Daily Living

How to Take Care of Yourself – Personally

Understanding what 'self care' means for the Health Types

Natalie Howard Natalie Howard
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The term ‘self care’ gets bandied around a lot. It’s become a bit of an empty line. It can feel all well and good for someone to tell you to ‘take self care,’ but often that doesn’t really help if you’re not doing too well yourself. We can get really focused on taking care of others – whether it’s partners, children, colleagues, the business. But we aren’t as good at taking care of ourselves.

We can also be pretty good at wishing others would take care of us, just how we take care of them. This plays out differently for the Health Types, as each ‘takes care of’ in different ways. Guardians and Diplomats, for example, are geared towards focusing on nurturing care for family and close friends – and would really like the same in return. Crusaders and Sensors, on the other hand, ‘take care of’ getting work done, ensuring productivity – and tend to wish everyone else would recognise that and do the same too. Activators and Connectors naturally want to ‘take care of’ things being fun, dynamic, spontaneous – and wish everyone else would stop getting in the way of that by being so damn serious and structured. This is why our ‘self care’ needs to be about ourselves – for us, and by us.

Self care is about being the one to meet your own needs. It doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. It doesn’t mean not receiving help, or being treated to things. It means you are the one taking the action to give yourself what you need. It might mean taking the action to ask for the help to do it – the time, the space, the support. While it does not have to be all you, it does have to come from you. You knowing what you need. (Or asking for support if you don’t know.) You taking steps to make it happen. (Or asking for help if you don’t know where to start.)

You can break it down into three basic steps…

1. Know yourself. Know what makes you feel good – AND is good FOR you.

2. Know how to listen to yourself – your mind, body & emotions telling you when you’re not feeling right. This takes practice to learn how to decipher the signs. And it takes getting step 1 sorted so you don’t misinterpret what the signals are – or hear them but give them the wrong thing.

3. Take the right actions to give your mind, body & emotions what they are need.

All these steps seem so basic – but we are so conditioned in ways that totally complicate them. We don’t really know ourselves. We don’t know what is actually good for us personally. We don’t know what our signals mean. We don’t listen to them because we are told we should “push through.” We go for the ‘quick fix’ when we’re too far gone. And – this is a big one – we don’t feel like we should look after ourselves – from believing we have to sacrifice ourselves for others, or expecting others to take care of us.

That’s why it can be so hard. We first need to really know what will be good for us. We need to know the solution. And if we’re not doing well, and might not have been for a long time, this can be really hard to figure out. We learn early on how to take care of others. We teach children to have manners, how to cooperate in a group etc. But we aren’t taught how to really take care of ourselves, or how to really know ourselves. So we find ourselves as adults with a whole host of less-than-healthy coping habits that we’ve picked up because they feel good (temporarily), and we might not have had the tools to know of healthier alternatives that would actually make us feel good sustainably.

That’s what your personalised health profile gives you. That’s what each section (Food, Fitness, Place, Social, Mind, Genius) is about: this is what will make you feel good – sustainably. It’s not just a “this stuff is good” list of recommendations – it’s a formula for you feeling good. Because it’s a formula that is created personally for you.

We really do need a lot of help in having it spelled out for us. We start out in life having an intrinsic drive to discover what is good for us – but it can get forgotten / pushed aside / beaten out of us by the rules and expectations of a society that tells us we should be a certain way and that what we want, or the way we want to be, is not acceptable, or ‘too different’.

I know this when I watch my young son. He knows what he wants. He knows what will make him happy. And he communicates quite clearly to ask for it, totally confident and trusting to ask for help. It’s us, the adults, who think, “Oh no, you can’t do that, do this instead.” We think we know better because we are the adult. But children, young as they are, often know what will settle them down, what will make them happy, what is comfortable for them. And when they get an idea of what they want, they communicate that to us so we can help them have it. They naturally take action towards getting their needs met. It is of course our role to guide that in appropriate directions if what they’re specifically asking for misses the mark of what is truly best for them.

Children stop being clear in what they want when they get stressed. When they feel pressured. When they have a grown up saying exasperatedly, “What do you want??” or “No you can’t have that!” Then they can’t communicate clearly and don’t know what they want anymore – they just know they don’t feel good, and they let us know that too.

The same goes for us. If we are maintaining a good clear connection and communication with ourselves, we hear when we get a request from within ourselves for something, and we can understand what the request is for. Like the parent who can understand their toddler’s sounds and gestures as words and sentences, but a stranger just hears noises. But, when the parent is focusing on making dinner, talking with their partner, planning for tomorrow and doing the dishes all at once – when their child toddles over with a request they too just hear noise. They don’t know what the child is saying, they offer the thing they think the child wants, which totally is not it, or tell the child ”not now” … so the child ups their game in trying to get you to notice and listen to them. But in doing so, they become less articulate in their communication and revert back to the much simpler and direct methods – like crying. So now it’s sure clear they aren’t happy, but it’s even less clear exactly what they were asking for in the first place.

