Self care 'expertise'? Recognising my life experience & what nature can offer us.
I don't profess to be an expert, in fact I'm definitely guilty of feeling 'imposter syndrome' from time to time. At times like this I have to remind myself why I do what I do and the life experience I've had that has led me to this field.
Yes I've got qualifications and work and voluntary experience, but in practice it's my own life journey that really informs the depth of my offerings.
What I share is an eclectic mix of nature-based, creative, embodied things I've tried and found to work for myself. Different things work at different times, and I'm constantly adapting.
The key thing isn't what you do (although having great tools is also useful and something I also focus on). It's developing a deep understanding and acceptance of where you're at, what your resources are and what you need.
Develop a reflective practice.
Listen to yourself.
What needs are being expressed?
Where is energy being lost?
Where/how can you replenish it?
Therefore, the first thing I focus on are tools to come into deeper connection with ourselves key is to listen to the signals of your body. I also offer general techniques for calming, energising etc, and these can be really useful, but first you need to know what you need! What you REALLY need can be surprising, not necessarily alligning what you want.
Coming from this deeply personal perspective informed by my own life journey feels authentic and freeing, yet intensely vulnerable. I've poured my heart into this. I'm being FULLY myself, all my struggles to the table. I am happy to share stories of my own difficulties with physical and mental illness and traumatic personal/global events. It's from this rich, personal and often painful compost that my offerings such as these new self-care sessions emerged.
I prefer the term 'guide' or facilitator, because I never profess to know 'the answers', which are of course as varied as people are. I'm much more interested in the journey, led by curiosity and informed by collective wisdom and experience of the group or the individual I'm working with.
My journey I've had (possibly more than) my share of physical health dramas, hospitals, operations, mysterious health conditions, frustrations and disappointments. I spent 12 years in my childhood being dismissed and misdiagnosed by the medical profession because what I had was so rare. Meanwhile I faced the lonely despair of long term chronic fatigue, somehow negotiating the majority of my life through a combination of efficiency, pacing myself, and sheer willpower (which wasn't very gentle on myself). Alongside physical health issues I also lived with the debilitating sinking nothingness of depression and spiraling, paralyzing anxiety, which can be a confusing and lethal combination. I endured long term stress and intensely stressful jobs where I burned myself out spectacularly and utterly several times. Learning lessons and gradually getting better at prevention and mitigation (within the limits of what was within my control.)
So when I talk about self care, I do so from this wealth of personal experience. I've also attended seminars, courses, learned tools and gained qualifications (for example nature-based mindfulness). But the core, the heart, of what I offer comes from ME, and the life I've lived. Which naturally makes it utterly terrifying and vulnerable to put this "out there". I'm literally offering myself, my heart, my life lessons, and the gritty self-care strategies that I gathered about me along the way to pull my through.
So I guess you could say my work is my life!
But not in the way that this is often meant...
My life journey has become my work through informing it.
This is why I care so much about what I offer, and it's why I place so much emphasis on self care in all my sessions. I'm very lucky and grateful to have had fabulous family, friends and colleagues to support my journey. However, as with all things, it ultimately comes down to YOU. For me, self-care is many-faceted. Key factors I've noticed include: - knowing your limits, - pacing yourself, - knowing when you have the resources to do more, - knowing when to say no, - learning to trust your body wisdom and your intuition. For example, noticing our familiar patterns on the road to burnout and intervening to mitigate them: - noticing when we are taking on too much (just because we could doesn't mean we should. If we did this for everything we'd be quickly overwhelmed), - noticing when we keep pushing through but never letting ourselves finally rest because there's always something else to push through, - noticing the pendulum swing between full-on and collapse and trying to ease the swings to a more middling motion, without huge peaks/troughs, - coming out of our heads and our relentless never-ending 'to do' lists of 'shoulds' and 'have to's'. Through trial and error I've developed my own toolkit for challenging and reversing these tendencies. I haven't always caught myself in time. But with awareness I increasingly tune in to my body's alarm calls, stopping myself before my body stops me with chronic illness or exhaustion. Because what I've learned is that THIS WILL HAPPEN. Whether it's a month away or several years away, it's inevitable that one day balance will need to be restored. The analogy of a car running on fumes springs to mind, and what happens when there's not even fumes...?
So what is nature-based self care? When I get out into nature my aim is to refuel. To focus on things that uplift, energise and connect me, because this is how we build our inner and outer resources.
I feel connected to something bigger than me, I feel part of nature, I'm not using it for my benefit, it IS me and vice versa.
I build these moments into my daily routines so it's manageable, 5 minutes here, 20 minutes there i.e. looking out the window noticing the sky or the birds whilst doing the washing up or while I'm on the phone. It doesn't have to be something special or fancy like sitting down to practice meditation for 30 minutes in lotus pose.
Time to simply BE.
So yes, I suppose I could be a self-care 'expert', but I prefer to call myself 'guide/facilitator'. We all have our own experience, our own life journeys, our own struggles, and in my sessions I welcome our collective wisdom. As a therapist my aim is to facilitate the client's own journey towards deeper self understanding, it comes from them. I sure do have a lifetime of experience, and the testiment to this is that I'm sitting here writing this for you...
I made it through ALL the days prior to this.
Some days I really did feel I was dragging myself through by a thread...
Looking back there are times that I can't believe I did it, the ropes got very frayed at times...
Yet here I am, in this moment, connecting with you and drinking in the magical winter sun glittering on the snow outside as I type.
They say "Where there is a will there is a way", and personalised, flexible self-care routines can help free up and strengthen our inner resources so we can better face whatever is going on in our lives, personally and in wider society. This all feels very necessary at the moment!
Sending love and strength to all in these challenging times.