If “hygge” was the buzz word of 2016 then “self care” is definitely the in thing for 2018. Unfortunately, like with lots of other buzz words, it’s been adopted by various companies trying to profit from our insecurities to mean something that doesn’t look like self care at all.
We’re now regularly being sold the idea that self care means dieting, losing weight and spending hundreds of pounds on products to hide, disguise or alter our natural state. Self care is being wrapped up as a form of wellness which in turn is being wrapped up as “being healthy” which in turn means taking a big stick of guilt and beating ourselves with it.
The thing is, that’s exactly what self care does NOT mean. For me, self care does NOT mean only eating salads, scrubbing my cellulite for half an hour a day or forcing myself to do a ton of exercise I haven’t the time or inclination for. No, to me, self care means the opposite of all that. It means properly caring for myself, being kind to myself, NOT adding an extra layer of guilt to my daily existence.
Self care is about paying yourself a compliment when you look in the mirror, taking ten seconds to choose some fun tunes to listen to while you’re cooking tea, maybe taking half an hour to get outside and go for a walk (or a run, if that’s your thing). It’s about putting yourself first maybe one time out of five, instead of always marching to the beat of everyone else’s drum. It’s about taking the pressure OFF instead of piling it on – walking past the random collection of stuff on the stairs occasionally and not berating yourself for not having a super tidy house.
One of the things I found hardest about becoming a mum was that loss of time to do basic life stuff. Suddenly the basics were turned into luxuries. Having a shower, uninterrupted, for more than two minutes became the holy grail. When you don’t have time to wash properly and you can only consume food that you can cook and eat with one hand while holding a baby with the other, well, you can start to feel a bit worn out after a while.
As the baby days wore on and the basic life stuff became easier it became about managing stress levels, juggling the tasks of keeping a house running, earning money and looking after these gorgeous little beings who relied on me for everything. (In fact, it’s still about that.)
So the last thing I need is any added pressure to squeeze in an hour of pampering each evening along with reading a book a week, doing ten exercise classes and a morning session of yoga. Which is why I believe that self care is, actually, about giving ourselves a break.
This past year has been a huge revelation in self care for me. The biggest lesson of all over the past 18 months or so has been to just stop beating myself up. Every day I’d mentally tell myself all the things I should be doing better in order to be happier, more successful, more satisfied. But as soon as you start to add that layer of guilt to your life everything gets tinged with it.
I’ve found the best way to genuine happiness and self acceptance is to just give myself a massive break. And once I started to do that, the self doubt lifted. Seeing, accepting and – finally – loving my body for what it actually is instead of what it “should be”, not comparing myself to strangers on the Internet, taking a bit of time out for myself to do something completely unproductive… all of these things have been mind-blowingly good for my overall contentment levels. THIS is what self care looks like.
So the next time you’re starting to feel a weird sense of unease or guilt that you’re not enough, just practise a bit of self care. Tell yourself something GOOD you’ve done today. Walk past the pile of laundry waiting to be put away. Maybe run yourself a bath, read a book, listen to a podcast or lose yourself in a good old-fashioned Netflix binge.
Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you only deserve to be happy if you’re inhaling green detox juices, doing a 6am HIIT class every day and spending a fortune on anti-wrinkle cream.