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.

The things about phobias…

…At least for me, is not only having to deal with the overwhelming flood of crap from my nervous and endocrine systems, but also having to deal with the social aspect.
This post has been brought to you by the single solitary crane fly in the pizza place last night.

The scene – a very popular busy and crowded Italian eaterie. Six people, my husband and myself and two other couples are sat round a table celebrating my husband’s birthday.
I’m quite good at ignoring flappy, flying things. I’m not phobic of most of them. So much so that I’ve experienced the start of a panic attack which died instantly on realising the flappy thing in question was a moth rather than a crane fly. I know all of this is in my mind but that doesn’t mean it’s under my control…
A crane fly is investigating the hair of both the female friend sat next to me and the lady at the table behind. I become aware of this at about the same time as everyone else. The subsequent batting at hair makes the chaotic flapping of the detested creature even more erratic than usual. It’s almost a game for everyone else, I can feel the panic rising.
Unfortunately, the seating arrangement is triggering another of my panic triggers – that of not being able to escape. I feel trapped, both the crane fly and at least 4 people are between me and escape.
I murmur loud enough for my husband to hear, either the crane flies goes or I need to….
He knows, he understands, he’s on the case. However the place is crowded and noisy and it’s not that easy.
I resort to the only tactic left to me – if I can’t see it, I can pretend it doesn’t exist. I curl away into the wall, hide my head in my hands and concentrate on breathing and pushing away the thoughts that I’m nearly 40 and one fucking insect that is among the most pathetic of insects shouldn’t affect me this way. I wait to be rescued feeling ashamed, trying to react as little as possible, conscious of not wanting to cause a scene, not wanting to have to explain myself, of how I must look to people. I hear someone say it’s gone.
Then comes the moment that breaks me. The moment I think the crane fly has landed in my hair, the thing of my nightmares, and I’m shaking, tears spill down my face and I tighten and freeze, all I can hope is someone will take pity on me and free me from this hell.
It was a misunderstanding in the end, someone who doesn’t know me that well, didn’t realise what was going on for me having a joke and ruffling my hair. Hubby did come to my rescue and stopped them.
I was left with the social aspect though…
Shaking, in tears, ashamed and embarrassed, I had to get over that as quickly as possible in order for the celebratory feeling to return. While I couldn’t quite bite back my annoyed response at the usual rational sentences thrown my way as if I’ve never heard them before:
“They can’t hurt you”
“more scared of you” (actually I dispute that one…)
etc etc etc
And I respond, “yeah, coz logic and rationality play such a big part in phobias…” forcing a smile to try and counter the bitterness of my tone as I’m forced to be rational less than five seconds after a ridiculously huge surge of hormones has flooded my system and while every nerve is suggested I flee.
The next five minutes are so are spent consciously being as polite and social and amusing as possible, reassuring any who catch my eye that I’m okay really – and while that is technically true, it’s not what’s felt. It’s consciously forced until slowly my body and mind accept it as the truth.
Throughout this time, my understanding husband holds my hand across the table.
I still felt guilty for breaking the atmosphere, and feel responsible for restoring it. On top of the phobic reaction, this just feels extra unfair!

Chat

Of phobias and panic attacks

This week I have been pushed face first into the deep end of my personal phobic pool (because it’s different for each of us). It’s been so long since I’ve had to face this issue that I’d actually forgotten just how phobic I am of Crane Flies/Daddy Long Legs. I’ve been more used to my anxiety being the Generalised kind that is amorphic and nebulous.

Having such a sharp focus to my anxiety is different. It means as soon as I’m away from the trigger I can start to recuperate and recover – although the anxiety has rippling after effects evidenced by my difficulty in getting to sleep all week (as soon as my eyes shut my brain decides to regale me with how the next day could be so much worse!).

However my trigger is ALL over work… I’m having to walk past a van windscreen that is blacked out with them, having to walk past them clinging to the walls of narrow corridors – or worse, they are flying chaotically in a corridor that is too narrow to get past safely, I’m trying not to look out of floor to ceiling windows spattered with them, their corpses litter the stairwells I have to climb sometimes disguising the ones that still live – and this just reinforces the phobic belief that they can come back to life if I get too close to them.

Even leaving work is hard, they pepper the glass doors, get inside the sections of the revolving door and line the underpass I have to go through. Monday that triggered an attack, Tuesday I cupped my hands over my eye so I could only see the ground right below me and barrelled through whispering “it’s okay” over and over to myself, the panic still rose as I stepped on a dead one and I had to firmly tell myself “now it’s REALLY okay” a few times once I was out the other side. Luckily today there was no lady to stare at my strange behaviour as today’s behaviour was much weirder than yesterday’s! On Wednesday I had asked a friend of mine to draw me a picture of an armour wearing flamethrower weilding bear to protect me. He duly did and I printed out that picture and held it inches from my face, staring fixedly at the bear whispering “the bear will protect me” as my mantra as I walked through. That day I didn’t have a panic attack on the other side.

