Self Care – how do you practise it?

So we looked at what Self-Care means to people, what stops us taking care of ourselves. Then I asked –

“How do you practise self-care if/when you do?”

Now there’s a case to be made about what is self-care and what is nurture, because the two things aren’t the same… I see them as occupying similar places to surviving and thriving.

We need Self-Care to survive – drink enough water, eat enough food (and hopefully more towards the nutritious end of the scale), get enough sleep, take your medications, keep clean, be in contact with supportive people, check in yourself and see how you’re doing.

It connects to the base 3 layers of Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs (No, not the one with WIFI drawn in!).

Nurture seemed to connect more to the higher 3 levels, with connection to others being the overlap.

What Guidance for Approaching Learning Is There From ...

I looked at what people sent me, and wondered, is this self-care or nurture?

Does it matter? Well it might do to people who are very short on time, energy or struggling with mental health. On days where the duvet weighs a few tons and the world is dark, looking at a list of creative pursuits and listening to birdsong might seem daunting or frivolous.

And that’s not what I want these posts to be. I want to find ways of slipping Self-Care in through the chinks in our lives for when we most need it. Of starting up a Self-Care routine from just one deep breath, just one instance of asking yourself how best to be kind to yourself today, and knowing from that little droplet, if we keep dropping it, ripples will start to spread.

The most common answer I got was some form of “slowing”, of reconnecting to ourselves and what we need in that moment. How people did that depended on their lives. Some were able to use being outside, looking at nature, being away from dependants. Many mentioned being able to take time for themselves or realising that this was what they needed if possible – what people did with that time ranged from nothing at all to being physical and active, creative and crafty, focusing on nature rather than people/work/city, avoiding TV/Computer, reading fiction of choice, meditation, connecting with self by writing or talking with trusted friends, healthy or indulgent food choices (maybe depending on what the norm is?).

I’ve read a few things lately regarding how toxic some self care articles can be, how they are actually about nurture with an unspoken message that if you aren’t doing an hour of yoga every morning before your organic home cooked breakfast well it’s no wonder you’re like this! And I’m trying so very hard to not do that.

You are you. You live your life. And you need a specific set of Self-Care Tools in your toolkit.

And it’s alright to start with the small easy tools that fit.

Take a single deep breath.

Ask yourself how to be kind to yourself today.

See if there’s an answer.

If you can do more, do.

If you can’t. That’s a start for today. The ripples will spread.

 

 

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Self Care – What gets in the way?

What stops you practising self-care if/when you don’t?

My lovely friends helped me answer this question too.

While we can understand what Self-Care is and why it’s important, many of us struggle to either make it a regular part of our lives, or to include it at all. Usually at a time when we need it the most. We all harbour doubts over how much we sleep, what we eat, how active we are, how much we support the important people in our lives. We all struggle to do (or not do) things that we know will actually help us feel better.

Why?

There are many reasons and all of them valid. This post isn’t about guilt tripping anyone who finds Self-Care difficult or impossible, but hoping to acknowledge and understand why and see if we can work within the restrictions that life or our brain (or both!) impose on us.

If you find Self-Care tricky, know that you’re not alone.

Many people find that they feel guilty or selfish if they take time out for themselves – there’s always a big pile of stuff that needs doing, that task list doesn’t get smaller by itself! There are friends and family, younger and older people who need your love and attention and care, some of whom simply can’t do without you.

Sometimes we are simply too busy, there’s just too much to do and it’s real and pressured and important and we are not able to stop.

We get exhausted and ill (both physically and mentally), Self-Care can take time and energy and effort, which we simply do not have at times.

Sometimes low moods or mania, anxiety or full on depression can convince us that we simply aren’t worthy of Self-Care (or don’t need it) and that insidious voice is so loud and persuasive that we can’t argue against it, let alone take the extra step of taking care of ourselves.

Maybe we just don’t know anymore what Self-Care is for us. We just know that we don’t have room for it, or the time to investigate further.

