I used to believe self-care was a bit “fluffy”, indulgent even. Even as a firm believer in, and advocate for, the benefits of leading a holistic, mindful lifestyle, for some deep-rooted reasons and my extreme Vata tendencies I’ve never been very good at allowing myself to relax and rebalance. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to cope, my inner strength and my physical stamina but there comes a point (parenting three kids, the highs and lows of running your own business, the busy pace of London life etc) when all the early morning and late nights required to fit everything in, all that pushing myself to the point of exhaustion was no longer paying off. My enthusiasm was wearing thin. My focus wasn’t as sharp. I was working hard but not efficiently. I was training but not seeing the results. I was practising yoga but not making the progress I had hoped for.
So I decided it was time to move on from my self-induced, superwoman-syndrome and start embracing the self-care movement. After all, didn’t I keep reading, I needed to take care of myself first if I wanted to care for others properly and succeed in life?
I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase or something very similar before. Or there’s that other popular self-care mantra that keeps popping up on my Insta-feed. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Unquestionably, sound advice - who doesn’t feel ten times better when they’re actually looking after themselves properly but at what cost? What do you have to say no to, to claw back some quality me-time? Does there come a point when scheduling time for self-care activities “Sorry I’m not coming to your party I must get an early night/I’m busy spending Sunday meal-prepping/I’m just Instagramming my Turmeric Latte can you hold a sec”, become well, too selfish?
Of course not, for busy women, especially us mums, self-care isn’t selfish. Self-care is a necessity not a luxury. It’s health-enhancing and sanity-preserving. Forget having an aromatherapy bath, just going to the toilet alone is a self-care goal for any mum with young kids! But joking aside, I have hesitated to associate myself with #self-care despite believing it, feeling it has become “trendy” to the point of self-indulgence. I wonder about the motivation behind all the photos of post-spin smoothies, face-mask selfies and berry-topped bowls of porridge shot artfully alongside long legs flatteringly crossed at the ankles hash-tagged as self-care. Are they posted to connect with others or for the likes? Are they well-intended or smug?
Sharing our wellness rituals with our friends and followers is undoubtedly a good thing but maybe we all need to think a little deeper about the intention behind our message before we press post. Is it honest and authentic, is it inspiring, is it truthful? Do you show your self-care struggles as well as your accomplishments?
Before I share any self-care moments online and in my blog, I’ve started asking myself why am I sharing this? Is this photo, caption, blog helpful? Will it inspire other women to eek out some time for themselves and their wellness or will it make them feel guilty, annoyed or envious? Who really cares that I made time for an aromatherapy bath last night, but if I include the DIY recipe of essential oils I added that helped me fall blissfully off to sleep, then I guess that is a useful example of a self-care ritual to share with others.
Somewhere along the way, the volume of envy-inducing social media posts has transformed our expectations of self-care from something as simple as reading a good book snuggled up on the the sofa to having an outdoor massage at tree-top spa. For me, self-care is something much less tangible and far less materialistic – it’s about making sure I have a good scattering of everyday healthy rituals throughout my week to keep my body energised and my mind balanced – like going to bed at a reasonable time, like rolling out my yoga mat a couple of times a week, like shopping for wholesome foods at my local farmer’s market and being able to cook up some delicious meals.
We all have our own limits of what we can take, what we are willing to accept, how hard we can work – we shouldn’t need to push ourselves to the point where we have to resort to rewarding ourselves with self-care. Taking care of ourselves should be a part of our everyday holistic lifestyle not a treat.
Are you looking after yourself?
You’re overwhelmed at work. You have a ton of projects piling up at home, and your calendar is packed with overdue tasks. To make room for all of this stuff, you skip lunch, stop going to the gym and cancel social engagements you were looking forward to. Sound familiar?
When we’re stressed doing things that benefit our health or help us relax tend to be the first things we cancel, but they’re essential for the wellbeing. Self-care is not an indulgence or a reward, it prevents burn out, reduces the negative effects of stress and helps keep things in perspective. Here are some ideas to keep your wellness on track when you feel overwhelmed.
- Make time to eat well and exercise, even when you’re busy. A brisk walk around the park or 10 minutes of sun salutations can make all the difference.
- Write down your stresses and troubles, it’ll help you calm down and refocus.
- Protect your schedule – don’t cancel things that are important to you
- Spend time nurturing yourself and others - we are creatures of touch and a little back massage or foot rub can go a long way
Love and light as always