Mental Health: Self-Care
Most of us have a list of things to do, places to be, stuff to remember, dog to walk/take to the vets, shopping to get, meals to plan, lose weight, get fit, cut the grass, get to the bank, clean the house, do the washing, get shopping, cook dinner.... your list might be different, longer...school runs, pick up after play dates or after school clubs, caring for an elderly family member.
The length of the list doesn’t matter the real question is...
Where on that list is something for you?
Just for you, not to make life easier, quieter, to prevent an argument or because it needs to be done. Are all the things on the list there because you want them there? Or because if you didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done?
All the things I had to do, or did I? I felt I had to do? What on that list made my soul sing, made me smile inside and feel joy... none of it?
Maybe the dog walk, but only if I have time to go somewhere that would nourish me and not leave me with a filthy dog to bath, more muddy towels to clean, walls to wash down because he shook himself dry before I could stop him.
What would happen if I didn’t do some of it, or if I didn’t do any of it? Maybe I won’t do the hoovering, it will need doing again tomorrow anyway.
When do you prioritise yourself? Truly...put yourself first?
We are subtly conditioned to put others first from a young age, don’t make a fuss (guilt), always offer the last slice of cake, sweet etc to anyone else present (sacrifice). Get ‘your’ chores done before you do anything for yourself. Be a ‘good’ girl.
I appreciate that things are more balanced for many women now, it’s great to see fairer division of household tasks and responsibilities. Having observed myself and my life I know that my husband can without a second thought or consideration for the impact it may have, change his plan and do something he really wants to. Rather than be annoyed about this I’ve decided it’s fine for me to do the same... but it’s still much easier said than done, after all who is going to let the dog out for a wee?
You might consider exercise is your you time... but it can also feel like a punishment for not being slim enough, toned enough, that glass of wine or three last night, not looking like the women in magazines, that croissant you enjoyed with coffee this morning while you caught up with a friend. Then exercise becomes punishment for enjoying yourself, because we fear we are not enough unless we meet some criteria or another. You are enough.
In my quest to make sure I do something for me every day, I imagine tracts of time where I make no plan, I decide what I will do with the same aim as a butterfly looking for a flower to land on, what looks like it will feed me the sweetest nectar... inevitably I start small. An uninterrupted cup of coffee, no distractions, no phone, tablet, book, just the feel of the cup in my hand, the heat, the smell, the taste. My entire focus on the foam just below the rim of the cup, maybe watching that bird which has just landed in the bush outside the window. But I have made a start, the first step towards doing something just for me every single day.
Totally absorbed in that moment, cup in hand. Time slows, heart relaxes and slows, the space between my eyebrows widens. I didn’t even know the space between my eyebrows needed to widen, but it does. Relaxation is becoming such a precious commodity.
Other times I know I’m going to need to escape, take myself away from my (often self imposed) need to justify my existence by doing something, so that I look like I’ve done something. I have a friend who felt unspoken judgement from her husband if she was sitting down when he got home (even if the house was immaculate and all the washing etc done). She started hoovering shortly before he was due home. He was more appreciative because he saw her doing it!
Anyway on the days when it might be harder to find space at home, I go out somewhere inspiring or stimulating. I also try to book regular treatments and allow myself to be present throughout it, getting myself back into my body. Find people you trust, build your dream team, use them.
I’ve learnt that most of the time it’s me who sets those expectations of myself.
The dog is far happier with 2 walks rather than a freshly hoovered floor.
Somedays nothing on the todo list gets done, I read a book cover to cover, I get some clay out, become absorbed in creating and just keep going. It’s good for my soul. So find what makes your soul sing and make time for it, don’t feel guilty for letting other stuff go by the by…