The art of self care… and my journey to embrace it.

Wanaka lake and tree
That Wanaka Tree

A sinking feeling.

Just under a year ago, I lay in a hotel bed sobbing bitterly. I was losing every battle I fought; my health, my values, my fitness, my relationships, my downtime, my inner peace were all in decline. My body lost all sense of connection with my mind, and I could no longer propel myself forward and through my challenges without crippling agony.

I booked myself into a health spa for eight days. I read previously about cures like this one, but never thought I could afford it, or rather I wouldn’t let myself afford it. My first meal, dinner upon arrival, was 50 ml of vegetable puree, a slice of cheese and two corn crackers. Accompanying the meal was 500 litres of warm vegetable broth, and two litres of water to last the night. I would come to discover that this meal was luxury.

I met with my clinicians the following day, with the diagnosis that my metabolism was slow, made worse by multiple food intolerances. My liver was inefficient, and my muscles and joints were overwhelmed by the build-up of acid from my toxic lifestyle. Ok I thought, at least I’m not dead.

All meat, other than fish was withdrawn, I was placed on a 600-calorie daily diet with one day of complete fasting, injected with nutrients that my body lacked and left to roam around the nearby lake to contemplate my life.

Seeing the light

What I discovered during that week was something I did not expect. All other guests I met were self-made; a violinist, theatre producer, a designer, an actress, a businessman, a real estate maven, a key-note speaker, a partner. I was the only first-timer in the group; all had visited this or similar venues before. I learned this was an annual ritual in the schema of their lives, because it reset them, restored them, and enabled them to return to their worlds being the best that at what they do.

What a revelation. I had the choice of spending a mini fortune on a cure that was attending to my self-care, vs possibly spending the same or more on a well-known and over sold touristic spot that would leave me feeling more drained than when I started. Self-care had never occurred to me as something I could spend time and money on; I had not imagined that spending 8 days pretty much on my own could be so appealing.

I realised then I had spent more years than I can remember chasing someone else’s dream for me; allowing my goals to be subordinated to ideals I thought were bigger and more worthy than my own. Watching these self-made vibrant individuals restoring themselves in the healthiest way awoke something long dormant in me, that never wanted to sleep again.

Lake Altausee, Austria

Facing the day

By the end of day 8, I lost 7 kg and reduced 8 cm on my hips. For up to 3 weeks after returning home, I felt no pain in the joints and tendons of my feet and ankles, although my back and shoulders still needed therapy. I increased my average walking pace by 1km per hour, a 15% improvement. I was more alive than I had been since my childhood.

 My time there gave me the strongest desire to reconnect with who I was; a  journey I have been on ever since. I now fill my life with challenges that enrich my soul and reflect that which I value, without the stress of trying to be everything to everyone, all at the same time. I have built a road map for the things I want to improve, the value I want to create, and the ways I can best be of help to others, such that I am not depleted in the process.

The secret to self-care lies in a few key principles for me:

  1. Acknowledge where you are. Get the facts, beyond the story you tell yourself.
  2. Determine where you want to be, using your values as your anchor.
  3. Actively seek to connect your mind and your body so that they cooperate to achieve your goals, using meditation, yoga, exercise, breathing or other forms of re-programming.

Being in tune with what your mind body and soul needs at any time and acting on it is the foundation of the selfcare pyramid.

Most of all though, think about this.

When you bring a healthy functional productive individual into a room filled with people, everyone thrives from their radiance. Self-care is arguably the most generous act you can do for your personal and professional life, and for the lives of others around you.

That which I know I can never un-know. I have altered my path forever.