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Learning self-care in extreme conditions

How life in a tropical climate changed my perception of self-care

Life in a diverse location taught me a whole new meaning of self-care. We can all nurture our wellness to then experience business benefits of wellbeing, in addition to personal growth.

Serving commitments unless health is impacted

Unfiltered view of the Gold Coast during a storm

Above: Unfiltered view of the Gold Coast during a storm - image by iStock

My community involvement over the past decade taught me a few lessons that I'm now revising. I previously held a work ethic that was best articulated by Freddie Mercury. "The show must go on!" Intellectually, I know there are exceptions. But sometimes it takes a crisis to remember that we can't always be 'on show.'

I suffer from migraines and extreme headaches. This health issue seems worse in dramatic weather. My aches become so painful, it's crippling. If I don't rest, the severity is unbearable. Sometimes the headaches become physically sickening. I'm looking for answers now. But until I gain those empowering health solutions, I need to adapt during any startling weather.

After relocating to a beautiful sunny tropical climate, I soon discovered the physical cost of living in paradise. I would not wish to live anywhere else. A normal day here feels divine. But rare moments teach me the importance of self-care.

Learning self-care through painful experiences

The Gold Coast has occasional storms. A recent stormy night was a glowing show of lightning and thunder. That evening followed a day of unbelievable humidity. One rumour was that 100% humidity was taking over the air we breathe. I tried to get on with my day. My body struggled after walking 10 minutes from one side of a shopping mall to the other side. I'm normally quite capable of walking outside for 10 minutes, thank you very much. And physical activity is good for us, right? By 2 in the afternoon, I was really feeling a headache. The show must go on? Not when it's physically impossible.

This health struggle was impacting my day of business, community and personal activities. I was looking forward to lunch with my husband. By the time we met up, I was more focused on chilled water than chilling out with hubby. How very romantic. My business and publishing became impacted as I couldn't work for the rest of the afternoon. I was just laying in bed, wishing I could be mobile enough to buy Panadol. Movement was not an option. A fun community gathering was planned for that night. About half an hour before the event started, the agonising headaches made me physically sick. Ok. I was clearly not going anywhere.

Maybe I would have survived the weather through more precautions. Perhaps I still would have struggled anyway. One this is for certain. Nobody benefitted when I pushed myself to breaking point. We can form better business and personal lives by first looking after ourselves.

Apply your oxygen mask before saving others

They say put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. This is a perfect metaphor to every aspect of our being. Don't give more money than you have. Don't spare time for external circles if your family needs your time first. And in this context, look after your body before serving anyone else.

I always valued selfless service as a great virtue. Although we are an individualistic materialist society, signs remain of the irrational sacrifices people wanted in the 'good old days'. The world has evolved. But some values linger with us. 'Don't be selfish,' we are taught as we grow up.

Cultural selflessness manifests itself in questionable ways. Have you ever been eating a share plate with a group of people, and nobody wants to eat the last piece of food? Whoever takes that last bite would feel selfish. If someone takes that chomp, it's depriving everyone else. So that last chunk of culinary goodness sits untouched. How rational is that? Wasting resources in the name of etiquette?

Western understanding of work ethic also can feel 'selfless' in an alarming way. Advocates are now celebrating the benefits of rest and fewer working hours. But many of us continue holding ourselves to that traditional idea that more hours of work are better.

Do less to then achieve more

I thought I understood balance. After a severe injury, I learned not to rush around. Aussies have a saying that a rushed person is 'like a headless chook.' For those of you who are wondering, a chook is a chicken. The metaphor of a chicken is normally meant to describe a scared person. A headless chook is blind, confused, scared and hurrying in no direction. I learned to slow down my pace and avoid that hurried stressed feeling.

There is more to self-care than avoiding a mad hurry. We need to constantly implement nurturing practices. Change the conditions in your current surroundings. Move to safe locations. Nourish your body with foods and treatments that help you to feel better. Learn to say 'no' to non-urgent activities if they are too much.

Look after yourself. Dedication to self-care can improve all aspects of life. A better you will be more ready to help others and your own existence.

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