Sometimes we’ve tried Self-Care, but perhaps we’ve overwhelmed ourselves by trying or expecting too much too soon and we burn ourselves out. We can’t keep up the regime we set ourselves and believe anything less isn’t worth it.

Or we look at the amount of information out there and get lost vacillating between healthy nutrition and indulgent treats, walking in the fresh air and allowing a duvet day. Am I practising Self-Care or being a lazy pig? And the brain gremlins perk up their ears and rattle the bars of their cages…

There are so many reasons why Self-Care is difficult or even impossible and that’s okay. Life is full and busy and chaotic and it just doesn’t stop.

So just know one thing.

Your reasons are valid.

They don’t make you a bad person. No one else can tell you how, when or if to practise Self-Care. No one else lives your life or has your priorities. Only you can know what time and energy you have (if any!) and what will work for you.

Allowing yourself to have the intention of Self-Care may allow little spaces in your brain where Self-Care can creep in. A positive thought here, a deep breath there, sounds like nothing probably, but every task big and small starts with the intention to start it. Allow yourself to start wondering what might make some positive difference to you, and maybe the first step is to let yourself accept just how tricky this is and letting that be okay.

Recognising what stops you practising Self-Care is important. Recognising that those things are real and valid is important. You, your life and everything in it, are important.

Self Care – What does that mean to you?

I’m doing some research on Self-Care for a series of workshops and talks designed around helping people develop their own Self-Care Toolbox. I decided to ask some friends for their thoughts, feelings and opinions. This post is concerned with the first question I asked:

“What does ‘Self-Care’ mean to you?”

For many people it meant taking time for themselves. Self-Care was an amount of time with their own well-being as the priority. Slowing down the pace of their life in order to think and reassess – being mindful of their life, the world and their place in it. Stopping and checking in with themselves about what they needed, then if possible, supplying it. The first step was to stop and ask “what do I need?”

For many parents, that took considerable effort and planning so wasn’t something that felt it could be done often or regularly, or sometimes at all. Simply not putting yourself last, self preservation.

The concept of self-care was offered as looking after yourself so that you are in turn able to look after others. Or anything that made them feel healthier in mind and/or body – including just feeling happier. The main reason given for Self-Care was in order to de-stress (being happier often being part of that). Suggesting that Self-Care didn’t kick in until we were stressed enough to have to do something about it.

It made me wonder, is it possible to put an element of Self-Care in place to reduce or avoid stress? Of course life can thwack us unexpectedly around the head and stress can never be completely avoided, but can Self-Care come into daily life rather than being applied as an emotional sticking plaster?

Self-care often seemed to be focused on the foundations of well-being:

  • Washing
  • Dressing
  • Taking medications/vitamins
  • Eating nutritiously (if possible), sometimes, just eating.
  • Drinking water
  • Exercise/moving/fresh air

Self-care could be seen as something that felt mildly indulgent or even selfish sometimes.

I have to say, that made me a little sad. Self-Care should be seen as essential and necessary. Like breathing, water, food, taking care of ourselves is part of that package.

It’s also something that’s fluid and changing, sometimes it was taking the break that your body and mind needed, sometimes it was kicking yourself up the butt to get something finished or started.

“It isn’t being nice to yourself, it’s being kind, and in some cases that means practicing self discipline. It’s also different for each person.” Kate, 24, Cambridge.

Kate’s words said exactly what I wanted to, so I asked her permission to use them verbatim.

So Self-Care is different things for different people, and also different for the same person.

The common element is taking a moment to ask yourself what you need right now. What is essential to get done, what will help you de-stress and be happy. Also, what is possible. Life is busy and full and tough and we need to find ways of slipping Self-Care into the chinks available.

The first step in building a Self-Care toolkit is wanting to.

Have the intention.

Find a time when you’re alone – in the bathroom/shower in the morning? On the work commute? Waiting for the kettle to boil? – a minute, 30 seconds – and think something along the lines of, I want to be kind to myself today, how do I take care of myself today, what do I need today and what’s possible? Whatever words are best for you.

