Starting a self care revolution by Alli McClean
Self care isn’t something that comes easily, like anything that is good for us, it’s one of the most difficult practices to start and maintain. Earlier this year, I had to go home for a short but intense spell because my darling Dad was unwell. When I arrived home I had added another patient to my list with my superwoman Mum having a flare up of her nasty arthritis. As a result, I did what any daughter would do, and threw myself into Florence Nightingale mode. Minus the outfit!
I woke up early and baked fresh brown bread, made endless pots of tea (arguably the most important role I had), cooked dinners, cleaned the house every now and then, chauffeured everyone around as needed, made yummy scones, and cleaned out the henhouse (thankfully Mum was able to help because I overestimated how strong my stomach was!).*
*This hotch-potch list of everyday tasks is not to impress anyone, it’s really not that impressive (it’s not like I built the henhouse, merely shoveled poo out of it). The things I did were things we would do without a second thought, because they are things that help friends and family in times of need.
When I was in boarding school, I used to sneak into my best friend’s room and vacuum it. When she tried to get in and tell me to stop, I pretended I couldn’t hear her and kept going! (Anyone who knows me knows that housework isn’t my favourite use of my free time, so this story carries significant weight as a result.) We would all do this for friends and family, but when I arrived home from Ireland, I realised that this isn’t necessarily something I do for myself on a regular basis.
I was exhausted from long-haul flights, and feeling drained. I slipped into a lazy mode of buying food rather than cooking for myself, putting in a minimal effort of cleaning my apartment, and not exercising as much as I normally would. I had stopped meditating because I couldn’t sit still, and my yoga practice was a tad on the sluggish side.
And then, I had a lightbulb moment. Now this felt like a revelation at the time, but for everyone else, this may seem glaringly obvious: Why wasn’t I treating myself the way I treat my family and best friends?
I decided to pretend I was looking after a good friend. Which in a way I was. Putting myself (and my apartment) first, I did a spring clean (decluttering is cathartic, if you haven’t done it in a while, I encourage you to go for it). I cooked meals for the week; I booked a massage, I went for walks in the fresh air; I clambered back onto my mat and also started a wee bit of meditation again.
The real challenge was when my head was telling me not to bother, I was tired and needed rest, to not listen and keep going. What I find interesting is that it’s easy to ignore that voice when you’re doing these things for your friends and family, you persevere, but not as easily when it’s “only” for yourself.
I discovered that I was allowing myself to imply by my behavior that I wasn’t as important. That’s not how I feel about myself at all, but if I had “not bothered” to do chores for my parents whilst I was at home, it would give the impression that I wasn’t bothered about caring for them. This revelation has become an internal revolution! Perhaps ask yourself the question, how do I treat myself? Like a good friend? Or do I give myself a bit of a hard time now and then? Try giving yourself a break, you’re worth it!
Here are some of the other ways that we can treat ourselves like we would our friends and family:
Nourish – eating light, delicious meals (especially if there are leftovers for lunch the next day) can really make my day, I feel like I’m glowing from inside out!
Move – I remember reading somewhere once about the 15-minute rule: even when you don’t feel like it, make a deal with yourself to give it a go for 15 minutes; if you still don’t want to be there, call it quits and try again next time. Sometimes I do one or two sun salutes and that’s enough, but more often you discover you want to keep going! Treating yourself to exercise is a real luxury, be it a blissful yoga class at Live and Breathe, a brisk walk along the Strand (or even a run!), movement really is medicine. It also shows that you care about looking after your body. It is your house after all.
Clean – ok, I’m not a clean freak by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s something about sitting down when dishes are done and the floors are clean that is soothing. It’s the one thing I would love to arrive home to discover that fairies exist and enjoy cleaning! A girl can dream.
Pamper – A real treat to myself is a trip to the beauty salon. I recently had my very first pedicure and am a convert! For me I love anything massages and pedicures, but everyone has their preference, and let’s face it, we are worth it.
Sit (quietly) – As someone who confesses to being “busy” quite frequently, I feel like it’s one of life’s luxuries to carve out some time of your day to sit for a few minutes, not doing anything in particular. This is viewed by some as time wasted, but I find it precious. This doesn’t mean sitting in lotus meditating for an hour, it could be stopping for a few minutes to appreciate a slice of nature because it might look totally different the next time you walk past. Whatever it means to you, savour the moments of silence or sitting, they are the simplest pleasures.
Tea – this could have been included in the above, but in my world, tea deserves its own heading! Allison and I once saw a poster that proclaimed “Everything Stops For Tea”, and I couldn’t agree more! Mum stocks my luggage at the end of every trip home so that I can bring my Barry’s tea (just strong tea, nothing snazzy) back with me. Every time I drink it, I have to stop what I’m doing (otherwise I would be scalded due to my clumsiness), and therefore everything stops for tea. Magic.
Friends and Family – although I have gone on about treating myself like my own bestie, I am in no way (now or ever!) suggesting my own company is all I need! Doing all of the things in this listicle (hee hee) are magnificent to do with your actual friends, and chats with friends make life that little bit zingy. Catching up with friends and family – in person, on Facetime, via email, I do them all – make my heart swell and always will. Plus they get my silly sense of humour. Nuff said.
Music – I adore listening to, and playing, music. Simple as that.
(This post I suppose is inspired my the Sarah Wilson blog where she exclaimed “if only I had a wife” about having a person at home doing the cooking, laundry etc whilst she was off at work during the day. It initially was a joke, but I suppose that what I’m describing could also mirror the wish described by Sarah of having someone to share the workload of the single woman. I thought I was the only one to have this revelation until I met a friend recently who wasn’t sleeping, was stressed at uni and possibly overcommitting socially (which is a stressor in itself). When I suggested she look after herself as she would look after one of her best friends, she looked at me as though I were suggesting she strip down and jump in the marina. What a crazy idea!)
What are your methods of treating yourself like you would your favourite friend?
~Guest post by our resident Irish Smile generator, Alli McClean.