“Your subconscious mind is paying attention to how you treat yourself.”
Sam Owen

A Tick Box Exercise

Do you measure self care by what you’ve done or how you feel? It matters because self care is not about ticking things of a list. It is about how it makes us feel.

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, right? Wrong! I was only adding to my overwhelm by insisting I achieved my self care routines as well as everything else. 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, then you are probably doing pretty well. Self care excellence, however involves having something left over for those times when you have to manage or cope with extra demands. How are you doing?

Spending your substance

Many of us end up running on empty, giving out from an already depleted position, and still try to keep going. That is seriously NOT GOOD. The ideal self care fills us up to over flowing so we share from our surplus not our substance.

Measures of self care

Here are a few patterns relating to self care. Do you recognise yourself in any of these?

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. Then we have an early night, say no to dinner out, squeeze in a swim or a walk and 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. 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. It’s not satisfying and it doesn’t work long term. Invariably the 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. Then we leaping up and get on to the next task. We feel tired all the time and have to do a lot of pushing through. Although never empty we never full up either.

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.

A planet under stress

Modern human life has stressed our planet to capacity, the strain is showing everywhere. We know it’s not ok, that something needs to be done to repair, restore and regenerate our beautiful home. We are the same.
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. We 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 the human race has become toxic, polluted, under nourished or mal-nourished. We are stressed and over stretched. The flavours of these life stresses may be different but they do the same thing. They turn up in our body or mind alerting us to what needs attention in our lives.

self careWhat 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 any more. It’s called CFS or ME.  In truth it was the wake up call collection of symptoms screaming, “no more, this is not working.”
What an incredible lesson it was. It doesn’t mean my self care is 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 tasted surplus. I know 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 drained I know because of how I feel, that is my gauge. I become irritable and nit picky. I blame and criticise. Feeling horrible, stressed out, overwhelmed and unable to cope I moan and complain a lot. Tired when I get up tired when I go to bed becomes the norm.  All I can see are the things that HAVE to be done and I loose sight of anything positive in my life.
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 look after ourselves first?
  • 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 and 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.

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

 Lisa Nichols


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About the Author: Mairi

Radical Self Care Coach, supporting you to create a calmer, simpler, more deeply connected life where you take better care of yourself and our planet.

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  1. […] we fill our cup, as we give back to ourselves a strange thing begins to happen. We find we are re-energised but the […]

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