That’s the first tool for your toolkit. The tool of intention.

Try it, see what you think and let me know.

Next post is about how Self-Care is practised.

Facing the New Year

I am fond of deadlines and boundaries. They give me a focus. I self impose them all the time, but if I don’t have to, that’s great.

New Year is a big one. It allows me to shake off the emotional detritus of the past months and draw a deep fresh clean breath as I look ahead. It allows me to let go of things and reach for the new. Fresh sheets on the emotional bed.

Yes, I could do this at any time. Sometimes I do. But having the ritual and tradition of a date embeds this practise into the very core of me, so I embrace and use it.

If you’ve read this blog, or simply know me, you’ll know it’s been a tough old time this last year or so.

In the interests of closure, I will finalise something left hanging – I’d been avoiding caffeine as I underwent some tests to check out a funky heartbeat. Luckily it’s nothing to worry about. There’s a thing called ventricular ectopic beats which are common if a little unsettling at times. Keeping an eye on caffeine intake (luckily not having to avoid it altogether!) and stress levels (hear that, 2018, you’re under doctor’s orders!) and all should be well. This is actually a useful weapon against those pesky brain goblins who often dislike me “doing nothing” as they view resting.

The death of my grandad shook me deeply, while not unexpected, it was the first family death I’d experienced for three decades, the first grandparent I’ve lost (knowingly as I don’t know my paternal grandfather) and it rippled on a number of emotional and existential levels. It also toppled the psychological box I’d been stuffing unprocessed grief into as I told myself I was coping and moving forward and out tumbled all the feelings I’d pushed aside as I tried to build up a new life. I was emotionally running before I could stand. I’ve learnt that lesson and slowed down. Back to clearing the ground before building my foundations. I don’t have to reach the sky yet. The first bricks are still waiting to be laid.

So as I look ahead to the new year, almost ironically, the first task is to let myself fully grieve for all that’s gone, all the changes that have happened and everything I’ve experienced. To allow myself to be still and rest. To breathe and just BE for a while. Part of my duties moving forward has to be taking better care of myself, not pushing myself as hard as I was. Not trying to have everything NOW. Ensuring I receive the nurture I give out; whether that’s from myself or close ones. Make the time set aside for rest and recuperation just as important as time spent building a new social life in my new town and making my work life what I need it to be.

Slowly the year will unfold around me in it’s own time. I have the confidence to know that I will get out there and experience it. The fear of isolation is just a fear and unfounded. I will explore my new home town more fully. I hope to branch out socially with new activities and reclaim the yoga and bellydancing classes that I dropped in recent months due to exhaustion. I hope to have time for my creative projects, time for meditation and mindfulness, for health and fitness. Time for friends, both old and new and those yet to be made.

Exploration and nurture seem to be my keywords for the year ahead. I like those words.

If I forget, please remind me of them. Especially the second.

wolf

Okay, 2017…

The attitude I like to maintain towards life being a struggle is one of hope, one of tenacity. Some would say stubborn refusal to rest. I’m not going to argue with that now.

I try not to use the word “fight” because I don’t enjoy conflict or confrontation. But sometimes it is.

It’s certainly work.
And it takes it out of you.

I keep going for as long as I can. I’ve spent my time in the dark realms of depression and I will do whatever I can to avoid being there again. That’s why I work so hard. For the most part I succeed.

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But sometimes you need to sound a retreat and leave the field.

It’s not defeat. It’s a tactical withdrawal.

Heal up, mend your armour, recruit new troops and when ready, you can return.

This year has finally brought me to my knees. Too much has happened, too much has been lost, too much has changed and my energy has run out.

Time to stop.

Time to give myself permission to stop.

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So, 2017. You haven’t won. We shall call it a draw.

I shall be back.

Coping without Caffeine

I’ve been asked to stop having caffeine while I undergo some tests to figure out the reason why my heartbeat is tripping over itself randomly.