Even just last week I felt I’d got to the point where I could tell myself “I don’t get panic attacks anymore” – When I could feel one building up, it was usually possible to breathe/talk my way back out of it (I don’t mean to suggest this is easy for anyone who struggles with panic but that it is possible to some degree and everything is individual and relative to your life – no beating yourself up if you get panic attacks and can’t talk yourself out of it you hear?).

I was proud of how I dealt with my anxieties and proud of how I’d changed from a bullying attitude toward my fears to one of supporting and understanding myself.

None of that seemed to apply this week!

Since Sunday lunchtime I’ve had 6 panic attacks of varying intensity and length. One of which hit me as I was seconds away from meeting the group I support and I had to turn to my colleague, beg forgiveness and run to a toilet cubicle to give into the fears and tears for a bit then try and get myself back under control to meet my group and start the day.

Another caught me as I was about to walk into work… the number of flying bastards plastered to the outside and on the ground meant I panicked and couldn’t walk into my workplace! I wasn’t at all sure what to do and just stood helplessly in tears (feeling like a prize twat of course) until someone came out to help and I walked in blindfolded (ironic given I work in vision impairments) with him being my guide. Took me half an hour to get over that one and my colleagues had to help me out by bringing my group up to my room so I could stay there in a blissfully flying fuckers free zone.

They’ve been lovely, actually, as the week has gone on it must be clear to them that this can’t be something I’m exagerating or making up and it’s getting worse as the week continues, the same colleague escorted me along the corridor so I could get to the canteen for lunch!

I’ve had to try and explain my weird behaviour to colleagues, painfully aware to my own ears of sounding childlike and pathetic. I can’t imagine anyone else thinking kindly to me over this as I can’t think that way about myself. I hate that something as insignificant and harmless as a flying insect has rendered me thus. I hate that I can’t seem to talk myself out of this one.

I’m aware of course that this attitude just adds to the anxiety and stress, but I can’t seem to help it. I can hear the words I’m using – condemning and judgemental words, rationalising and downplaying my reaction – but I have to admit I feel I deserve them… It makes asking for the help and support I need to cope with work difficult to ask for as I transfer all of my feelings onto them. I feel so pathetic and stupid, how could they think any differently of me?

This of course isn’t helped by the few that presumably have no form of phobia or anxiety in their lives or the lives of loved ones close to them, that’s the only explanation I can think of for their careless dismissal of my struggle. I’ve been told stories of when there were more flying fuckers than now, of one being in their car and they just had to get on with it, that they can’t do me any harm, comments along the lines of “what are you like you crazy thing?” and an illjudged joke of “watch out for that crane fly behind you” when there wasn’t anything there (that “joke” triggered a panic attack…) – I’ve tried to calmly answer that they aren’t helping or aren’t funny. For the lady with the crane fly in her car who “just got on with it”, I politely and quietly answered that I was really pleased she was able to do that. She got the message and actually walked along the corridor to my office in front of me to clear the insects away. She was forgiven!

Fortunately most of them do think differently and have continually offered their help or just their understanding and slowly as the week moves on, it seems I’m able to become more accepting. I guess I just have to… I mean there’s sod all else I can do apart from work on accepting this state, I can’t control or stop it and I can’t not come into work. I’ve noticed a gradual thawing of attitude toward myself as this week progresses (this post has been written over the course of this week as a form of therapy for me) and I’m not quite as loathing of myself as I was on Monday.

I do wonder if I’ve been through a version of Flooding this week. Sleep has been less than ideal so I am so very tired today and today I’ve not had a panic attack… I honestly think I just don’t have the energy for one and that’s so absolutely fine with me right now! The flies are slightly less in number and I’ve managed to squeeze myself down corridors on the opposite side to a wall clinging flappy. I’ve also been able to ask my colleagues to do a few things meaning my exposure to certain corridors, windows and stairwells has been limited.

I feel very humbled as I reach the end of this week. I bow my head and admit maybe I’m not as far along my path as I perhaps thought, that some issues remain just as strong, I just haven’t faced them in a while. It’s a reminder to me not to assume about myself and that there’s always room for improvement when it comes to Acceptance of things we wish weren’t so as without that acceptance I wasn’t able to make the adjustments I needed to perform at the best of my current ability.