Our resident Organisational Psychologist, Coach, and Mum, Leisha McGrath is here to answer your burning questions on returning to work from maternity leave and how to achieve a healthy work/life balance:
Meghan in Tipperary sent us this question:
Q: I keep hearing the term “Self-Care.” What does it really mean and why is it in vogue now? It feels like something else that just puts more pressure on us all!
A: Oh no! Please don’t feel like this is another source of pressure. In fact, the opposite is the case.
Self-care is literally about taking care of YOU. And what that means to each of us is as unique as our individual fingerprints. Not only that but what works today may work less well tomorrow, depending on what is going on in our wider lives. So we need to acknowledge that we are only one vessel, and we need to take active steps in replenishing our energy stores – and not necessarily after we’ve minded our kids, family, friends, and work!
So why is it a buzzword now? Well, when our parents were growing up it was quite a different world. You didn’t have to make Pinterest-worthy cakes and maintain your size eight figure. Nor did you need to climb professional ladders while never missing one single moment of your child’s life. You did operate in smaller social circles perhaps, and you quite often went to Mass and had time to reflect internally as to what was going on with you. What I’m getting at is, that life was different then.
These days we are bombarded with so much information. We are “supposed” to be so many – often contradictory – things, which we live our lives with a very external focus. We call this having an “external locus of control,” which means that we get our sense of self-worth from sources external to ourselves. We feel good if someone recommends us in work, or if we believe someone else likes our outfit, or praises our parenting skills. Increasingly in our society it is harder to find the time to look inwards, to set our own standards and to validate ourselves – an “internal locus of control”. If we give power over to others to tell us how we feel about ourselves, we’ll be at the mercy of much in the way of highs and lows!
What Self-Care encourages is something of an inner reflection. Asking yourself how you’re feeling right now and accepting the answer is not something we necessarily have been equipped with the skills to do. But it is so important! Whereas previous generations did have more of a focus on spiritual and internal matters, largely speaking, I think our generation is only catching up on this now. Which is why interests like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are so popular.
What you actually do to replenish your inner resources is incidental and should not be a source of competition in the mummy wars! (Don’t get me started on those!). What you are essentially doing is consciously and regularly checking in with yourself to see what you need to prioritise in order for you to feel replenished.
I regularly articulate to my kids that my needs are important too, and Mummy is off to do X, in order to care for myself. This, to my mind, is a healthy message for them. Of course, the “X” varies! Sometimes it can mean a trip to the salon, other times it’s 30 minutes alone with my journal, a walk in nature, or meeting friends for drinks. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you do what it is that makes you feel better, feel important and relevant, and feel connected to who you were/are, irrespective of the multiple hats that you wear day-to-day.
I hope this takes the pressure out of Self-Care and kick starts a journey for you that is positive and nourishing – and fun. Enjoy!
Do you have a question for Leisha McGrath? Send us an email in confidence to firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her website, lma.ie.