I admit I’m far more concerned about mornings without coffee than whether my irregular heartbeat is a serious issue… So I warned my friends, and drew up a list of replacement hot drinks – then did a lot of research into how much caffeine instant hot chocolate might contain. Result – the jury is out, best to avoid all chocolate as well just in case. If I’m going to do this, do it all the way.

Day one

I hate mornings. Seriously. Even though I’m grateful that I’m starting this on a day where I don’t have to be up at 6am, it’s still tough. I have the headache, I am that cliche and I’m annoyed about it. I have decided on lemon and honey as my morning drink, even though it involves me using a knife first thing in the morning. Still, it’s a drink I like, it’s warm, comforting and good for me. I can do this.

A little later, having somehow missed my bus and it being a freezing cold twenty minutes until the next one, I walk through town and decide to treat myself to a hot breakfast before my 75 minute commute. My decision making abilities are appalling and I manage to chose two places that don’t take card payments, but I’m eventually at the bus stop with hot cheese in a panini and wondering when I can take the next lot of painkillers. I also wonder how many calories it’s going to take to replace my much missed black coffee. Melty cheese does solve many problems however.

Luckily it’s not a busy work day – mainly because I have the mental processing power of a gnat. I do a good line in confused stares though.
Even more luckily I don’t have to worry about dinner as I’m working the late shift so I can just be vague, eat at work then go home.
I will do this. I don’t like it. But I can do it. Tenacity is my superpower.

Day two

Today is easier. I still have a headache. I’m not happy about this. I have various other muscle aches as well which may or may not be down to caffeine withdrawal. I’m putting it all at the feet of caffeine withdrawal though because I’m just in that mood. Today is easier because I’m not at work and I spend most of it resting and dozing and not having to make decisions or get people to the right place. It was a busy and tiring week before my doctor told me to avoid caffeine. Still feeling more tired than I want to. Just have a constant not quite awake feeling. Hopefully by the time Monday comes my body will have accepted this new status quo. Hopefully.

Day three

Woke with a headache. Bored of the headache now. Don’t think I drank enough caffeine to warrant a three day headache. I’m going to assume that I’m not drinking enough water and need to stretch my neck and shoulder muscles out and hope that, with the painkillers, ends this annoying persistent ache.

I ask my friend if I can smell his coffee. He doesn’t judge me. That’s true friendship right there.

I don’t mind honey and lemon as my morning drink although it’s more hassle than my coffee machine being set the night before and having delicious black nectar ready and waiting for me at 6am. Its also more calories and having shed over two stone this year I’m still keeping a vague eye on my intake. But I like honey and lemon and hopefully it will keep my immune system shiny.

I’m very glad I’m able to deal with this over a quiet weekend. My day consists of sofa, crafting and TV. I don’t think I’d be capable of much more! My headache lasts until I go to bed.

Day four

With some amazement I exclaimed to my friend this morning “I don’t have a headache!”

Thanks to also getting a lot of sleep, and the most relaxed of weekends, I’m feeling better than I have for the past few days. Although I still don’t feel awake. And I’m concerned about how I’ll cope with work tomorrow morning. But, as my motto is these days – there’s only one way to find out!

Our day is still relaxed and very low key but I’m feeling distinctly more cheerful than I was. Maybe this is all going to be alright.

Day five

I’m fine until I have to think. I’m aware of just feeling more tired than usual. The afternoon task of putting the timetable together is tougher than usual – although I think that’s not down to the lack of caffeine but I still feel like I’m thinking through a fog. My collection of fruit teas from Bluebird Tea company arrive and I try out Bears Like Marmalade in the afternoon. It’s nice. I have no problem drinking it. I’m considering a shiny new glass infuser mug if I have to keep up the fruit tea lark.

I just want to feel more awake!

I admit to having a bit more energy in the evenings though… No help for work but I do get the first batch of Xmas presents made…

Day six

Mornings aren’t any easier though.

Day seven

Today was overshadowed by news of my grandfather passing away.

A sudden and unexpected end to this blog post. I will pick this up again once I’ve progressed, had the tests, had the results and know what’s going on, but it doesn’t feel right to continue it now.

