I’ve been pondering the concept of self-love – or self-care – for a while now, specifically how it relates to our lives as career-driven, ambitious, successful women and triathletes. And how–if I want to maintain my health, stay successful, and live a fulfilled personal life whilst pursuing triathlon–this becomes more of a daily necessity, rather than an infrequent afterthought when I find myself halfway down the slope towards stress and fatigue.
With full disclosure, only a few years ago the words self-love and self-care didn’t even feature in my vocabulary. Words like driven, ambitious, single-minded, and to be truthful, self-centred to describe my actions, got a lot of air time. My priorities were different, and I had a much narrower view of the world. However, with time comes experience, my priorities changed once again, and now that I’m running my own business and travelling a lot, trying to find enough time to train (and compete?!) in triathlons has become the daily juggle. That is, finding the healthycombination of work, triathlon and life, without breaking down physically and mentally. Because I’ve been there (abovementioned “experience”), and I don’t wish to revisit that dark place again anytime soon.
It seems that everywhere I look now, I come across articles, podcasts, and research on the importance of self-care for physical and mental well-being and health protection for businesswomen, which is wonderful, but in my mind, can be easily translated to us as triathletes. Quite often, we’re experiencing similar types of stress in our training environments, sometimes in addition to our work stress. Double-whammy!
What interests me the most is the actual concept of self-love, which in some definitions, really is just the most basic forms of self-care, that seem to have gotten lost along the journey from our 5am training session to the 8pm office over-time. Traditionally, we think of self-love as these big, fancy gestures to ourselves that cost a mozza and take up chunks of time that quite frankly, we just don’t have. What I have recently learnt, is that self-love doesn’t have to be extravagant spa days, or pamper packages, or weekend yoga retreats like social media marketing suggests; instead, acts of self-love can be as simple as taking 10 minutes out of the office every morning to enjoy a coffee in the sunshine! Isn’t that more achievable? I’m pretty sure it would make us feel awesome too.
It’s these types of small, simple strategies that I have been testing out in my own life in recent months, with varying degrees of success. I’m not perfect, and sometimes it is all too easy to fall into the trap of high workloads at the expense of self-care and our own well-being, but I’d like to think I am 100 times better at this now than I was 5 years ago. And that’s what matters; becoming aware of the issue and taking action – however small – to improve it.
Some of the strategies I’ve been using are really simple, but to make this effective, you have to know what makes you happy, what clears your mind, or what gives you that refreshed and energized feeling after completing that action. For example, a few of my favourite things are finding cool café’s with great coffee; being near the ocean or river; and early morning exercise with my friends for a social fix. Each of these activities either clear my mind, re-energise me, or simply bring me joy. So, I’ll wake up in the morning and make sure I have one of these activities planned in my day. At the very least, I’ll take my laptop to the café or work outside on a park table near the water, which still gives me that same level of enjoyment and clarity of mind. It’s also knowing I have the flexibility and control in my lifestyle that shows I care about how I live each day, that also makes a difference to me.
If you want to take a more stringent approach to self-love, a recent article in Forbes takes this concept a step further, describing self-love in terms of self-care practices that are based on good decision-making; such as, saying no to things that will cause you stress and anxiety; saying no to the office cake and choosing healthier nutrition options; or opting out of a second glass of wine at Friday night drinks. According to this article, self-care is a discipline that should be practiced daily. On these issues, and others that matter to you.
On one hand, this approach really helps when you have made a commitment to yourself to take better care of your health, or you have a specific goal that you are working to achieve. Goals like smashing out a triathlon race, for example. Preparing for a race takes a lot of dedication, self-discipline, and a ton of training, so this strategy may be really beneficial for those who need a more structured way of looking after themselves, in order to achieve their goals.
Personally? I get the gist of course, but to me it just takes the fun and joyfulness out of the activity! However small or simple the activity is, I like to feel happy whilst I’m doing it. I mean, isn’t that the whole point?! The purpose is to take small pockets of time out for ourselves regularly so that we have the energy, headspace and interest to do what we need to do each day, repeatedly, without hitting the wall or sliding into a mental/emotional/physical meltdown (or a messy combination of all 3). It’s about consistency, and stability, and life management…or at least, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to, anyway.
So what makes you happy? What simple activity can you include in your day, to show yourself some love and appreciation? You have a lunch hour, do you get outside? You have a cute dog, do you make time to walk it? How often do you use the bathtub instead of the functional shower?
I’m keen to continue exploring this concept and how it can further benefit my life, health and well-being, so as I learn more about this I’ll be sharing it with you here. For now, I’m keen to hear what your favourite activities are and what these do for you in managing your lifestyle. Share below!