TRIGGER WARNING This blog post links to, and contains information about Self harm, eating disorders, and suicide which may be triggering to some!
It has taken me years to realise that self-care is crucial to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself, so why do we as women not make it a priority?
For transparency sake, I am not merely talking about taking time to get my hair done in a salon, or putting on makeup. You can do all those things for superficial reasons and they don’t necessarily mean that you’re doing it from a place of nurture. I did those things daily for years and at times they weren’t even for myself. I used it as a mask and did it largely to please others as I felt it was expected of me.
I am talking about self-care in terms of treating yourself as a worthwhile person, a valuable person, and person who is deserving. By “taking proper care of yourself”, I am talking about mind, body, and soul and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.
I am not going to lie, the route to embracing self-care has been a really hard process for me, I have struggled most of my life to even like myself, let alone love myself.
Not only have I battled with Bulimia and body dysmorphia for most of my teens, 20s, and 30s but also If you read my previous post “breaking point”, a few months after my mum passed away (in 2015) I had a mental break down and went through a period of self-harming. I didn’t nurture myself at all, in fact, it was completely the opposite. After all, life was expected to carry on and I was expected to slap a smile on my face and get back to “normal”.
I will be honest with you, I was so disgusted with myself for not being “strong” enough. that I couldn’t look in the mirror for too long, because I couldn’t face looking deep into my own eyes. I was drowning in guilt, grief, fear, and anger and I couldn’t even be my own friend, I had no kind words to say to myself. Asking for help would have meant I had failed as a mother, as a wife, as a woman. So I suffered in silence without even myself to lean on until eventually, I got so desperate that I booked myself into a Travelodge and chased some pills with a bottle of wine.
After being admitted to the hospital, I felt utterly ashamed of myself. I felt like everyone was talking about me behind my back “How could she do that”, “How could she be so selfish”, “Those poor children, how could she do this to them” and again it’s a sad and lonely fact that I didn’t even have myself to seek comfort from back in those days. Instead, I spent hours loathing myself and would constantly tell myself that I was worthless and undeserving of happiness and love!
My experience in a recovery hospital deserves its own post (as does my battle with Bulimia). For now, I will say that it was because of the amazing people, who I am now lucky enough to call friends, and because the staff that helped me smashed down those walls, that I been able to rebuild a solid foundation and reconnect with myself.
Whilst I am by no means an expert now in self-care I can wholeheartedly say that with each passing day I am learning to forgive myself and working towards being my own best friend.
Since self-care is such a personal journey and it won’t necessarily look or feel the same for all of us, after all, we all have different needs and what works for some, won’t work for others. I thought it would be interesting to do a Q&A with some of my female friends.
So it is only right that I kick things off!
What does self-care mean to you?
For me, it is about cultivating a nurturing relationship with myself so that I can identify my own needs and take steps to meet them.
Do you incorporate a spiritual focus into your self-care practice? If yes describe how.
Personally, I am a pantheist. I believe in the ALL and do not consider myself separate from the “divine”. I believe I am part of the “divine” currently experiencing Humanity. Therefore, I see self-care as a spiritual practice in its entirety.
What do your mornings look like? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
My ideal morning would go like this; 5 am wake up, straight to the bathroom to tongue scrape and brush teeth. I would then “quietly” go downstairs to make a herbal blend tea to drink whilst I sit in my garden and meditate. I would then do some yoga stretches and intention setting (I also like to pull a daily tarot card. ) Then, back to the bathroom to eliminate and then get back into bed for some morning cuddles before getting dressed and waking the house up.
In reality, I wake up at 6:30am,. I reach for my phone, procrastinate for 10 mins (ok 15 mins) before running to the loo because I am desperate to pee. I tongue scrape and brush teeth whilst I wake up kids. I get myself dressed, cleanse my face and oil. Paint my eyebrows on and run out into the garden to check on my plants and chase the squirrels away. By this time I am repeatedly asking my youngest son to put his shoes on (argh sound familiar?)
Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more spontaneous?
Unfortunately, I am quite chaotic by nature, but I do strive for routine. I feel much calmer and grounded when I feel organized. But because routine doesn’t come naturally to me, I do have to work hard to maintain an organized mindset and admittedly fall back into bad habits a lot (much to my partner’s dismay.)
Do you have any evening/bedtime rituals? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal evening/ bedtime.
My ideal bedtime routine would consist of getting everything ready for the next working day laid out ready and then taking a relaxing dip in the bath which would be lit by candlelight and filled with essential oils. After this, I would do some relaxing yoga stretches and write in my journal. Lastly, I would curl up in bed with my kindle and a sleepy tea blend.
(In reality and unfortunately, I don’t make time to bath, I take quick showers. – I need to change this!)
Do you practice any consistent routines to avoid anxiety/stress?
I like to go to a weekly Yoga class, this really helps me dedicate some time to practice “just being” with no distractions. I always feel amazing after meditation but it is one of the practices that I feel I never have time to do. This is crazy considering the amount of time I waste on my phone!
If anxiety/stress cannot be avoided, what are your ways of dealing with it?
I am a big fan of breathing exercises, I especially find Nadi Shodhan pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) very effective in calming my mind. If I am not able to do the alternate nostril breathing for whatever reason, I take really long deep breaths and hold them for the count of 2 before exhaling. I also find walking very grounding. If I am able to remove myself from the situation I will walk the anxiety off.
I now work in adult social services and at times, especially when dealing with safeguarding issues, it can be really intense. I find the best way to deal with the overwhelming buildup of stress is to talk about it with someone, sometimes you just need to get it out of your head, as they say, a problem shared is a problem halved! (So a big thank you to my partner for listening)
If you feel you cannot speak to anyone, write it down, pour your heart out until you have nothing left to say. Be kind to yourself.
Describe the actions you take or the mindset you try to tap into to stay on track with your self-care and spiritual practice?
I mainly just try and focus on the way it makes me feel when I do turn up for myself. I think about how it makes me feel connected, stronger, happier and more energized.
How do you maintain motivation and commitment to your practice?
I aim to read every day which keeps me inspired to build and expand on my spiritual practice. I connect with like-minded people via the internet (unfortunately, at present, I do not have a close-knit circle of like-minded friends but I have sent my request to the universe to find my tribe) and of course being outside with nature inspires and motivates me greatly. I love being in my garden and sinking my hands into the earth.
Why do you think that, even when we know how important self-care is, it is so difficult for women to commit to a self-care practice?
I think a lot of women can feel selfish for dedicating large amounts of time to themselves. As women are usually the main caregivers, we often sacrifice self-care because we’re too busy trying to “save” everyone else. Confusing rescuing with caring is quite common – I know I am guilty of this at times.
I also think we teach people how to treat us by our own actions and our attitude toward ourselves. By putting all our energy and love into other people, we are then depending on them to fill a gap. However, they can’t fill the gap because it is our own self-esteem that is missing. – Ultimately your self-care is your responsibility, nobody else’s.
For women, who feel like they have zero time for themselves, do you have any suggestions to help them take a step back and find the space for Self-Care?
I think I read somewhere that if you just focus, on the next 24 hours and do everything you can within those 24 hours, to bring yourself into alignment with your spiritual/ self-care practice, you will feel less overwhelmed. I think this is great advice. My day to day varies but I can normally plan in 24-hour segments. I think it is really important to develop and expand your relationship with yourself in order to prioritise your practice. It is said that self-care is an antidote to stress because it builds resilience so we can better cope with challenges. Work on acceptance. Tell yourself until you truly believe it, that taking care of yourself is not selfish. It strengthens you and enables you to support your loved ones better. – You cannot share (care) from an empty vessel.
I would really love to hear your thoughts about self-care. What does your practice look like?