Navigating the fraught waters of self care

Something amazing happened yesterday. Since getting back from Morocco I’ve been experiencing the kind of bone-aching exhaustion that tells me I need to slow down to get my health in order (a cold + losing my voice + international travel is not a great mix). This is not something I really understand how to do but lately I’ve been forced to take notice when it’s needed. I’m trying to learn how to look after my self — body, mind, emotions — better to help me work better.

My brand new course, Blogging from the Heart, is due to start on Monday but it was becoming very clear that i was in no shape to do it. So last night I woman-ed up and did something I’ve never done before — I emailed my lovely patient participants explaining that I was exhausted and needed to take a few extra days to rest up, and so was pushing our start date back by a week. And as I explained in my email, I want this course to be awesome, and to do that I need to be on top form. (I also gave them a link to an audio I’d recorded so they had something to work with while they waited.)

I was so scared to send the email because one of my greatest fears is letting people down. If i’ve said i’m going to do something you can bet I will do it. Never has this been more important than in my wee business. With hindsight it was silly of me to schedule the start of a new course a week after teaching at a retreat, but I am always learning as I go. I’ve been doing this work for three years now, but still there is always so much more to figure out.

The amazing thing that happened was this: within minutes of sending out the email I started getting replies from my peeps, and within an hour over a third of my 160 participants had pinged me back an email saying that they understood and didn’t mind the delay. Many of them thanked me and said they admired my decision to take some time for self care. One sweet soul said it was lovely to be reminded to take care of our bodies and souls.

And when I’d replied to everyone and wiped away a few tears, it struck me how important this self care thing is. I seem to read about it all the time — on personal development blogs, sites, books, magazine articles — but I don’t think I’ve ever really taken on board how essential it is. It’s not just about spending an hour on the sofa once in a while. It’s also knowing when to stop… to slow down… to put yourself first, even if it means delaying your work. Because a week’s delay to ensure you do your best work is better than forcing yourself to begin and then crashing half way.

This episode is teaching me that not only do i attract the most wonderfully thoughtful and understanding people to my courses (seriously — wow) but that it is also safe for me to ask for what I need. And i don’t mean grabby-me-me-me sort of asking; I mean letting myself get very real and be honest about how I feel.

Do you know what I mean? How do you navigate self care alongside your obligations? I’d love to hear x

26 responses
  1. Nina

    Well done for delaying your course – brave choice, and the right one. I have CFS, which has been a decade-long exceedingly steep learning curve in self-care. There’s always more to figure out, new layers to work through. An enormous help to me has been the Alexander Technique (which by the way doesn’t involve any exercises). It’s all about breaking habits and noticing how you feel and what you’re doing. Plus a big part of it is lying down, which always helps! In fact, now that I think about it, the only teacher who’s ever said to me, “sorry, I can’t give you your lesson today, I’m too exhausted,” was my excellent AT teacher at music college. I wish others would do the same when necessary.

  2. Suzie Lambert

    You made me laugh so hard, thank you…. I read the title about ‘Self Care’ and the first thing I see when I opened the page was the word RUM on your ledge. I know it’s not what it’s supposed to say, but I did enjoy a good laugh. Thank you!!
    Hope you’re feeling better soon!!

  3. Lis

    I had a teacher explain to me how we cannot be fully present for others if we don’t first take the time to care for and fill ourselves. She said the amazing thing is, when we attend to our needs we rarely need to do as much care giving to those around us (not as much as we believe we need to do) because by our example, we give permission to others to first care for themselves. If I fill my bucket, I don’t need to take from yours :) So I am happily filling up over here and will be ready and ripe for our time together in the course. It will start exactly at the right time!

    Besides … I am remembering my horoscope for the year of the dragon is to not be stubborn (bye-bye rigidity!) and yours is to watch your health! You can say the Dragons instructed you to do so.
    xo Lis

  4. Brook

    Sometimes our bodies know we need a break before our minds. Enjoy your time to relax and reenergize.

