The fact that we have a special phrase for what we all need more of, is telling of the fact that it’s trying to be sold to us. Yes, it’s being sold to us by bubble bath manufacturers, by yoga retreat holiday companies and by fluffy dressing gown makers but more than all of that commercial clap trap, it’s being sold to us by people who really care that we’re caring for ourselves. These include mental health charities, our doctors, our friends and families because they all know how much more on top of things we can be when we’ve had a good sleep and a laugh with friends. So, why are we are struggling to care for ourselves, as much as we need?
There will be different reasons for different people but I’ve narrowed it down to the main three.
- Time. This is the big one. There’s always something else we ‘should’ be doing. Something else we ‘could’ be doing. I’m as bad as anyone else for this but one thing I try to remember is a little phrase I once heard at the start of a guided meditation. “Be confident that this is the best use of your time, right now”. I really like this phrase and I find it very grounding. It helps me to lose any sense of guilt around what I should be doing. I know that taking that time to go for a walk, exercise, hug my cat or just sit with a cup of coffee for five minutes will have so many far-reaching benefits for the rest of the day. No one’s suggesting that you spend all day in the bath (although you can, of course!) but taking a moment to recharge will always be the best use of your time ‘right now’. You don’t need anyone’s permission or approval.
- You’re not worth it. Now, if a multi-million dollar company like L’Oreal thinks you’re worth a decent shampoo, then I’m certain as hell that you’re worth looking after. At the end of the day, not wanting to get too deep and meaningful, but you’re all you have. When we sit on our own, with our thoughts, we are stuck with us. If we don’t feel rested or stimulated or whatever we need at that particular moment then we’re going to struggle with everything else. The phrase ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ springs to mind here. You won’t be as good at your job, you will not feel in sync with your family and you will hate on yourself even more when you feel like you’re failing. Taking just an hour to acknowledge that you’re as important to yourself as anyone else in your life can be really empowering. What advice would you give a friend who was at burn-out? Write it down in a note, fold it in half, write your name on the other side and leave it on the table for yourself when you get home, go on a lunch break or arrive at your desk the next day. You’ve been told!
- Money. Let’s get this out there. I’m happy to admit that I have very little disposable income. I’m happy admitting that so that you don’t jump to ‘but I can’t afford a weekend at a spa’ or even ‘I don’t have spare cash for a coffee in a nice cafe’. I don’t either, most of the time, but this has just made me have to be a bit more thoughtful about what I need. I don’t find spa weekends all that relaxing as I’m uncomfortable staying being away from home and I hate being seen in public in a swimming costume. What I love is snuggling under the duvet, half way through the day, and having a nap. I love a fancy coffee shop as much as the next person but with bus fare, the coffee and magazine to read so you look like less like a weirdo on your own can add up. But, what I also love is making myself a cup of coffee at home and just sitting, looking out of the window, doing nothing else. Not checking my phone, not writing a list, not putting on my make-up, just sitting, until I finish the coffee. I love the park opposite my house and walking around it, even on a wet miserable day. I love cuddling my cat and smelling his head. I love looking through old holiday photos. Self care doesn’t have to cost money. In fact, you can gain so many valuable things without having to spend anything at all.It’s one of the smallest investments for the biggest returns that you can make.
I know it’s not easy and you’ll put up a lot resistance at first. It’s quite alien for us to prioritize our own wellbeing, in a society that values productivity and being busy, above almost anything else. Don’t believe the hype. Busy will get you to burn out by the time your fifty and productivity is, more often than not, putting money in to other people’s pockets whilst robbing you of your precious reserves. It’s a lesson I’m still learning and will probably never fully conquer but I’m making a start. I’m going for a walk in a minute, before I start work. I’d love it if you could do just a small thing for yourself, today, and if you’d like to, share it with us, in the comments. We could all use a few more ideas to help us navigate this crazy world.
Take care, in the truest sense of the words!