Self-care. Literally, taking care of one’s self.
Sounds self-indulgent to some when you call it ‘self-care’, sounds like a given when you call it ‘taking care of yourself.’ It’s not safe to presume either fits the shape for everyone. Although it’s essential to your body and mind’s wellbeing, all too often it can feel too difficult to take care of the most basic of human needs and comforts.
In our blog a couple of weeks ago, (where you can win a self-care package if you show us your self-care! We offered up a whole load of suggestions but while most of them are great and I recommend all of them, our busy lives or aching brains just don’t always have the funds, time, capacity or willing to go out on a limb for ourselves. Today I’m going to talk about the kind of self-care that’s less of a treat, or an occasion, or something that to most people requires a ton of effort to do. This is the stuff we don’t talk about; the stuff people just expect you to be able to do as a fully functioning human person, the stuff mentally (and physically) healthy people take so much for granted that they don’t even think about it?
Self-care doesn’t have to be productive or ground breaking or contribute to an end goal. It is literally as simple as drinking enough water.
Here are some examples:
-Made a doctor’s appointment
-Made that phone call that you swore was going to end in disaster but didn’t.
-Made a proper dinner and took time to eat it in peace.
-Got enough sleep
-Got a hair cut
-Did washing up
-Washed and dried clothes
-Went shopping for supplies/ordered
-Replied to an email
-Made a dental appointment
-Sorted finances out
-Took medicine as prescribed
…you get the picture. It reads like an average to-do list of your basic able-bodied human, right?
But actually, all of the above and more has been something that feels like a giant struggle to me, to others, and if it hasn’t yet to you, there is a good chance it one day will whether you having struggles with your mental health or life has given you some awful things to cope with just now. There will just be times you feel like you can’t cope and on those times I say to you ‘it’s ok’. I’m not into avoidance with mental illness – although I am an A* procrastinator (who put Netflix in the app store? You ruined me) – but if you genuinely hit a wall sometimes all you can do is stop and stand still for a bit. The door is usually somewhere near you, but in the fog of mental illness it can be pretty much impossible to see.
I advocate taking a deep breath. Giving yourself time. Do what you can and then congratulate yourself on that. Yeah, you might feel like a child for giving yourself a sticker for seeing a dentist, like a child, but guess what?
We all have an inner child that needs looking after, too, and taking that time to acknowledge looking after yourself helps to fan that fog away, trust me.
There will be times that you are so on fire you wonder why you don’t have a cape, a sash, and the keys to your town. There will be others where you are in week-old pyjamas and are wondering if that was the same person.
That’s mental illness. Yes, it sucks, but if you can do that one thing to give yourself a well-done, do it. You deserve it.
On better days, when you feel well, lay the foundations of mundane self-care. Batch-cook and freeze food for easy microwaveable dinners, make as many appointments in advance as you can. In fact, make sure you are with the right doctor’s surgery, rather than doing what I did and phoning a receptionist from a dark corner of your mind to be told there was a month’s wait and then making a rush call to another surgery who ask you to come in in half an hour. Sometimes you don’t know until you find out the hard way but it’s worth asking around to see what your choices are from the people who get it.
Sign up for their online appointment system. Do not lose your password. It is the best invention since pre-sliced bagels. Life-changing.
Try somewhere new! One of the greatest prizes I ever won was a tenner in vouchers for a salon I’d not tried before. They cost £5 more than the place that was my go-to, but I felt brave enough to give them a whirl.
It. Was. Amazing.
My previous hair-tamer had become my local as 1) no one I went to school with worked there, and I trust very few people with scissors near my head, but least of all people who judged me in school and 2) they didn’t talk if you didn’t want them to. 3) it was cheap.
This new place was amazing because 1) no one I went to school with was there. (still top priority). 2) they don’t talk to you if you don’t want them to, but if you do they remember everything from last time, put the effort in to get to know you and listen to you talk. 3) complimentary biscotti. 4) they wash your hair in basins that don’t make your neck feel like it’s been sat on by a goat. 5) massage chair while you’re shampooed. For a fiver more, it is obviously better, and it feels like self-care to get your shoulders pummelled while someone else washes your hair.
That one might be just me. I’m late to the self-care party, to be honest with you. My brain directs that I live in a rush and that each moment must be planned to the second. I need planners, weekly slots, and I get a bit quietly annoyed if things change last minute and I wasn’t the one who changed them.
Sure, I get things done, but I also fall into a pillow and pass out then wake up and do it all again with no real feeling of peace in between. For a long time, I had a box of bubble bath goodies that went untouched because I refused to give myself an hour off. I had DVDs I hadn’t watched. I forgot that in order to be a good writer/alive person you need to feed your brain as well as work it; I approached burnout and wanted to stop it all. Learning how to slow down and take an hour away from my head has helped a lot; and usually that’s when it starts working again.
Partly, on some level, it has taken a long time to see that sometimes if you can afford a few extra quid for a nicer environment for a haircut, it’s so worth it. I grew up with home-cuts, then when I was older and chose, I chose the cheapest places in town because it was a chore, not fun, to me. That is a behaviour learned and also what I told myself; if you grow up with very little money you try to hang on to what you do have and if you don’t get enjoyment from the basic necessities, that’s fine.
It doesn’t feel so fine now I’ve tried out what it feels like to treat something so simple and mundane as a haircut, as a vital piece of time where I can chill out and talk about Disney with an almost-stranger rather than sit, stiff and awkward, while someone points out my greys and my thinning-on-top. (New lady pretends to be surprised when I point it out. I like her for that.)
So that’s mundane self-care for you. Everyday, mostly required of all of us. Try to make yours something you do with kindness to yourself, and if you can’t, then try again later.
Best of luck!
Oh and…any of these mundane self-care suggestions count if you want to enter them to us to win a self-care package! (Or make up your own)
P.S. If you want to see ‘Boring self-care’ in action, I highly recommend @makedaisychains on Instagram for wonderful illustrations of not just boring-self care but the people in her images are of a wonderfully diverse range. She has prints and merchandise available to buy, too! Check her out.