The start of a new year – time for reflection or just another day?

So, the bells have rung, the fireworks have gone off, the champagne has been drunk and we have changed from 2018 to 2019. As usual the world didn’t end, there were no technological epidemics at the point of midnight and the questionable political decisions of 2018 have not vanished in a puff of smoke.

Fundamentally nothing has changed!

Yet we all often fall in to the trap of feeling compelled to make changes or expecting things to be different just because we now have to end our dates with /19 and not /18.

I have fallen foul of this myself year on year, but encouraged by the many postings of Instagram I made the decision to approach this new year a bit differently.

The overall message from Instagram was that I actually didn’t need to change, there was nothing wrong with me and that was a message that started to resonate. I have real issues with myself, valuing who I am and treating myself with compassion. This has been heightened by an unfortunate incident before Christmas which I won’t go in to but did set me back a fair way.

So, the idea that I didn’t need to start thinking about all the bits of me I hated and wanted to change and instead could keep focussed on marrying who I am with who I want to be was enlightening.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that we shouldn’t acknowledge the turn of the year. I know it is basically just another day and in reality it doesn’t feel any different but it’s as good a day as any to start thinking about what you want going forward. There has to be a day one for kick starting a new approach so I think why not the first day of the year.

So this year instead of making a list of all the things I want to change about me, of which there are endless, I am instead going to focus on the things that I was doing last year and enjoyed. Things that have perhaps slipped from my attention or haven’t been prioritised as they should. Things that I value and that benefit me physically or mentally.

This list will be pretty fluid and I plan to add to it or amend it as the months go on, no one can know what the future holds so I think it is only right that there is no rigid plan.

So here are a few of the things I am planning to continue in 2019:

  • I would like to get back in to running and improve my fitness levels. Three years ago I managed to run a half marathon and whilst I didn’t really enjoy the race itself I did feel enormous satisfaction that I was able to run that distance. I had worked hard to get myself prepared for such an event and I would love to be back to that level again as I felt such a sense of accomplishment. But it is not easy starting again and finding the mental strength to push through the pain. I also need to prioritise running more and make some time for it.
  • I am going to continue with my “read more scroll less” pledge started last year when I gave up facebook and my personal Instagram account in order to make more time to read. I managed 24 books last year which was one short of my 25 target but that still mega for me as I think I averaged about 3 books a year over the previous 5 years. That’s also not including the 4 textbooks I read for my 2 exams which slowed down the reading for pleasure mission. Those textbooks definitely weren’t pleasure!
  • I am going to make a greater effort to write my blog and work really hard on getting some structure and order to my writing. I have so many ideas but I need to make the time to work on them. Otherwise, let’s be honest I am just wasting my time.
  • I am going to be more mindful of what triggers my anxiety because what 2018 taught me was that it wasn’t enough to just leave my job and expect to get better. There has been an ongoing battle with anxiety and I need to continue to work on how to make things a bit easier. I still don’t know if I will overcome anxiety, it feels very far away from achievable at the moment but I know I can take steps to make it easier to deal with and 2019 will be about fine tuning those steps.

And that is that, I think 4 things to continue is more than enough for me. I can’t cope at the best of times with being overwhelmed so there is no reason to actively do it to myself. These are all things that I have been doing in 2018 and would like to continue and improve upon. Not resolutions, not unattainable goals to fail to achieve. Just some structured thinking about what I value in my life. And obviously it goes without saying that I will continue to look after my family etc etc and I will probably on occasion still strive to be a size 6 but small steps and all.

Happy 2019 folks, may it be the best possible year it can be for all!!

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What is this self care you speak of ?!?

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?

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Self-care doesn’t have to be a mountain, don’t be scared by the idea.

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.

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You don’t have to go from 0-60 straight away. Take small steps, even tiny ones will make a difference.

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.