Anniversaries

“Bear with…” as Miranda’s friend would say…

It’s a time of anniversaries.

I hope it won’t last, I hope this time, this first time, is an anomalous dip. But I’ve now come through my difficult year and have entered the anniversary stage, the “this time last year” stage and for a while, it’s going to be painful.

I won’t allow myself to wallow, but neither should I forget. Forgetting means I don’t allow myself to recognise how far I’ve come, how much I’ve built, how brave and strong I’ve been.

And, how far I’ve yet to go, how much is yet unexplored and undiscovered in this new life of mine, this new version of me.

This time last year I was only just facing up to the decisions I had finally admitted I needed to make, but the pain of making them was still too great to bear. I only prolonged it.

This time last year I had balked against the idea of needing such major surgery and was waiting on a specialist to gently tell me that was the only option I had. While the physical effects are mostly healed, even my scar is fading into celebratory silver, the odd ache and twinge is echoed in a strange emotional reaction. While I was utterly content with my decision to not have children, while I have no reason to believe I would ever have changed my mind (especially having reached my early 40s), to have that decision, that choice, removed from me… that shook me to a depth I had no idea existed.

This time last year, my entire life was limbo for months to come.

So bear with me as I move through these next months. I may be erratic in my emotions, I may cope one moment and feel overwhelmed the next. I may speak up or withdraw.

I’m still grieving for all that I lost, all that I walked away from, the choices that were taken away or never really existed.

But there’s a reason I had a phoenix inscribed on my skin this last week. The image that sits after the semi-colon, the next part of my sentence.

We will rise. And fly.

phoenix

An open letter to OKcupid. 

I got this email:

It left me feeling unsettled and I wasn’t sure why. So I posted it to my friends on Facebook with this text:

“I’m a little unsure what I think about this…. I mean, cheers for the ego boost, always nice.
But the thought that until now you were showing me men that were deemed less attractive??? And what, now I’m ‘worthy’ of more attractive matches?
Surely I should be the only judge of what I’m finding attractive, not your algorithms?!
Just show me everyone within the filters I’ve set and let me be the judge of them (and them of me), is that not how this is meant to work?”

And my friends responded.

Basically, WTF OKCupid??

However you read this email, it’s not okay.

A couple of friends said they’d got the same email so we all presume this is nothing more than generic marketing spam.
This is not okay – do you think all of us that use your site are so insecure or hung up on our appearance that the thought of “levelling up our attractiveness stat” will get us to go back and use you more?
(Another friend said they hadn’t got this email… and did that mean something was wrong with them?!)

I read this email as saying “we are now showing you more attractive people because you are deemed more attractive than you were originally. Congratulations on reaching the level of the beautiful people.” – Many of my friends agreed with me that this was how the wording read, or how it could be read.
This is not okay – This is poorly worded at best, intentional at worst.
Who are you to decide who I should see? Heck, who are you to decide who is attractive? And how the heck do you know what attracts me?! How dare you hold back their profiles until mine has been visited a certain number of times. None of this is remotely okay.

It was also suggested however that this might be grammatical subtlety – Do they mean ‘MORE attractive people’ or ‘More ATTRACTIVE people’?
So, my friend posited, are you seeing a greater amount of profiles or the same amount but of more attractive ones?
Either way, this is not okay…. the suggestion that I’ve passed some kind of probation period is icky in the extreme! To hold back either a number of profiles or those considered more attractive is not how this should work and I’m not sure I want to be part of a site that does so.

Many friends commented this was “seedy”, “creepy”, that it was “negging” their customer base, “operational bullshit”, “full ‘Black Mirror’ nosedive”, “awful” and “bloody ugh” – just to quote a few of my wonderful people.

One advised me to “just accept that you are gorgeous” – which is somewhat missing the sodding point here.

I’ve have noticed no discernible change in either the number of profiles I’ve seen or (in my eyes) the attractiveness level of them. Nor have I noticed a difference in the number of people who “like” my profile or send me messages. So I’m back to assuming this is generic spam that is playing on the insecurities of it’s users.

