Recently I attended a staff event at the charity I work for a couple of days a week. During one of the various presentations, we were shown a basil plant and informed that when you buy a living basil from your local supermarket, there are actually several little plants all in one pot. It's important that you re-pot each of these plants separately so that they have space to grow and thrive. This information was used as a metaphor for the importance of self-care and, at the end of the presentation, we were all given one of the re-potted basil shoots as a reminder to look after ourselves. I put mine on the shelf with several other succulent plants in my kitchen and promptly forgot about it.
A couple of weeks later a friend who is also a counsellor came round for a cup of tea. She commented on how good my kitchen plants were looking, and it was only then that I noticed my poor, now-dead basil languishing at the back. I explained to her that it had been my self-care plant that I had been given by my work to remind me to look after myself. We laughed at the irony that the only plant not to have survived was the one that represented my self-care, especially as my counselling practice is called Green Shoots. I had to admit, it wasn't my best bit of gardening.
Last night, I found myself looking at one of my succulents and admiring how beautiful they are despite the fact they need so little water. I sometimes wish I could ignore all my plants like that without killing them. It also struck me that sometimes we treat our lives like a succulent. We give ourselves little refreshment, care or restful space and yet still expect to thrive. As a result we end up like my dead basil.
Growing and developing healthily does take care and attention. Counselling is one approach to this, but so is reading, going to the gym, or watching a favourite box set. Anything that refreshes your soul like water, brightens your day like sunlight or gives you room to breath like re-potting into fresh soil is only going to be a good thing. Creating time for self care can be hard, but once you start, you'll wonder how you ever survived without it.
Lastly, if you are somebody who gives to others in any way, self care is essential. It's often said that you can't give water from a dry well and I think it's also fair to assume that if you treat yourself like a succulent with no needs, you'll soon end up just as prickly when others approach you. In order to avoid this in my own life, my new mantra has become, 'I am not a succulent. I am not a succulent'. In this way, I remind myself that I am not some sort of robot with no needs. I am a living, breathing person and sometimes I need a little watering.
So, my challenge to you this week is this: what are you doing to bring lightness, refreshment and space into your life?