I was casually indulging in a spot of kitchen cleaning, specifically the oven of doom!!, and to stop myself from losing the plot entirely I was also indulging in a bit of an Instagram story catch up sesh at the same time. So, there I was elbow deep in the oven pride and listening to the fabulous @Natashabailie talking about self-care.
If you aren’t familiar with Natasha, and I would urge you to change that, then you may not be aware that she is a great voice in the Instagram mental health community and speaks very passionately about the use of self-care in managing mental health difficulties. She can be found on Instagram or at www.mentalmutha.com
During these particular stories, Natasha was talking about the fact that whilst she strongly values self-care not everyone feels the same. She was questioning why this may be the case and this in turn got me thinking about my relationship with self-care and my take on what Natasha was saying.
Self-care hasn’t always come easily to me, in the lead up to my illness my life was completely full with work, kids, family and a never-ending stream if time filling commitments with little value. I viewed taking care of my self as selfish and it wasn’t what good mothers did because good mothers put everything in to raising the family and keeping the home.
(Disclaimer 1: I am not saying this is the case at all, it was simply a warped perception I held for some time. Disclaimer 2: despite what it sounds like, I was not raised in Stepford during the 60’s. I am not sure where this warped perception stems from)
It wasn’t until I broke that I realised I needed to work a bit more on me to be able to look after others. This is the tag line that is so often used and is absolutely right. But I’ll be honest, even now I still struggle with self-care and I don’t think I am alone in that.
So why is this the case? Why do so many people shun what seems like a dream situation – a genuine excuse to make time for yourself and do nice things?
In reality I think that a lot of people either don’t truly understand what self-care means and they have a very tight definition of what counts as self-care. For others it just feels too big, too scary and too time consuming. After all, if your head is full and you are feeling the stretch, the idea of trying to factor something else in to the mix can be overwhelming. Consequently, the things that are easiest to remove are the ones we take out the first. After all it is not that easy to take out work or family commitments so we sacrifice the things that will help us the most.
Even now when I have worked very hard on trying to rebuild myself, and when I have changed so many of the negative things from before, I still struggle with having the time and the headspace to tackle self-care.
Yoga for example – My friend keeps telling me of the virtues of yoga for my physical and mental health. I know this is true and I do really want to get in to it, but I don’t feel like I have the time or the headspace to start it yet. It sounds crazy but I think it is a bit like addicts admitting they have a problem before they will seek help. I need to feel ready to commit the time to yoga before I can contemplate starting it. I had the same thing with counselling. I knew I needed it for a long time, before I was really ill but I didn’t have the headspace to commit to it. Counselling is a long and hard journey. One that is worthwhile no doubt but not something you can jump in to lightly. Obviously, yoga is not the same level of intensity as counselling but the principle is the same and that I think also applies to self-care. You have to be able to commit the time to it before you can start the process. You have to believe in the value and you have to recognise the benefits.
But I do think there is a lot of confusion or presumption around what is meant by self-care. It isn’t always about finding time to go to the salon or the spa, although these things count and are very valuable to some. It can be about doing something that makes you feel good, whatever that may be and recognising its value.
For me, and this may well sound lame to some, it is making time to do some life admin or some cleaning admin. I definitely didn’t enjoy cleaning the brown gunk out of my oven but my god did I feel good afterwards. That box of oven pride had been in my house for more than 2 months and sitting beside the oven for at least a month (minus the days when people came round and I didn’t want to highlight the state of my oven) to try and encourage me to do it and simultaneously making me feel guilty for not doing it. So, to have actually had the time to tick that job off my to do list made me feel amazing.
Having a clean house makes me feel like I have my sh** together, it makes me feel like I am top of things and that I’m not completely failing at life. That is important to me but it isn’t necessarily important to others and that’s fine.
Find what is important to you and try to make some time to do it. It doesn’t have to be the glamourous stuff that is so often publicised, it may be stuff that you don’t want to admit to or that isn’t “instagrammable” but that’s ok. You don’t need to justify to anyone else what self-care means to you.
Its really not a case of “go hard or go home” either, it can be small things leading to big things or it can just always be small things.
Self-care is not an insurmountable mountain, it is stepping stones towards making you feel better. Those stepping stones can be as close together or as far apart as you need them at the moment. If you only manage something for you once a month or less frequently than that, its ok. And as ever with the world of social media, don’t be driven by what others are doing or feel bad because others seem to be doing it more or doing it better. People only post what they want you to see. Self-care is just that, something for yourself. Do it to make you feel better and only you. If you want to, please feel free to comment and share what you do or have done. Perhaps it will help others to identify something they could do for themselves to make a positive change.
I’ll start you off with a few ideas that work for ME:
1) Keeping on top of the cleaning (I used the Organised Mum Method – see Instagram, facebook or this blog if you want to know what I mean www.theorganisedmum.blog)
2) Having lists of all the things I need or want to do. This stops them swimming around in my head and making me feel overwhelmed or forgetful.
3) Painting my nails – I use gel/shellac but do it at home because I can’t afford the time to make an appointment somewhere. For me having nice nails makes me feel a hundred times better.
I would love it if you could share your ideas with me.