Real Self Care

I’ve created similar posts like this on my blog before. My recent ‘How I relax’ post comes from a similar pursuit of peace and chill. However, a tweet thread I saw today compelled me to give this further thought, and approach the topic from a slightly different angle.

The thread which was brought to attention by a fabulous girl called Poppy Field, a fellow blogger who also deals with chronic illness. She pointed out that all too often our online self care posts include things like ‘pet a fuzzy cute animal’ or ‘watch Disney movies.’ While I’m not saying they’re not helpful, they definitely fall under ‘cliche’ and ‘tumblr’ in their tone.

Another couple of quotes she tweeted also struck a chord with me -‘One of the most empowering types of self care is responsibility, but Tumblr just want to sit in a closet strung with fairy lights….’ and ‘Cute’ selfceare for ‘cute’ mental issues. That’s not reality. ‘

It made me think. Are the things we think are great self care activities genuinely so, or have I just seen them repeated so frequently online that I just believe that to be the case. They sound logical and like they’d deliver some positive feelings or comfort, so they must be the definition of efficient self-care right?

Tonight, as I lay comfortably on an L-shaped sofa feel quite content watching a Brad Pitt movie and nibbling on chocolate fingers, I realise I have temporarily been distracted from my current and rather hefty woes. I start to ponder what other activities help me to feel a bit more human, feel like I have the ability to cope (and even feel happy). So here’s just a few things I’ve done, or do, that didn’t occur to me to be a form of self care till now. 

1.Cutting my hair. I’ve spoken frequently about the tiresome realities of having long hair. How time consuming it is to maintain. How it gets stuck in my handbag strap and turns into matted mess of cartoon scribble.How daunting the prospect washing and drying it is. How it puts me off even attempting it to be hygienic. How my boyfriend will find bits of my dinner in it, or smell the aroma of yesterdays. How it will get stuck under his arms when we attempt bed snuggles and he’ll end up nearly balding me when he attempts to move away (which he will because of the greasy smell). Although of course I wanted to feel more attractive and confident with my new cut and colour, the root of this decision didn’t lie in vanity. This is probably the most significant move I’ve made in terms of self care. My weak arms are so grateful for the reduced times with the hairdryer.

2. Life admin. This isn’t about enjoyment of the tasks included under the bracket of life admin. NOT AT ALL. This is about knowing that having loads of things outstanding, like bills, emails, thank you letters, ignored Whatsapps, post office trips etc, makes me feel restless and under pressure. I hate the feeling of not being on top of stuff, or being overwhelmed to the point of not coping. Or worrying that people think I’m ignoring them (therefore rude or unprofessional). So if theres any opportunity to allocate a day to getting up to date then I know it is in my interest to do it and if I’m focused I’ll feel a great sense of relief and achievement at the end of the day.

3.Clearing my bedside table. My makeshift bedside table which is constructed from an old puff with an attractive silk pashmina put over the top, is meant to be a useful spot for my glass of water, my phone, my morning pills, a candle etc. It’s meant to be a practical chill station. Unfortunately it often becomes an unstable terrain on the verge of spilling, breaking and dropping all that rests on it, which are all those annoying objects that just don’t seem to have a proper place. In the end there’s no space for that glass of water, and my pills get lost in the receipts that are stuck together by old sweets and chewing gum etc.

4.Going to the Doctors about those things that are worrying me. I never want to be a burden and I never want to feel like I am bothering people. This means that I don’t speak up or act on things I probably should. This means they remain contained within my mind and add to the chaos of stress and worry that permanently consumes me. This week I left things too long and ended up with a Kidney Infection, so it’s been a valuable wake up call about my neglect of the health focused side of self-care. From this point onwards I will try and stay on top of things rather than let them linger for the sake of my mental AND physical health. 

5.Sorting out any unease I have within my relationships (work or personal). Today I felt my shoulders relax when I got a message through from someone I’d worried I had annoyed. As per usual my paranoid self has assumed wrong, and there was absolutely no issue, but the relief I felt when I got evidence of this lack of rift made me realise how important it is to sort out any relationships issues you have (if at all possible).

6. Taking stuff off my bed and changing the sheets. My bed has been my workplace for the last few years. It’s often littered with tech paraphernalia, art equipment, as well as evidence of regular snacking. It would not be uncommon for me to fall asleep with all of the aforementioned objects still on the bed, for lack of energy to remove them. We all know how an environment can affect how you feel, and it’s undeniable that having a messy bed could not have been beneficial to my consistently messy brain.

7. Saying No. I’ve started to reduce the amount of times I put myself in anxiety inducing situations. I used to worry about missing out on opportunities, but these days I know that feeling of fomo is much better for my health (and bank balance). I think the feeling of control I get from feeling strong enough to say no to people makes me feel better about myself too, or at least like I have progressed.

8. Comfortable Clothes. I’ve not worn skinny jeans in months now and it’s been a revelation.Truly. Not only is my vagina liberated ,and the back of my knees unchaffed, culottes have made walking a dreamy experience. They hair whooshing up between the fabric somehow makes me feel lighter. What more can I say it’s joyous not to feel restricted, tightened, lifted or bunched up.

9. Sleeping in the other room. Doing what I can to improve my ability to sleep is probably one of the most important efforts of self care. We all know how lack of sleep can lead to all sorts of bizarre behaviour and an inability to cope with things we would normally be able to handle. I date a very loud snorer who moves around a lot in this sleep. Combine this factor with the life-long sleep battles and it’s an almost hopeless situation. It’s not ideal and it’s probably not great for a relationship but I choose to spend regular nights in another bedroom just to ensure I get a few nights a week which are a bit more restorative. I also find it easier to fall asleep to the TV, which is something I can do if I’m on my own.

10. Having a cry. I can’t pretend to have a handle on my emotions and be able to govern when and where the tears fall. And sometimes I don’t feel like they deliver any sort of tonic or remedy to what’s caused the upset, but on occasion embracing a cry can release something for me. I definitely feel a tightness ease, it just sort of takes the edge of whatever sadness or pressure I’m feeling. I think it allows me to keep going a bit longer through whatever that difficult thing is, but I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not.

11.Being Alone. As I write this I am on my own and will be for the week, -aside from visits from lovely helpful people delivering things like loo roll and microwaves to help me survive. On this occasion I’m not on my own out of choice though. Si is in LA on holiday and some issues have meant that it would best for me to stay at a friends house (while they’re on holiday). So even though for a lot of the time I’ve been that sad and rather tragic type of alone, there are still some moments where I realise that I’m enjoying the lack of company. I like that I can walk around looking fairly disgusting with hair in a top knot showing my receeding hairline, with make up thats melted or completely absent. I’m enjoying that I can get the optimum spot on the L shaped sofa,completely hog the rug and watch whatever mush and trash I want on Netflix. Then there’s being able to eat a bowl of Spaghetti for breakfast with a side of chocolate buttons without anyone judging my choice. Can’t say I’m minding the fact I can let off some IBS steam (fart in other words) at will too, rather than doing my usual holding it in and causing severe trapped wind cramps. 

So that’s a few of those almost unnoticeable things I do which nurture, mend or soothe me in  small and big ways. They may not be Tumble-cute or grand in process, but they make a positive difference. Tell me what simple acts of self care contribute to a happier and more well looked after you.

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