindfulness practice
Visit a new place
Travel to a place that speaks a foreign language or volunteer with an ESL (English as a second language) class
Eat at a restaurant that serves food you are not familiar with
Prepare a meal using ingredients you don’t usually use
Plant and nurture a garden
Visit a place of worship that you are not familiar with
Help a charity

Mental Adventures

Join a chess or card club
Make or create something new or from repurposed materials
Teach yourself a new skill (eg crochet, painting, whittling, programming, video editing)
Experiment to create your own recipes or designs
Set up an online business
Take a class or sign up to a course
Get a new hobby that uses your brain in new ways
Become a mentor for a new worker
Write a book or start a blog

art and craft materials spread out on a table
Creative adventures can include art and craft at home or at a workshop

What inspired and do-able adventures have you written down on your list?

I’d love to know! Send me a message.

Be your own boss and get that adventure started!

And now it’s time to get started – be your own boss and take the actions you need to sprinkle an adventure or two into your life today.

You can listen to Adventures are for Everyone on the “Outdoors is my Therapy” podcast!

Daisy Spoke avatar has long curly hair and smiling mouth

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Women’s Wellness: Creating the ideal exercise experience!

Connection ….. Ease ….. Laughs ….. Shared experiences ….. Less pressure

These are some of the motivations that women and girls speak about when offered the opportunity for women-only sporting activities. There are many other reasons that individuals (whether identifying as male, female or otherwise) gravitate towards gender-specific activities. Despite the arguments for inclusiveness in sport, there are many women and girls who are reluctant to participate unless women-only events and activities are on offer.

There is growing concern for obesity and other conditions related to sedentary behaviour including chronic illness and poor mental health. Apart from the obvious burden on the nation’s economy, the real burden of poor health is lived out and carried everyday by individuals, families and communities. As a community, I believe we need to creatively explore the possibilities when it comes to getting people active, and not expect individuals to slot into the pre-existing boxes for engaging with physical activities.

Our society has been predominantly constructed and written by the male voice. Our medical research is skewed towards what works best on male subjects. And likewise, our sporting establishments have traditionally been set up by and for men. For women, there has long been the pressure to fit in with these establishments, or make minor modifications to better meet their identified need.

Rural and regional Australia has poorer health outcomes than its urban counterparts, so I’m really keen to make a constructive contribution to the health and wellbeing of my community on the southern Darling Downs, and to encourage women and girls to creatively construct systems and routines so they can enjoy being more active.

But I think it’s time we questioned whether our systems are meeting everyone’s needs –  not only women. Times they are a changin’ and the best time for change is now. I’d love to hear ideas from everyone regardless of gender:

  • What works for you when it comes to getting active and staying active?

  • What is your ideal way to increase your physical activity and reduce your sedentary behaviour?

  • What would motivate you to stay committed to your health and wellness through exercise and physical activity?

Leave your comments and ideas, or head over to Daisy Spoke’s Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/daisyspokeblog/?ref=bookmarks

On Your Bikes: Our First Women and Girls MTB Ride

Women in sport is a vital part of the success and growth of any club, and so last Sunday we invited women and girls along for a ‘women-only’ ride at Passchendaele State Forest. We had nine women along for the ride and I can safely say that every one of them was very brave for simply turning up to the fresh and frosty start at only 7 degrees Celsius! This was simply the beginning of our inspiring adventure into the forest.

We were heralded by shrieks of awesomeness as some of the women ventured onto single track for the first time; laughs of newly formed friendships as we warmed up and peeled off the layers; and words of encouragement and advice as the newbies mixed it with the more experienced riders in the bunch. We climbed the hilly and rocky terrain of the forest, notching up the miles and the skill level, and enjoyed the relative ease of the gentle downhill sections. We marvelled at the winter weather which provided perfect conditions for the ride despite the chilly start! The bright blue sky, the cheeky breeze, the green forest, the red toadstools, the black cockatoos, the lively kangaroos and the stunning view from “the little big rock” were all there to show off what an amazing world we share (and how far we’d ridden throughout the morning!)

There were a couple of ‘offs’ and a few sore butts by the end of the ride, but so many treasured moments of fun, laughter and togetherness. Bring on the next ride, I say!

The recently formed Southern Downs Mountain Biking Club is gathering momentum. Membership is expanding and the community is supporting its efforts to provide safe and fun riding opportunities in the local area. With plans for MTB trails to be built right in the heart of Stanthorpe on Mt Marlay, club members have been regularly gathering for social rides further afield.

So stay tuned….. We’re planning lots more rides and activities for everyone – beginners, families, and all abilities. We’ll be exploring various locations across the Darling Downs and everyone is invited to join us.

If you would like more information, check out Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/520911538119350/

….. or contact me – your women’s ride co-ordinator 🙂