When counselling, I often use a ‘bucket model’ to describe self-care. It goes something like this. We all have a bucket with holes, and these holes mean that we get depleted of our life force as energy leaks through these holes. My holes look like working, taking care of my children, aging parents, and a few others. We all have these leaks; they are kind of unavoidable.
The nature of the challenges will change as life changes and some leaks are systemic. I recognise that as a white person with employment, I don't have the leaks associated with poverty or racism that others may do, but I do have the leaks associated with caring for someone with a disability etc.
The last 12 months in particular have been difficult for many of us. The many fire danger days here in the hills over summer, with temperatures in the 40s, bushfires action plans enacted and fires through the state, created a big hole in our buckets to start the year.
And then a global pandemic came...
These leaks lead to a range of responses in the central nervous system. When we are depleted, we can get easily emotionally overwhelmed. It can be hard to regulate emotions, we might get teary or irritable or confused. Perhaps we take out our frustrations by being short with the people around us. Or we might feel drained and have trouble concentrating etc.
And of course, we should plug these holes where we can. It is important to do an audit from time to time. For me time spent by children clearing up will plug some of my holes of living in a messy house….
But plugging holes is not enough -because life is stressful. There will always be car repairs, or broken fridges, or sick children or too much work. Or something else unexpected.
So, as well as plugging the holes we need to continuously top up our bucket, replenish ourselves, to ensure we don't run on empty.
The things that top us up are as varied as our leaks. Walks in nature, time with friends, laughing, caring for others are all examples. Many yoga and mindfulness practices are helpful bucket toppers.
The key to these energy bucket toppers is to make them intentional. Netflix binging leaves me with a hangover in the same way drinking might. It is never an activity that really tops me up, and can instead leave a bigger hole in that bucket, and usually this is because it is unintentional - just one more episode, rather than say a decision to watch a favourite movie because it fills me with delight.
Activities that provide genuine nourishment that we do intentionally are all acts of self-care.
Self Care September is a series of “Calls to Action”, a range of reflective, mindfulness, compassionate and yogic based exercises to experiment with to develop a daily habit of self-care.
This Self Care September, the call to action is to formalise self-care in your life, a little every day for 30 days. You are free to pick and choose actions as you wish, and to practice as often or as little as suits you. The original self-care September eBook had 30 different daily practices to play around with, drawing LARGELY from yoga and mindfulness and self-compassion practices, and you can utilise these practices or you may like just to focus on one practice and dive in deeply.
Join me to explore intentional acts of self-care, in order to nourish not only ourselves, but society collectively.
So, I'm curious- What are your best bucket toppers?