For someone who waxes lyrical about the importance of self-care and how self-care should be more than a bubble bath and watching a TV show, I am terrible at self-care.
I will let myself burn out like a fancy Anthropolgie candle, and that’s not good when you’ve got a chronic anxiety disorder. The good thing is, I’ve finally noticed that I am awful at self-care. It took long enough, but progress is progress! So, as the world turned to 2022, I started making new habits for myself. Now, this isn’t a case of jumping in with both feet and completely changing my life. It was more ‘throw some darts at a dart board and see what sticks’. Luckily for me, a few stuck and so began the small changes in my life. Let me update you on the changes I’ve made –
Strangely enough, I can tell when my self-care is lacking because I feel it in my skin first.
My skin starts yearning for moisturiser and tender lovin’, like a millennial Cassandra from Doctor Who. I love the act of skincare and learning about what products work for my skin but I’ve found that if I don’t make it a habit, my skincare gets left to the wayside. So, when the time comes for a pre-bed pee and teeth brush session, I won’t leave the bathroom until I’ve gone through my ten-minute skincare routine. None of this ‘I’m just so sleepy, I swear I’ll do it tomorrow’ or ‘ughh I’ll only do moisturiser’. No NO! It’s time for the full skincare routine, baby. Now, after a few weeks of making myself do this, it’s become a nudge that my body will do to my brain – “hey, she’s put a weird mix of chemicals on her face and is as slick as a slug, I think it’s time to turn off the brain for the day.”
Despite having a skincare routine which certainly does help with my mindfulness before bed, I’d noticed that I wasn’t actually feeling relaxed and ready to sleep. My ol’ buddy anxiety kept popping up, drawing out my old habits of insomnia and catastrophic thinking. So, I took the habit I had already made and expanded it. Whilst I take care of my skin, allowing my body ten minutes of care, I also give my brain ten minutes of meditation with the app Calm.
Look, I don’t believe meditation on its own is enough to cure my anxiety disorder, but it’s certainly enough to break the cycle before bedtime.
At the moment, I am going through the 7 Days of Calming Anxiety podcast series. Typically, you are meant to be sitting or lying down, but I’ve found standing up and engaging with the practice just as useful. I’ve carved out a little safe space for me in the evenings where I can put up some armour before the time of night when me and my anxiety disorder are the most vulnerable.
Whilst that ten minute slot I’ve set out in my bathroom ticks a lot of the before-sleep self-care boxes, there’s a whole twenty-four hours in between! So I’ve introduced meditation into my morning routine. That’s right, I’ve gone from spending an hour on my phone and running out of the door with no breakfast to – well, it’s not much better. But I now have a moment before the day begins, before my brain has the chance to formulate problems, before I even open Instagram, to check in with myself and start the day on the right foot. Again, I use Calm and use one of their series; at the moment, I am doing 7 Days of Calm. Essentially, I use the morning meditation to focus and to actually learn how to meditate, and the evening meditation for practice and de-stressing.
If we look back a few months (come on, get your binoculars, squint those eyes), I was a serial morning journaller. Before the day started, I would write three pages of nonsense from my brain, a practice I learnt from The Artist’s Way. Now, the idea of journaling feels so foreign to me and it’s such a shame. When I started trying to make self-care a habit, journaling was one of the darts I threw that just didn’t stick. But it’s one that I feel is the most important to me as a ~creative~ person. So instead of forcing myself to write when my brain isn’t trained to, once I’ve done my meditation, I grab my journal and write my to-do list for the day. It introduces the idea of writing in the morning and tags it on to a habit that has already stuck. And when the to-do list eventually sticks, I’ll move on to writing a list and finishing off the page with thoughts. And then maybe two pages. And then, hopefully three.
Between skincare, double meditation, and setting myself up for the day with a to do list, I feel my brain and spiritual side of my body is getting a good load of love. But the self-care of the body, the muscles, the human? Ehhhhh. It’s not so good. I’m a squeaky, achy, dehydrated mess of a human most of the time. To fix that would require a lot of change in one go and I’m all about building habits here, not changing everything in one fell swoop. So, I’m starting small and taking a 1 litre water bottle with me everywhere I go. It sits on my bedside table so I can hydrate in the morning, and I have an alarm set for 1pm to remind me to drink up and fill up again! I didn’t realise how dehydrated I was. Suddenly, I’m no longer having headaches, dry mouth, or feeling hungry all the time. Who knew drinking water was necessary for survival, huh?
So, that’s been my three weeks of making self-care a habit. Honestly, this small step approach has made all of the difference in making a habit.
I’ve noticed I reach for my bottle of water instinctively, the same for my skincare. I’m naturally getting out of bed earlier because my routine has changed to accommodate meditation. I reckon in a week or so, I’ll be in a place to be padding out my self-care habits even more! I’m thinking of putting vitamins by my bottle in the morning; carving out my morning meditation time to include journaling; stretching out my evening session to include some stretches. But let’s not get ahead of myself… Through making small changes, I’ve managed to make self-care a habit, something that I’ve been lacking for so long. So don’t mind me, I’m off to celebrate by drinking a litre of water.
I want to know, do you think you engage in enough self-care? What do you do to look after yourself and your wellbeing? Let me know in the comments!