Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Real life self-care


We all like bubble baths and scented candles, right? A cheeky spa day here, a lie in there... These are the things we've come to know as the go-to breaks from our lives, designed to take our energy banks back into the black. Yes, they are nice things that make us feel good, no question. But are they really the ultimate in self-care?

Self-care is the new lagom which was the new hygge. What do they all have in common? I don't want to shatter any illusions here but they are just THINGS PEOPLE DO, made into commodities and therefore bankable. Don't get me wrong - I love those translated words that somehow mean more than just the random bunch of letters they appear to be. But what I don't love is the persuasive element, the gentle suggestion that you're not doing it right if you don't re-brand a run-of-the-mill cosy night under a (grey, Scandi-chic) blanket on the sofa as a paean to hygge.

There's a lot to be said for caring for yourself though, more to the idea than first meets the eye. It brings to the surface sometimes uncomfortable themes around self esteem, happiness, how you were parented, and it can also veer into the realms of mental and physical health (which I don't feel qualified to address). Implicit, however, is the notion that 95% of our lives are spent not caring for ourselves, which can feel true for many of us. But that relies on a linear notation of our time, a weekly calendar in which we set in stone all the must-dos before slotting into place the nice to haves, poured around real life like seawater in a rockpool.

Since September, I have had a niggly problem in my back. Last month, I finally got myself to an osteopath who happens to have the same spinal issue as me. He told me how, with daily yoga practice, he's managed to grow 3cm over the past nine years. Pretty impressive, huh? As part of my (yes, very expensive) treatment, he suggested I do a few stretching exercises every day both to help my current problem and to improve the longstanding one. Have I done them? No. The prospect of growing taller or even just not becoming a hunchback not enough of a carrot? Apparently not.

See also: enough water. Supplements. Meditation. Eating well. Breathing mindfully. Reading more.

I know I should be doing all of these things. I know they will make me feel better. I know this. So why am I not doing them?

There are a million answers to this question. I could tell you how I haven't got time, how working freelance takes up more time than a desk job, how parenting so many kids and one with special needs is exhausting. You know how it is, don't you? But all those replies do is to generate one important question: why don't we value ourselves enough to make the time?

But I don't want to get up earlier than my children to roll about on a yoga mat in the dark. Sleep is my priority in the mornings, so some other time will have to do. Likewise, by the end of the day I just want to roll back into bed and read until my eyelids drop. Trying to shoehorn in a meditation would only make me rush through, making the whole thing futile. I tell myself I'll drink the water/take the vitamins/cook the kale tomorrow, only for tomorrow to be almost over and everything remains undone.

Yesterday, I spent time with one of the wisest people I know. We talked about this predicament and she helped me see things in a different way. Funny how an outside perspective can really change things, isn't it? It's with huge reserve that I tentatively put this out there - I'm going to try something different for the next week and then see how I feel. This all sounds a bit new year's resolution but three o'clock is going to be my new self-care half hour, in which I'm aiming to drink water, do yoga, drink more water and take my supplements. There's something about packaging it all up into a regular slot, non-negotiable and at a time with the least impact, that seems achievable. Working for myself makes this more straightforward, of course. But surely that's one of the perks?

There's so much in this around forming habits, getting in tune with your body, noticing how you feel and prioritisation. The scientist in me is happy to take an experimental approach, without heavy investment. The commitment is there, though.


What do you do to make sure you're looking after yourself? Not necessarily the things themselves, but how you encourage yourself to do them? 

Please do leave me a comment, I find this subject so interesting.

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