Exercise self-care and practise #iCherishMe.

I took a break recently at the end of August to exercise self-care: 6 days without intense doing, reading, planning, meeting clients. I gave my brain a vacation and my brain presented me with an epiphany, the idea to practise “I cherish me”. Without trying very hard, while I was out on a solitary walk in a nature reserve. More about this later, after the context. 

The Context: I love my work, a lot.

I realised that I had been working an average of 14hours a day for 3 months without a proper rest for my brain, my body and soul. Perhaps you found yourself working harder like I did, during the lockdown. With my socialising and commuting hours gone, freed up time meant that I could work more.  

The Context: I struggled.

My grief in this global pandemic also meant that it took more of me to do anything, so I found myself absolutely exhausted in July. Like many of us who tended to use our vacation days for a proper getaway, I found myself using some energy to unlearn that. (Pro tip: change management is really grief management). Being my own boss now also meant that I needed to unlearn previous misconceptions about working on the go. I am learning to establish my boundaries around how I want to operate the business (#iCherishMe moment).  

The Context: The need for self-care

So there, 6 days to practise self-care, to fully focus on rest: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social.  

Physical rest: I didn’t need to force myself to wake up in the morning. 自然醒。My favourite. 

Mental rest: Not worrying about my calendar, my business, preparation, problem-solving was bliss. Reading Charlotte Abraham’s “Hygge” contributed to my illuminating discovery of “I cherish me”. 

Emotional rest: This is a big one. Clinical work means for me holding space for a lot of difficult emotions. I needed to be relaxed and in nature to recharge and I hadn’t had time nor the opportunity to do that. My daily routine and weekend creative ventures were not sufficient in helping with emotional self-care. 

Spiritual rest: Purpose and meaning are important aspects of my life and I needed time and space for pause. 

Social rest: Hanging out with friends. 

Ideas coming together: Hygge 

My recent reading of Charlotte Abraham’s “Hygge” was cursory really because I wasn’t interested in the design aspects of the Danish construct. What struck me was the notion of “intention” and “cherish”. A dear friend said that “intention” was a value that I demonstrate through my speech and my actions. Self-care is about intention, not only about the act but how do I operationalise it or help others to do so too, I often wondered. The Danish have gotten it right by “turning contentment, well-being, happiness, into a thing that they can do”, Charlotte wrote. “Hygge” is a verb. “Hygge is about making time to let your soul catch up with your body.” How I love this concept! How do I apply it with intention?  

Ideas coming together: Self-care  

While exchanging air with the trees as I briskly walked along the trails of a nature reserve, I was struck by a thought. My break had been a gesture of prioritising my health over my business. It was self-care and a familiar construct, but I realised mindfulness is an important practice for pause and reflection. I had known when I left my previous job that my health would always be a priority, but this value hadn’t been operationalised recently. Many things are competing for my attention and with the numerous roles that I play, the idea of “me” somehow got diluted. But “me” is the only common denominator in every relationship/ project/ task that I’m involved in. So, to show up well with presence and energy, I have to mindfully and with intention, take good care of myself. 

Ideas coming together: Cherish 

The premise of self-care is the recognition that the self is as important or even more important than everything that we take care of. In the narratives of caregivers and individuals I support through my therapeutic work, those who struggle with the idea of “self-love” and those who are used to sacrificing themselves for others find difficulty with a term where “self” comes first.  

My Italian penpal (yes, penpals still exist) demonstrated since years ago how he cherishes our friendship beyond our language and physical barrier. It was in the little acts of kindness, consistent presence (through postcards, emails, text messages, etc), words of encouragement, involvement of community. Unconditional and just tenderness and care! “He cherishes me and our friendship” was my reply when nosy friends wanted to know if there was romance or love. “Cherish” is a verb that is less contestable than love.  I love “cherish”.

My Epiphany: Self-care as “I cherish me” 

The perks of giving your brain a break is to provide it with the space and time it needs to synthesize ideas.

There I was on my walk. While casually thinking about what I should read after finishing “Hygge”, to thanking myself for exercising self-care and self-love, I was offered the construct of practising “I cherish me”. This phrase somehow embodies self-care and self-love in action, at the same time conveying a sense of value of the self.

We don’t only cherish expensive jewellery. Memories and experiences that are intangible yet priceless are worth cherishing. We cherish anything even if it’s old and tattered, as long as we recognise its value. Relationships that are significant to us, we would want to cherish too.  

If we begin our day with our minds set on cherishing ourselves and how we operate in the day, would it change anything? Perhaps. So, try! Exercise self-care and practise #iCherishMe.

I wouldn’t work 14-hour days if I cherish me. Having some potato chips would be a natural choice, when I cherish me. Walking in a park every other day would become a habit because I cherish me. Visiting the beach every other week, of course! What about you?  

If you would like some ideas on self-care for your #iCherishMe moments, go ahead and read my post here.

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