Self-Care: Filling up your cup
When things go pear-shaped, which, when you’re a bendy body happens frequently, the one thing we can rely on is self-care strategies. Let’s talk ‘filling up your cup’!
“Self-care” is one of the most self-explanatory terms we use in health care. It actually means what it says: caring for oneself. Some people find this concept of self-care a bit strange, especially if they have come from an environment where others’ needs were always placed before their own. However, there is nothing more important than self-care, especially if you’re a carer of someone else (hint hint, parents & carers).
I’ve heard the concept of self-care described in many ways, but my favourite is “the cup”. I was once told, “you cannot give from an empty cup; you must make sure your own cup is filled and help others from the overflow of your cup, not from that which is within your own cup”.
That message has stuck with me ever since. We are no good to anyone if we are burnt out. We are no good to anyone if we can’t actually help ourselves. That is why our own care has to come first; if it doesn’t, our ability to help others will dry up very quickly.
For people with chronic health conditions, this idea of being able to “help others from the overflow” feels quite out of reach. Realistically, it is more about helping ourselves. If we can fill up our cups, then we can better help ourselves from the overflow.
I like to think of the cup as kind of a baseline tolerance for life. With a cup that is full to the brim, we are at “coping” level. Things still go wrong; joints still dislocate; we still get ridiculously fatigued, but we can cope with a few extra things being thrown our way without losing it all completely. When our cup is empty, we aren’t at coping level anymore, we are in “survival mode”, and that’s when everything that goes wrong is a major debacle. We cry or get upset at everything; we feel miserable and are just really struggling.
When our cup is empty, those extra things that get thrown at us completely derail us; it’s not pretty. And that’s because we have no reserves. We have no buffer because our self-care-cup is not full. There is nothing to protect us from the crappiness.
When our cup is overflowing, that is when we are actually living & coping with life. We can cope with things going wrong, joints dislocating, our fatigue, the extra things that get thrown at us, and we can actually enjoy some of the things that are happening in our lives. We have a more positive outlook; life is a little more upbeat.
Here’s a secret: It’s usually from the overflow that we can do more things for ourselves, and more easily; we can do physiotherapy exercises; we can go to therapy and appointments and not be completely wiped out physically and emotionally.
So how do we fill up our cup?
What’s this “self-care” thing really about?
It’s about doing little things that you enjoy. It’s about doing the things that make you feel good, just for the sake of feeling good. These cup-filling things will be different for everyone. Top of my list is buying myself flowers. I love flowers. Right now I have a bunch of yellow roses in my living room (it makes my week when Aldi has lovely flowers for $6!).
I also like to paint my nails, take a long warm shower. Having a snooze is a favourite at the moment, but that’s because my cup is nowhere near full and I’m trying to fill it up (generally, I’m not an advocate of napping). I also love putting on essential oils in my diffuser or having a nice candle burning. Binge watching my favourite TV show (Grey’s Anatomy); and drawing and painting. They are all things I really like to do. They are the top of my Michelle-Care list. If I have some extra cash, I might go and get a facial or a manicure (these are rare in my world!).
So self-care activities are things that I am doing for myself. Just for me. They don’t directly benefit anyone else (or at least that’s not the intention). I struggle with this concept on a regular basis. Lots of negative self-talk creeps into my head about being self-indulgent, feeling undeserving, wasting money on myself. So I have to fight back against that self-talk. I have to tell myself that I do deserve to care for myself; that buying myself a $6 bunch of flowers is really OK, and good.
It’s hard when money is tight; I get that. Trust me; I get that. There are still things we can find to do that don’t cost money. Sitting outside in the fresh air, going outside at night and looking at the moon or stars, spending time with a close friend, eating something healthy & nourishing, making sure we get our water intake for the day. There are so many things we can do, and really, it’s more about the mindset than it is about the actual activity. As long as you are doing the activity for your own wellbeing, your own benefit, then you are filling up your cup.
So, what can you do today to start filling up your cup? Share some of your self-care ideas with us so we can all add new things to our lists!
Michelle is a Senior Occupational Therapist working solely with adults with hypermobility and related conditions. Michelle is the owner of Hypermobility Connect, an online platform for people with hypermobility to connect with resources, health professionals & each other. Michelle practices OT in her private practice and provides education to health professionals relating to hypermobility conditions.