This is how it goes for our relationship with ourselves.

It just boils down to attention. When our attention is focused, we understand what’s being said to us by our body, mind, and emotions. When it’s diverted or split between a myriad of things, that’s when we end up anywhere on the scale from “Pardon, what was that?” … to… “Can you just be quiet!!” The further along the scale you are, the more likely you are to bust out the Netflix and junk food in a desperate attempt to just make them stop…and then we really can’t hear them anymore. (Yes, this goes for children AND for yourself.)

Keeping track of where you are on the scale is important. Checking in with yourself through the day gives you a meter read of how much pressure you’re feeling, and if there’s a building need for something (nutrition, movement, social connection, expression, creativity, desensitisation.) Just like with a young child, the more time you spend with them, the better you are at understanding their language.

There are also some key focus areas for each Health Type – the areas that if you put your attention and energy there, the other aspects will fall into balance too (or no longer be such an issue.)

Activators and Connectors – let it out.

Activators and Connectors must express energy. Activators need to move in dynamic, intense ways (gymnastics, obstacle courses, competitive sports.) Connectors need movement too, but with an essential social element also that makes it fun. Activators need competition, but Connectors need more, that’s right, connection – where everyone’s a winner (dance classes, crossfit, ultimate frisbee.) Movement and changes in activity (and rest) is the best thing. These types naturally flow up and down mentally and emotionally, so this needs to come through the body so it doesn’t get stuck inside. This includes letting it out verbally – say what you’re thinking and feeling, however you need to, in a safe judgement free space. (Just make sure the receiver knows this about you.) It can also mean moving away from situations that are building up too much pressure – then going and letting it out somewhere else.

Guardians and Diplomats – take it easy.

Guardians and Diplomats need a steady pace to your time and environment. Both need to feel like they have control over their space. Because the reality is that this cannot always be the case, to take self care, they need to find the times and places that they can have more control over. Can they choose to do the things that are enjoyable and satisfying in the mornings so they feel more relaxed for higher pressure in the afternoons? Can they bring more comfort and ease into their home environment or even just the bedroom? And it’s worth another mention, that it’s really important for these types to have times where they ease up on caring for others. It doesn’t mean abandoning anyone. It doesn’t even have to mean leaving anyone. It just means easing back into the passenger’s seat for a bit while someone else drives, or you being the one deciding on the destination that you really want for a change – everyone will still be taken care of.

Crusaders and Sensors – take a scheduled and specific break

Crusaders and Sensors are driven towards productivity. Their challenge is knowing when – and sometimes even how – to stop working. They must to have completion and achievement in order to get satisfaction – but they need to translate large tasks into completion targets so they get the reward along the way, and can then take breaks. The breaks need to be specifically scheduled in so they become targets themselves. Sensors must take breaks to desensitise – from everything and everyone. Depletion is a huge risk for Sensors if their nervous systems are too overloaded. Crusaders need to take breaks to shift their focus – movement is highly effective for this. This helps cut through possible obsessive focus that ultimately reduces productivity completely. And both these types need to break from other people – not serving or relying on anyone else. No interruptions, no having to wait for anyone.

Because each Health Type has very different and specific needs, this is why self care is not just as straightforward as “go get a massage” or “go hang out with friends.” These strategies will only help some people, in some situations. Knowing your needs, specific to your type, as well as specific to your situation, helps you know what kind of self care you need. It helps you know what that upset child is trying to say, and stops you from just telling them to be quiet and go away.

I’m not saying you’re a child, or that you’re “childish” for having wants and needs. You’re human.

The truth is that there are aspects in all of us that are still like a child – they want what they want, how and when they want. When they don’t get it they get upset. Give them what they want, in the way that is actually the best thing for them, and they will happily go along with life. Continually denying or ignoring they, or giving them what they didn’t ask for with zero explanation, will only stir them up. A lot. And that’s where a lot of our health problems come from. Not knowing what’s good for us. Not listening to the signs. Not understanding the signs. Just telling them to be quiet and go away. Which they don’t.

And they’re not meant to. Like the little child interrupting you while you work or try hold an adult conversation, they’ve come up to you to tell you something important. You might not think it’s important at the time and try brush it off. But it actually is. So pay attention. It can seem tiresome trying to decipher what’s being said. It can seem hard trying to figure out what to do about it. Fortunately, you have a whole platform that can translate it for you. (And personalised coaches who can break it down even more for you.) The more time you spend listening and paying attention, the easier it gets to understand. And the more you give your mind, body and emotions what they need, the less demanding they actually get. Because they are satisfied and content.

To work 1:1 with Nat, Personalised Communication, Behaviour & Relationships coach, click here.

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