Do you measure self care by what you’ve done?


How you feel?

A Tick Box Exercise

A number of years ago I used to treat self care like a tick box exercise.
Yoga – tick
Walk – tick
Read – tick
Meet a friend – tick
Early bed – tick
Checking off my list meant I was doing well. Wrong! I was only adding to an already overloaded system by insisting I achieved my self care routines as well. It was just another thing to do.

It’s about how you feel

Self care is not about what we do, it’s about how we feel. It doesn’t matter how many “nice” things we do for ourselves unless it genuinely improves our state of mind.
If you feel good, handle everyday life reasonably well, know when to stop, can pull back when needed, say no to others and yes to yourself when required, then you are probably doing pretty well.
If you can also balance pushing a little to manage or cope with something extra because you know you have spare capacity or the space and ability to rest afterwards then BIG TICK to you, your self-care has gone up a notch.

Spending your substance

If however you are running on empty, giving out from an already depleted position and still trying to keep going. That is seriously NOT GOOD.
The ideal self care fills us up to over flowing so we share with the world from our surplus not our substance. If the doing of self care feels like its taking even more from our ever emptying cup we need stop and pay attention.
Radical Self-Care

Only when we have to

Sadly many of us only tend to our self care when we have to. We wait until a dribble remains in our cup and then we do it. We have an early night, say no to a night out, squeeze in a swim or a walk and then off we go again.
The problem is this happens repeatedly, it’s boom and bust, a yo yo existence which never fills us up.

Running on Empty

Another version is to run on empty most of the time. Like watching the low fuel light we pray we’ll get wherever we’re going. Then we plan to stop for a refill.
This weekend, that half day next week, or perhaps we are hanging on for the next holiday is not satisfying and it doesn’t work long term and invariably these breaks never come.

Topping up

Then there’s the topping up type of so called self care. Like shoving a fiver of fuel in every other day we grab a wee sit down for 5 mins, declaring how knackered we are, before leaping up and on to the next task. We feel tired all the time and have to do a lot of pushing through.
Although not empty we never add enough to fill us up.

Flat out of Fuel

You do not want to reach this place. It’s the dead end, literally for some. Our poor bodies, like the planet we live on, can only tolerate so much before they give up. We recognise it around us. The affects of climate change leading to eco-system collapse.
Dropped into conversations regularly we recognise that modern human life has stressed our planet to her capacity and now the strain is showing. We know it’s not ok and something needs to be done to fix it. We are the same.

Our own eco-system

We are an integral part of planetary life yet when it comes to our own personal eco-systems we don’t seem to get it. They too are showing the stresses of modern human life. Dis-ease, be it physical or emotional is the signal that something is out of whack.
Like our beautiful planet we too are toxic, polluted, under nourished or mal-nourished, stressed and over stretched. We will all have our own particular flavours of these life stresses but whatever they are, they do the same thing, they turn up in our body or mind alerting us to what needs attention in our lives.

What a lesson

For me it was mental health and gut issues ignored for years which finally caused the collapse. My body stopped working and I couldn’t function as normal any more. It’s called CFS or ME, but in truth it’s the wake up call collection of symptoms screaming, “no more, this is not working.”
What an incredible lesson it has been. It doesn’t mean my self care is now spot on perfect, yo man, hand slap fabulous! No, but it does mean that it’s vastly improved. Having experienced the loss of substance, drained to the bottom of my cup I had no choice but to figure out how to fill it up again.  I have now felt surplus, what it feels like to be full and brimming over and I am loath to give it up. It’s a precious thing.


When I am draining, I know it because of how I feel, that is my gauge. I become irritable and nit picky. I start complaining and moaning. I blame and criticise. I feel horrible, stressed out, overwhelmed and unable to cope. I get out of bed tired, I go to bed tired. I only see the things that HAVE to be done and loose sight on anything positive in my life. Gratitude…….pah! Life feels grim and hard, a struggle, what could there possibly be to feel thankful for. Even if everything was perfect I’d still find a flaw when I’ve depleted my reserves and ignored my self care.

What feels good?

Do I really need to write this section?

We all know, right?

We know what makes us feel better. We know that consistent, compassionate, care and concern for ourselves is where it’s at. This is radical self-care.

It’s not the wee top-up when, quite frankly we’ve already gone too far. It’s the stuff we do that fills the cup and leads to that incredible flow of our surplus into the world, a world that needs our excess.

It’s the place where we feel amazing. Joy bubbles up from within, our passions burn, we feel enthusiastic, engaged and alive.

What stops us?

It’s not a case of resolving to do better anymore. That’s old hat. Now we need to address what lies beneath, why we don’t do it, what stops us practicing self care all the time.

Why we can’t care for ourselves better?

What makes us put other’s needs before our own?

Why we feel guilty if we do?

What drives the continual doing?

The world doesn’t need any more martyrs who run around doing all the time, people who collect strokes for all their good works while slowly falling apart. It doesn’t need anymore of us worn out, worn down, overwhelmed and done in with it all.

It’s time to stop pussy footing around. We need to practice radical self-care, NOW.

Joy, passion, energy, enthusiasm are the rewards that await us. This is what we can share with the world, the surplus that flows when we fill our own cup first.

I’d like some Radical Self Care

“Your job is to fill your own cup, so it overflows. Then, you can serve others, joyfully from your saucer.”

 Lisa Nichols