Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Self Care & Learning To Recharge

Self-care has become a real buzz word for 2017, but only now am I starting to understand exactly why it is so important. On my social media feeds I'd see photos of bubble baths or cups of tea captioned with #selfcare and although it seemed a nice idea (I love baths and tea, even better together) I never gave much thought to self-care as a concept. Initially I understood the term from a medical perspective, a routine to stay healthy, preventing illness. This concept was right up my street. Looking after myself physically is something I am always working on. It is a huge priority for me to eat nourishing and healthy food, supplement where necessary, drink water, stay active and keep busy, get enough sleep, and use topical products to make me feel good in my outward appearance. These things are so integrated within my day-to-day that I barely realise that every beneficial thing I do for my physical self is a form of self-care. However, today I wanted to discuss the other side of self-care: the more holistic side that we all too often put on the back burner.


I know enough people that have raved about "The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving A F**k" to know that overthinking and saying no to people are commonly faced problems. In this modern-day age, feelings of anxiousness, self-comparison and being unable to switch off seem a lot more common (or are at least more commonly talked about) and this isn't surprising considering the internet never sleeps. It's so hard not to get sucked into the never-ending streams of consciousness and self-comparison. The problem with the internet is that we can portray our lives exactly as we want them to be portrayed. That person on Instagram whose life seems all sunshine, rainbows, polished glamour and basking in sponsored luxury is surely not everything it's cracked up to be. Nobody is without their own problems or insecurities one way or another - and though few people are inclined to share the negatives when we compare our own lives to how we perceive others it is easy to forget what may be going on underneath for those who seem so enviable.

So how is that relevant to self care? Well, ultimately our physical and mental health depend on each other. I truly believe that if we are not nourishing and looking after ourselves our mental health will be affected, and in turn it is incredibly apparent that if our mental health is poor this can manifest itself physically within the body. It's a vicious circle, and we're at a disadvantage as it seems that the way of the world at the moment can take a real toll on our mental health. We are pressured to be high achievers both in our personal and professional lives and our reliance on technology often means we are permanently contactable and our "performance" is documented online for others to see. As a society we are more materialistic and want instant gratification. This can all be a huge drain on our emotional wellbeing. We want our batteries to be fully charged at all times, ready and prepared for anything at the drop of a hat, able to go everywhere, see everything and meet everyone, and then share dozens of glamorous pictures afterwards. But by attempting this we can stretch ourselves too thin, leaving us vulnerable to burning out both physically and mentally. I know far too many people who have pushed themselves too far and experienced both - that's why I want more of us to start talking about this important subject and being more self-aware of how we can prevent this from happening.

We overlook ourselves far more often than you think. If you work at a computer, can you honestly say that you take a break from your desk once an hour for a stretch, walk and a break from the screen? Do you notice yourself feeling dehydrated and realise you've been thirsty for a long time but too busy to grab a drink? Or that you wait to go to the bathroom until you're absolutely bursting? I know at work I'm rushed enough that I could easily forget about lunch, let alone take my (unpaid) lunch hour - that never happens. These small everyday occurrences sound silly, but they're examples of how easy it is to put our own wellbeing at the bottom of our list. Self-care comes into the picture when we actively take charge of putting ourselves first. I wanted to write about this topic specifically because so many of us resign ourselves to "that's just how it is now." And that's partially true - society expectations won't be changing any time soon. But there are still some things we can do to help ourselves, and the more we start to tell ourselves that it's okay to put ourselves first, hopefully the less burnt out and despondent we will feel.

In my experience, the first place to start with self-care is to really get in touch with yourself and start listening to what you truly need. Acknowledge your feelings, accept and own them without judging yourself or thinking about other people's opinions. It's important to learn that it's okay to say no - or yes! - to others, despite expectations or what you feel you're "supposed" to do. When you start to recognise when you are flagging and decide to take action, you can then decide what you need to do to recuperate.

"Self-care is any activity that you do voluntarily which helps you maintain your physical, mental or emotional health. It can help you feel healthy, relaxed and ready to take on your work and responsibilities."

Everybody recharges in their own way. My boyfriend trains in martial arts as his form of self-care. I know when he needs to train because he can become snappy, distracted and is more likely to overthink and take things in the wrong way (and he will freely admit this!) Through this physical activity he draws a line under daily thoughts or worries and focuses entirely on his senses to strengthen both his body and mind. This discipline gives him freedom from extraneous thoughts and allows him to recharge. It is easy to understand how physical exercise can become addictive when it makes you feel this way.

My own favourite ways to switch off and recharge could not be more stereotypical as a blogger. I like to take an hour or two completely alone, preferably without my phone. My very favourite way to do this is by sinking into a hot bath and washing my hair - it makes sense that making a ritual of becoming physically clean can help wash away negative thoughts and emotions. I also find it very therapeutic to do something purely for myself such as taking time to paint my nails watching a film or show my boyfriend can't stand! I also find it hugely helps me to make sure my surrounding environment is as relaxed and comfortable as possible. I like to make sure everything is tidy, and then I might light candles and incense or burn essential oils as sensory experiences can hugely help in the process of relaxing. If there are tensions within your household, try getting outside in an open space and going for a walk instead. Experiment with music: sometimes relaxed music helps me to unwind, other times I might find peace within the quiet. I always find taking a few hours away from the internet helps hugely, as does making a pot of tea and taking the time to appreciate it. Yoga or meditation are popular too - one of my personal goals is to try and do more of both.

Love yourself first, because that's who you'll be spending the rest of your life with.

I understand some people may be dubious about self-care as a concept. It may seem self-indulgent or selfish, but ultimately it is our own duty to put ourselves first for even a couple of hours a week. If you are not looking after yourself, you will struggle to look after others or function as the best version of yourself. Additionally, taking time to recharge yourself will help you to feel better in your own skin, be less tired, have clearer goals and passions and more self-awareness. My one piece of advice is that however you like to practice self-care, make it a ritual. Try and be mindful of how the practice makes you feel at a sensory level, focusing on the physical and quieting outside thoughts. Make it your sacred time and you won't believe how healing it can be.

How do you like to practice self-care, and do you feel you spend enough time on it?
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4 comments

  1. Great post lovely! Self care is so important and something which I often neglect, but I am working on it! I sometimes find myself thinking of my self care practices more as chores instead of leisurely activities, so I often don't have the morivation to take care of myself properly. I'll write a list of things and tell you about it so you can keep me on it! 😹

    Kimberley
    www.life-styler.net

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    1. Thanks Kimmie <3 I'm actually with you on that partially, especially when it comes to exercise - though I enjoy it when I do it, I have to really psych myself up for it and usually try and bail on the excuse that I'm always on my feet all day at work. We should swap lists!

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  2. Since self care became a 'thing' I've actually realised how little I do to take care of my mind and body. In order to get some more self care I've joined a gym, deactivated my Facebook, overhauled my diet and started making time to read. My boyfriend is a gym-goer and you can definitely tell when he hasn't been, same as your boyfriend with his martial arts!

    Great read.

    Jess
    alrightblondie.com

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    1. Thanks so much Jess! Good for you making positive changes! I'm so glad self-care has become a 'thing' as it's so great to see people acknowledging their own importance and putting themselves first. Also, I'm jealous - I am so keen to deactivate my Facebook - it for sure has negative connotations for me! Yet I find it hard to keep off it and I run an art page on there. Not sure what to do! xx

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