I’ve just had a three-week break following a relentless, yet deeply satisfying seven month working period.
I started taking the summer holidays off in 2015 when I discovered that parents of children under 18 are entitled to a certain amount of unpaid leave each year. In 2015 and 2016 I was still employed so saved hard to enable me to afford it. The tradition has continued to this day and is part of my annual business planning work.
As well as a period of rest and relaxation (basically ‘pottering’ and practising for retirement), the long break inevitably also becomes a time for learning, new discoveries and returning to life enhancing habits which extended and intense periods of work can inevitably shift to the back burner.
Here are a few (random and unrelated) lessons I’ve learned through the activities I’ve been indulging in these past few weeks:
Self-care and health care are not the same thing
I’m not completely sure I entirely get the concept of self-care. I think self-care refers to indulgent, highly personal activities which are totally selfish (NOT a bad thing), not detrimental to your health and leave you feeling at ease / ready for the next challenge.
My top examples are:
- A hot bubble bath (cliché alert!), preferably with an epic chunk of Lush ‘Blue Skies and Fluffy White Clouds’ crumbled in
- Massaging oil into my feet while I watch Grace and Frankie or the Goop Lab on Netflix
- Playing Super Mario Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch
- A recently established skincare routine (Caroline Hirons is my new obsession)
There’s a danger in this emerging culture of ‘self-care’ that activities labelled as self-care are actually basic ‘health care’ and that all of these end up being seen as optional extras.
- exercise is not a ‘nice thing to do if you can spare the time’
- eating well should not be the preserve of the cash rich / time rich
- though sometimes elusive, an early night and eight hours’ sleep should not be viewed as a ‘treat’
I take my health very seriously, especially at the moment (global pandemic anyone?) and moving into autumn / winter where it’s easier to pick up nasty bugs which are going around. I have SO fortunate to have good health (touch wood) and recognise that it is essential to me being able to run my business and serve my clients to the best of my ability.
My family and those paying for my services deserve the very best of me and I believe it is my responsibility to optimise my health and productivity as far as possible.
This past few weeks have been a reminder that the following activities are not self-care but they are basic and essential health care habits which I’m going to do my best to continue into a busy few months ahead:
- regular exercise, current faves are sea swimming, running (getting back into it after an injury), yoga, dancing and (less of a favourite but necessary) circuits with horrible weight bearing stuff
- nutrition, STEP AWAY FROM THE ICE CREAM!!!
- daily cold showers, fab for the immune system
- supplements, vitamin D3 being the most important
Check out Claire Warner’s brilliant blog for more articles on the topic of wellbeing for fundraisers and charity professionals.
A lesson in courage and comfort zones
This could have been an entire post in itself, but to cut a long story short, I learned a hard lesson this holiday.
I had a big time fail.
My lovely man is a seasoned scuba diver, freediver and spear fisherman. Whilst I love paddleboarding and swimming, I’ve always drawn the line at underwater exploration apart from a little recreational snorkelling.
I wanted to know if I was missing out on a whole new level of communion with nature and mental agility, only seemingly experienced by those able to dive to great depths, trusting that they have sufficient air in their bodies for the journey.
On a whim, I signed up for my AIDA Level 1 and 2 freediving course.
I thought it would be:
- mind expanding
- easy (I do yoga and go swimming a lot – how hard can it be?)
It turned out to be one of the most challenging experiences of my life.
Not only did course requirements feel impossible to achieve in the time available (static breath hold in water for two minutes anyone?), but being the oldest, least competent member of our small group was an additional mental hurdle to overcome (on top of ‘am I going to drown?’ which was asked frequently whilst in a mild state of panic during the two days).
In truth, I have always sailed through every educational experience I’ve ever had. Real life and work have thrown plenty of challenges my way but all through school, my degree, my music exams and even my fitness instructor course (which was way out of my comfort zone), I found an ease and a pleasure which comes with being naturally gifted at learning.
- not being the best
- feeling fear
- recognising that having to repeat my efforts were holding the rest of the class back
These were all new and (hopefully) immensely valuable.
Courage sits somewhere between pushing yourself hard out of your comfort zone and then recognising when you’ve gone far enough and calling it quits.
In the end, I sacked off the course early (having failed both the static breath hold and the 40 metre underwater swim) and stayed at beautiful Meanporth Beach where I hired a paddleboard and explored quiet coves, beaches and wrecks whilst singing Moana songs happily to myself (head for that reef girl…)
The others went to a quarry to do their 16-metre line dive to the bottom. I was cool with my decision and grateful (ish), after a lot of tears for the failure (aka learnings).
Do your research
My lovely man was (rightly) a tad cross with me when I returned home from my trip without a certificate in hand. He felt that if I’d done my research on the course before signing up, I could have prepared myself better for the challenges which lay ahead.
Frustratingly, this is fantastic advice which I always follow in a work context.
I am notoriously cautious when it comes to investing in my personal development. I have been known to spend a lot of money on online learning and in-person conferences (who else is SO excited for the return of these?), but am meticulous in researching the training provider and the course content first.
Here are some questions to ask before you spend your hard earned cash on personal development of any kind:
- What is the problem I’m trying to solve?
- What gaps in my knowledge are preventing me from doing my work better?
- What are my options for gaining the information I need?
- What will this training enable me to do differently afterwards?
- Do I know / like / trust my chosen provider?
- Have I exhausted the providers’ free content?
- Will the training be fun / engaging / memorable / life enhancing?
Devon and Cornwall are the BEST!
We had a blast on our staycation.
We camped on the most gorgeous little site surrounded by woodland in the Luxulyan Valley. We headed to our local beach early in the mornings and cooked breakfast on a camping stove. The kids tried Go-Karting for the first time and we all had a wild time at Adrenalin Quarry’s inflatable aquapark. We even went on an actual date to an actual restaurant which felt like a total novelty.
We feel so blessed and so lucky to live where we do.
I’m now feeling relaxed and ready for action. A tad daunted by the challenges which lie ahead (like how to work a full day with no breakfast / after school clubs and the increasing pressure my clients are feeling around balancing their ability to raise money / deliver brilliant work), but excited and refreshed nonetheless.
Looking forward to sharing more fundraising relevant content next week 🙂