The Pressure of ‘Self Care’

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Self care is definitely the buzzword of the moment isn’t it. You read about it everywhere you go, and for so long it got my back up. Whenever I saw people talking about self care, it was all about long bubble baths, trips to the spa, getting your nails done, or your hair cut. All things that I just didn’t have the time or money for, and it just felt like one more thing on the list that I didn’t have time to tick off. One more pressure. One more thing that I wasn’t managing to keep on top of, and one more thing to feel guilty for not doing.

I’ve written a lot about how much I struggled in the first year of my youngest son’s life. His sleep really couldn’t have been worse, and I honestly have no idea how I managed to get through life in those days when he was waking up after just 5 minutes of sleep. It’s amazing what your body can get through, but getting through is all I was doing. I certainly didn’t feel like I was living or enjoying life.

There was definitely a turnaround moment for me, and I have to credit it to my work last year with Johnson’s Baby. As part of being a Johnson’s Baby Ambassador, we were invited to quarterly meetups, where there would be a focus on a particular topic, with guest speakers and experts on hand for advice. Last August, the focus was Self Care, and it was a revelation for me.

You can’t pour from an empty cup…

At the time of the meeting, I was in a particularly ‘shouty mum’ phase. I’m a stay at home mum, so I find that a lot of my self worth is placed on how good a job I feel I’m doing as a mum. My boys are aged 5 and 2, and are either the best of friends or at each other’s throats (and much more often it’s the latter). It’s exhausting and emotionally draining. And when Shouty Mum appears so often, it turns into a negative cycle, and I find myself shouting more and more, feeling like I’m failing at being a good mum. When your self worth is low, it’s impossible to be your best self (as much as phrases like that make me cringe).

But the real revelation for me from that day was that suddenly I realised that there was more to self care than a bubble bath and a spa day. It was about understanding the things that make you personally feel nurtured and re-energised and finding ways to work those into your everyday. They don’t have to be big things, or expensive things – start small and you’ll immediately see the positive effects.

It’s all about the little things

I started by looking at the little things that I did during the course of every day, and trying to make sure that they gave me a little energy boost. Things like making sure that I had 5 minutes to drink my morning coffee in peace, preferably outside if the weather is favourable. Really noticing the warmth of the mug in my hands, and appreciating the smell of the coffee. Or applying a bit of hand lotion after I’ve washed my hands and giving myself a hand massage, appreciating the soft touch, the smell, and the feel of the cold lotion. These were the things that I do every day, so they were an easy place to start; just building an awareness and an appreciation, rather than rushing through them as ‘one more daily task to be completed’.

It wasn’t easy at first, and I really had to force myself to do them, and to get my husband on board, particularly with allowing me those 5 minutes in the morning to drink my coffee in peace without the children harassing me! But the different those little changes made to my attitude was amazing.

I started to feel like I was actually living life again, not just going through the motions.

Once the small changes were in place, I was able to make more positive changes. Again, I knew it wasn’t the beauty related things that really have an impact for me. I feel my best when I’m outdoors and I know how important exercise is for my state of mind, so I started running again, alongside yoga.

Exercise was a big one for me – I used to love it, but it’s so hard to keep it up once children come around. I felt like I couldn’t justify the amount of time needed. These days though, there is bound to be an exercise option out there if you look around. I discovered a yoga class starting at 8pm, so that has become my dedicated ‘me time’ of the week, and I supplement that with an at-home yoga practice with Yoga with Adriene videos on YouTube (suitable for beginners and free!). And despite saying I didn’t have time to run anymore, I’ve managed to fit it in for the last 6 months – heading out first thing in the morning while my husband sorts the boys’ breakfast, and at the weekend.

And the knock on effects are huge. I think with self care, it’s like a seed that starts to grow once you make those first small changes. It starts small, and then starts to blossom. Once I’m exercising, I always automatically think more about the food I’m eating, and I treat my body with a lot more kindness and acceptance. I think yoga definitely helps with acceptance and patience! I’ve also lost weight and toned up, which is something that has really pleased me. So often these days we’re made to feel like saying we want to lose weight is something to be ashamed of, and that we should all be body confident. But for me, my weight was just one more symptom of the fact that I didn’t like myself, and I wasn’t taking care of my body. It’s no wonder I didn’t like the body I saw staring back at me in the mirror.

I feel like a different person to the one I was at the start of last year and I look back now and wish that I’d had some of these self care tools during the time when I was in the depths of sleep deprivation. Although they’re never going to grant you sleep, they can definitely make you feel more positive and stop you falling into that negative cycle.

The main picture I chose for this blog post made me smile. It’s what I would idealise my self care to be – outdoors, surrounded by stunning landscape, alone (as an introvert, that’s a key one for me!), and just breathing it all in. But it’s definitely taken me some time to realise that self care isn’t perfect, it’s about what’s available to you at that moment in time. There are times in our lives when we have our ideal self care tools at our fingertips, and others where we need to be a bit more flexible. But there is always something available to us that we can utilise, to nurture and restore ourselves.

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