And that is not okay…

#youaswell

After the intensity of the #metoo meme on social media, I travelled to work this morning and looked at the faces of the women I saw.

Those dressed in work uniforms, those dressed warmly, comfortably, brightly, smartly, fashionably (not that I know what that actually means).

Those with faces painted with make up or free of it, those listening to music, scrolling something on their phone, gazing out the window or deep in thought.

Those that sat on the bus with me, those that walked by it, those that waited for a different one.

To each face I found myself thinking, you as well? Yes, me too… Because that’s likely the truth. That’s the society we live in, the past almost each one of us carries and the future we hope won’t happen again.

Yesterday was a tough day. Many friends found it overwhelming and withdrew from social media. Not all of us can stand up and be counted. And that’s okay.

For each woman’s face I saw today, for those I’ve yet to see, for each time I think, you as well, my heart fills with compassion.

How can it do otherwise?

How can I walk through this world with anything other than compassion and support, empathy and understanding for all of our experiences and struggles, all our stories.

It’s difficult, and I hear that, I feel that and I struggle with you. It’s overwhelming.

Let us recognise that we are not alone, we never have been and now we know it. Each of us has something to contribute, and the fiery activism of one may not be the soft support of another.

Let this overwhelming realisation fill you with compassion and empathy for each other.

We are here. We survive. We persist.

Of Internet Dating – my experience in screenshots.

Finding myself single at 42 for the first time in over two decades, I found myself wondering how I went about meeting new men…

Internet dating wasn’t really a thing in the mid-nineties, certainly not in the way it is now, and not something I’d ever tried. The last time I was single was 1996 where I got exceedingly drunk at a Halloween party, sat on someone’s lap and suggested he took me home. That relationship became a marriage and lasted 20 years. So it was with a lot of thought and no little amount of trepidation that I decided it give dating sites a go this year and see what happened. While not looking for a committed relationship, I did want to create a wider local social circle and, well, a girl gets lonely sometimes. Company is nice. I wasn’t discounting anything, I also wasn’t promising anything. No expectations. No restrictions.

We all hear the stories…. I decided I would publish some of the less appealing offers I received.

For every picture you see, there were others that weren’t explicit, disturbing or funny enough to screenshot and publish, but were still uncomfortable to receive, made me feel like part of a numbers game rather than a person they wanted to know. One that I wish I’d screenshotted before blocking him answered my polite “no thanks” with his penis size… as if that would change my mind.  There were many messages that put a toe just over the boundary line with a mock innocent expression – not enough that you could call it out, but enough to make it was clear they weren’t interested in my sparkling erudite personality. Which is a shame because they’re missing out on a treat there.

So onto the screenshots –

This person had messaged me before and got a polite no thanks. I then took a break and hid my profile, meaning it couldn’t be found unless someone accessed it via a previously sent message:

Sometimes a simple request gets a simple answer:

Not enough coffee in the world for this. Dude. It’s barely morning:

Not even Instagram was safe! I rarely post selfies on Instagram, it’s more about my craft projects, but every now and again a girl feels good and wants the world to know it.

And for the record, there are tons of cute larpers – if you can’t find them they are clearly hiding from you:

My attractiveness has nothing to do with the fact that your age is not a defining factor in wanting to meet you:

For the record, I am exceedingly sexy and kissable, however I suspect the type of friends you are wanting to be comes with benefits and those are earned not given after one message:

Spelling and lack of poo emojis will go a long way:

Absolutely because meeting a complete stranger who’s only interested in proximity is my only requirement in dating. Oh wait. The other thing:

Only with plenty of lube:

The conversation had genuinely been going well until this point:

Sometimes no answer IS your answer. Take it and move on:

Amongst all this were the decent conversations and a few people that I’ve kept in touch with. But there were also conversations that while not warranting a screenshot, were… just off… in their tone. And I consider I got off lightly, while also hating that I’m set up to think this way.

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