  5. arabella

    I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the difference between laziness and self-care. I don’t think you have that problem! But for me I can be tempted into the wrong kinds of inactivity for the wrong reasons.

    Icecream can be a can also be the wrong thing. Sometimes self care = kale. These are the things I struggle with and think about.

    I am learning that for me self care is most often about producing something. Taking some time to be creative so that I have something to *show* for my time spent. I feel better when at the end of my day it isn’t just house/kids/dinner/tv but instead I can say “today I made THIS”.


  6. Lauren (VisionWise)

    Well done… I understand and think it’s so important to keep it real. Get well love… xx

  7. Jessica

    Hi Susannah,

    Glad you are taking time for your self. I’m so looking forward to this course and think you are wonderful for wanting it to be an amazing experience for all of us!

    I took this time and set up my own website. Scary for me, because i thought, “who am I to have my own website. That is reserved for REAL people, (like Susannah, Marianne, or Bindu) my photos, blogs or thoughts are not nearly special enough to warrnat a website!” I took a deep breath and did it anyway. Going to post some of my blog and some of the pics I took in your classes on it. i’ve promised myself I will take it good care of it.

  8. patti scanlon

    I am learning myself in my roles of mother wife home keeper etc.. how important it is to say with out guilt, to mindfully recognize how I feel and what that means, to acknowledge it and to do what is right for me. I have spent much of my life trying to please others I have learned that much of that came from not having enough nurture and support given to me as a child. I am learning to with compassion and loving kindness take care of me and to extend that to others. It is funny when you spoke of Abundance in your new years post, It really struck a chord with me as I never believed abundance was for me. Thanks to you and awareness of this I am gently and ever so slowly exploring the possibility of Abundance, and Abundance in the form of what I need most, Gentleness, Love, Kindness, Joy, Grace. Thank you and take good care of You.

  9. Dorothy Lemoult

    As they say on the airplane, put your oxygen mask on first, and then help others. :)
    Well done, you!
    Self care for me us always evolving and changing. Exercise is my number one but mostly it’s about pausing everyday or every hour and asking: what do I need right now? How do I feel? The more I’ve been doing that the easiest it has been to take care of myself. Sometimes self care can be small, sometimes it’s taking days off. Usually I come back re-energized for the work. I bet your course is going to rock even more because of this. Wish I could take it! Good luck!

  10. Cecilia

    for me, self-care comes through exercise (as boring and dreadful as that may sound to some). the endorphine high is something i miss terribly when i get out of the habit of exercising, and the process of pushing my limits physically helps me learn where those boundaries are in other aspects of my life.

  11. jane/faerian

    for me it is such a paradox that something that is based in love, self care, can be so friggin hard to do… i am a well trained highly qualified martyr ninja and will sacrifice myself without even being aware of it… it is a process of day by day, moment by moment practise. And what i need each day changes too so i can’t be all formulaic about it… huzzah for you and really you honored your participants by not serving your lovely self up half there half sick… <3

  12. teryll

    Kudos to you! And it was BRAVE of you to ask for what you truly needed. I am looking forward to signing up for the Unravelling e-course in April!

  13. Fiona

    I’m so glad. And yes it’s hard. But it’s so worth it. I’ve gone from studying like a tightly wound coil to taking naps in the middle of the day. Come on over this side, it’s gentle and so comfortable ;)

  14. Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm

    Congratulations and thank you, such a timely post! This “bug” is in the air. I always thought I was good at self care; and friends complimented me on this. Now in my mid-40s and feeling very fatigued, I see that my mind (with all its shoulds and obligations) is a major block towards doing what I need: rest. Funny, I find when I do make a choice to take care of myself, as you have done here, nearly always this choice is clearly validated and in hindsight made easy. Be well!

