"I don't have time" must have passed my lips more times than I've had hot dinners. I don't have time for this project. I don't have time for that study. I don't have time for housework (ok, I like this excuse).
Some of the things I tell people (and myself) that I don't have time for are actually really important things, like quality time with family or catching up with old friends. And then there's looking after myself.
Self care is bandied around as a term and honestly I didn't really get it until recently. You'd think I would have figured out sooner that it's not normal to expect to live life at 100mph, and that you can't give from an empty vessel! We need to take care of ourselves so that we can function properly; so we can be mentally, physically and emotionally healthy (as far as possible); so we can 'do' life. It's not so much an indulgence as an essential survival skill.
Everyone has different needs, and I'm not going to pretend to be an expert. Here are a few of the simple, practical ways I've been working on self care. I hope they might be helpful for a few others!
I'm not going to be the only one who's close to umbilically connected to their phone, or who struggles to switch off after work. Daily information overload messes with my head - a mind can only take so much! Similarly with noise/activity around me; sometimes I just need some space.
Half an hour reading, calm music, a short nap, a walk - all of these help me to chill out and regain composure. Even a minute of deep breathing helps, if you're stuck in the office/tube/supermarket and you feel like your head is going to explode.
Don't worry, I'm not about to be the gazillionth person to suggest adult colouring (although if that's your bag, carry on my friend!).
I honestly think everyone is creative in some way. My husband can't draw much better than your average five-year-old (he'll freely admit it), but he's practically pro at Lego models. And to be fair, we don't have a five-year-old so I'd still put his pictures on the fridge if he wanted to do them.
You want to build things? Bake things? Paint things? Take photos? Design a chair? Sew a dress? Go do it! Having a creative outlet is good for us on so many levels, and it gives us a focus outside of whatever life challenges we might be facing.
I give myself permission to be proud of myself when I do something well. There's a difference between satisfaction and ego. Chalking up my little triumphs, whatever they might be (sometimes it's just not being sarcastic toward someone, or finally washing the baking trays), reminds me I'm making some progress in life.
And it's good to speak encouragement to yourself as well as to others. We all need some positivity - real truths and not just motivational poster quotes. Remembering that we have value helps us to feel secure.
My watermelon obsession is real and when they start to become scarce I get genuinely sad. But it might be for more than just flavour that I crave fruity goodness - it makes me feel better too.
I'm not suggesting everyone goes on a diet. I am 100% against diet culture (for more on that, I recommend this article). But it's a fact that our bodies need certain nutrients to function, and seeing as bodies and minds and emotions are all intertwined, it makes sense to try and get what you need. I have a real tendency to reach for the crisps and ice cream when I'm feeling low, and that's fine; we shouldn't feel guilty about what we eat. But I know it's not the best I can do for my body if I do that all the time, and experience has taught me lots of fresh fruit and veggies perk me right up.
Arianna Huffington has this one down. It's no secret that sleep is essential, but I'm so good at pushing it to the back of the agenda when there are Things To Be Done (caps because you know what I mean - those really loud things that shout at you in your head).
In the last few months, gradually and with relapses, I've been trying to go to bed earlier. I've been trying to put my phone down earlier. I've allowed myself to nap when I get back from work on days when I'm really exhausted. I used to laugh at my husband for napping almost daily but you know what? When he's awake, he's often more alert than I am. I'm the one who phases in and out mid-conversation of an evening, or struggles to make a simple decision because it's 11pm and I should have hit the pillow an hour ago.
I'm terrible for packing more into a day than is feasible - case in point, I was doing some freelance work in the evenings this week and I didn't go to bed before midnight Monday-Thursday. On Friday I nearly drifted off to sleep while I was sat on the loo!
So it's not worth feeling guilty for prioritising sleep. Rest in general helps our minds and bodies to recuperate and enables us to make better decisions - what's not to value?
What are your self-care methods? I'd love to hear them. Open discussion about how to look after ourselves can be really helpful in enabling people to find what works for them.