Kylie’s note: Today’s post is a special guest piece from Tanja Gardner. Tanja’s an introverted business owner who started business life online as a copywriter for difference-makers. Her newest passion project is Conscious Introvert Success, which she started to help introverts like her to build their businesses while honoring their introversion. I’m just delighted to have her dropping in today to share her own wisdom-filled self-care revelation.
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I seem to have a serious problem with structuring my self-care.
I don’t know if I’m the only one whose mind works like this, but I’m not very good with structured, pre-planned self-care activities.
As an introvert, I have no shortage of self-care options that allow me to spend time alone and recharge my energy levels. And I actually enjoy many of those activities: journalling, meditation, reading a novel, taking long solo walks or hot, soaky baths…
They all feel wonderful to me if I do them spontaneously.
But something weird seems to happen when I schedule one or more of them into my day to “make sure they happen.”
Suddenly they go from being something I’m looking forward to doing, to — almost out of the blue — becoming something I should do instead.
The moment the word “should” starts creeping in, I can feel my inner toddler rebelling. I start to resent the activity instead of enjoying it.
And really: If you’re resenting your self-care, what’s the point?
That might not be an issue if I didn’t also have difficulty making spontaneous self-care happen.
It’s crazy, isn’t it? You’d think that someone who has such a problem with structure would blossom in its absence.
Not so much. Or at least, not always.
What actually happens if I’m aiming for 100% spontaneity is that all too often, I just don’t get to the self-care. I keep on working instead.
And even when I get to it, relying on myself to know just what to do in the moment can backfire.
I mean, yes, sometimes I’ll feel clearly drawn to picking up a book, pulling out my journal, or putting on my trainers and heading out for a walk.
Sometimes I’ll be so tired that nothing appeals.
Sometimes I’ll strongly intend to do some self-care after my work day, but all I seem to be able to spontaneously bring myself to do is play round after round of Criminal Case on Facebook.
Or occasionally, there’ll just be too much to choose from, so I’ll keep on working instead.
Until fairly recently, I figured that spontaneity was still the best option.
For the longest time, I believed that spontaneous self-care might not be perfect, but that it worked better for me than the structured, scheduled stuff.
As recently as a couple of months ago, I figured that my answer to self-care was simply to schedule blank “me-time” slots into my calendar.
If I blocked out the time in advance, I reasoned, then nothing else could encroach on it. And when I actually got to the blocked-out timeslot, I’d decide how I wanted to fill it.
No, it didn’t work 100% of the time, but it worked often enough that it felt like the best option.
Then, last week, my coach said something that turned the dilemma on its head for me.
Surprise, surprise: I discovered I could combine the best of both worlds.
My coach pointed out that “structure” and “spontaneity” weren’t one-or-zero, black-or-white propositions.
I could find a way to combine the two in a way that worked for me, so that I was getting the best of both worlds.
She and I started by brainstorming a list of specific self-care activities that would feel nurturing for me.
My eventual list had nine options: enough so I feel as though I have a range of alternatives, but not so many that I’m paralysed by the choice.
Now, when it’s time for a scheduled self-care block, I just go to my list and choose one of the options.
It’s like the perfect melding of just enough structure to keep me focussed, with just enough spontaneity to avoid triggering an inner toddler tantrum.
I have to laugh: I actually teach my introvert programme participants about planning techniques and accountability practices.
When I do, I always talk about structure as potentially being something flexible – something that acts as “a support system, rather than a cage.”
It’s funny how I couldn’t see how the same thing might work in a self-care setting.
So what works best for you with self-care?
We’re all different, so there’s no one right way (of course!) to do this stuff.
But I’m curious: How do you navigate the balance between spontaneity and structure to ensure you’re getting the self-care you need?
- Do you need to schedule exactly what you’ll be doing when in order to make it happen?
- Do you prefer to do what I used to do, and allow yourself to be completely spontaneous?
- Have you figured out a unique combination of the two that works for you?
If you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear what your self-care scheduling process looks like in the comments.
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Tanja Gardner is the deeply introverted (but not even *slightly* shy!) biz owner behind Conscious Introvert Success: a library of introvert-friendly resources.
Or, download “How to Keep an Eye on Your Energy Levels,” a free guide for introverted business owners who need help with energy management.