A blog post on self care
The other evening when it was stifling hot, I took myself and my evening meal to a shady spot in the garden where I did nothing but sit, slowly eat and watch the dozens of swifts draw circles in the sky at great speed. I was on my own for the first time in a while, which felt good to be still and quiet with my own thoughts. I felt so completely relaxed from the noise of life and pressures of work that I found myself just wanting to stay in that spot thinking about nothing else other than how incredible swifts are for hardly ever landing and for feeding, mating and even sleeping while air born.
While considering what life would be like if I could multi-task like this, I started to feel fidgety. My brain was turning to the thought that I should be doing something more meaningful with this moment in the garden. I could go grab my laptop and get some work done or clear my inbox at least, maybe get my drawing pad out and sketch that design idea I had the other day or write tomorrow's to-do list and schedule some social media posts to free up more time to do other jobs tomorrow.....my relaxed bubble had well and truly burst.
Instead of doing any of those jobs and now feeling well and truly distracted by what I should by doing, I headed back inside to wash the pots and generally tidy up. That didn't make me feel great because part of me longed to back with that relaxed feeling I had only moments before, not worrying about anything and just enjoying staring at the swifts and well, being kind to myself and allowing my brain and body to relax.
This is a problem I am increasingly reading about in blogs and magazines, lack of self care as a growing phenomenon and the rise of mindfulness as a solution. Maybe it has always been there but I can't help but think that it has got worse with the rise of devices enabling us to scroll the internet for eternity, looking up that thing you meant to look for the other day and getting side-tracked and setting up an Ebay alert for some pink shoes that you just can't find anywhere else. This level of busyness and always looking at screens is simply not healthy.
But how do we stop ourselves from being like this? How do we essentially allow ourselves to relax and well, "self care"?
Rather than just advise that we all go and lie down and concentrate on the tips of our toes and nothing else, I think it's better to look at what the causes are for not caring enough about ourselves before we can self diagnose and provide solutions. Instead of bullet pointing them, I'm sharing my go-to method: a spider diagram.
I've written down some life pressures and therefore possible causes of why we are not caring enough for ourselves. I've included specific problems to me and also general problems that you might relate to. Seeing it like this makes it easier for a visual person, such as myself, to understand what the over-riding themes are and how best to tackle them.
Ok, so that's quite the diagram and shows just how many pressures there are and possible reasons why we don't give ourselves enough time to self care. But we can't go on like this; that way lies disaster for our physical and mental well-being. If only we didn't have to sleep or could do so on the job but we are simply not built that way; we are not like the swifts.
So, what next? Well, we have to be kind to ourselves by finding solutions to these problems because they are in a sense unhealthy habits. I've tried to look at possible solutions, including basic and practical ones that relate to the pressures I identified above. Here's what I came up with.
Writing this down certainly helps me identify areas where I can better care for myself. I don't know if this method is helpful to you at all - looking at the problems, pressures and causes and then seeing how you can lessen that noise and live a healthier life - it's one approach any how.
I guess what it comes down to is the absolute basics and is not dissimilar to something I saw doing the rounds on social media platforms years ago, which resonated with me. We should care for ourselves like we would care for a child. In other words, make sure we've had enough to eat and drink, get plenty of sleep every day and put yourself to bed early, spend time outside, don't be mean to ourselves and don't put ourselves in dangerous situations (physically or mentally). We could easily expand this list to include additional simple things like making sure we're not too hot or too cold, that we have an equal balance of play, socialising and rest and that we ask if we need help or want to talk about something. I think these basics are a good way to start and then building on this to include some of the suggestions above to help deal with the additional noise and pressure of daily modern life. Oh and something I'm very keen on - look after one other. Be caring. Be a friend. Be kind. And also, stop saying "should".