  15. Angela Vular

    I hope you are feeling better. You are so smart to postpone class for a short time and take care of yourself. I was sick with no voice in November but still went to school and worked. Got a little better and then the voice went again along with a horrible cough in December. I was so foolish not to take time off and care for myself. I am coughing again!!! I think this time it is allergy related. Taking time off is the best thing anyone can do. Your body needs rest and when you listen and take care of yourself, you feel better sooner and gain some much needed energy. I hope you feel better soon. I wanted to take your class this time but I have a hard time taking classes when school is in session. I get so busy and I am soooo tired when I get home after a 12 hour day. Summer is a better time for me. Your classes are the best I have taken on line and I have taken many!!! Get plenty of rest, drink hot tea, wrap up in your warmest, coziest jammys, and watch movies.

  16. Christianne

    Wow. I so loved reading this story. What a beautiful experience for you to receive. What a way to more deeply learn self-care.

    Much love to you in these days of recuperation.

    Also, I just know your BFTH course is going to so totally rock it.


  17. Roxanne Galpin

    Take care of yourself. That is so important. I have been to burnout and it sucks.


  18. Melinda @ Stupendous Joy

    Self care is something quite fluid for me. What works at one time doesn’t necessarily always work. For me it’s about listening to the quiet messages and taking heed because of you doen’t learn to listen out for the quiet signs they seem to accumulate until they really bowl
    me over. Meditation helps, regular excerise and a good old belly laugh with friends.
    Tale care. X

  19. Gayle L..

    What a teaching moment for you and for us. Brave, courageous and AWEsome!

  20. Trudie

    This is something I struggle with. I have always had very rigid expectations of myself, especially so when it comes to my work. When you run your own business you do tend to push yourself harder than you would allow an employer to do. I have a tight weekly schedule that I have managed to stick to through major depression, swine flu, jet lag, chest infections, moving 500 miles to a new home, and many other things. I prided myself on it, but now I’m beginning to think that it was something more to regret than to pat myself on the back for. I am getting better at being flexible, at allowing myself to be human and making mistakes, and occasionally disappointing expectations (usually my own). It gets easier with practise.

    I think a lot of it comes down to trust. You have to trust that even if you take some time off, you will still get everything done that needs to be done. You have to trust that if you let go a little bit, you won’t drop the whole shebang and shatter it to pieces. You have to trust the people around you, family, friends, acquaintances, workmates, customers, that they will still love and value you even if you don’t always perform at peak efficiency or meet self imposed deadlines.

    And to find that trust, you just have to take a breath, and do it. Which you have. Bravo you.

  21. Glenda Childers

    I have spent a few years learning how to ask for what I need, which means first taking time to figure out what it is that I need.

    Strong work.


  22. susannah

    Thank you for sharing, Trudie — this was really helpful x

    Thank you, everyone, for your support and kind words!

  23. Phoe

    I learned the hard way when it comes to understand the idea behind self-care and rest. I pushed my body to the breaking point for years and then, surprise surprise, it broke. Old habits die hard though and I’m still pushing myself as hard as I can. It’s a balance I just can’t seem to get right: rest vs normal life. I admire your courage at being able to recognize the need for rest *before* you get past your limits.

  24. Susan Bonaci

    I love this post. Good on you for taking time out for you.
    When I’m on the point of exhaustion nothing beats an early night or a yoga class. I’ve also taken to turning my phone off on a Sunday afternoon after a hectic weekend to de-technology.
    The more I practise these things the less guilty I feel and like most people above have commented, I come back re-fueled and refreshed.

  25. Marisa Anne

    oh good for you! I’m 4 weeks into a ‘new’ life which includes much more self care, including sleep and then some. It’s starting to take hold and I’m feeling so much better & excited about EVERYTHING xo

  26. Kathryn

    this article is so right for me right now.
    lately, more often than normal, I’ve been feeling in a rush to do everything and have to keep reminding myself that just studying is enough and that these are things I want to do and therefore are allowed make them wait.

Comments are closed.