What 2015 Taught Me About Self-Care
This was the year that I really figured out my self-care rituals for best effect. I thought I’d share my tips and techniques so we can make 2016 a great year of self-care positivity all round.
Take Time, Make Space
This one is about routinely taking stock and minimising the negative forces that get you down. Maybe you need to ditch shitty friends who enjoy making you feel bad, or maybe you need to talk to your boss or teacher about extra support of some kind. It might just be a case of decluttering your room by donating or recycling the belongings you no longer really need. Whatever it may be, the key is to buy yourself some time where you can put the things that stress you out on the back burner. Then you’re ready to kickstart your self-care routine.
Reconnect with your Body
So much of our self-loathing and self-destruction is focused around what our body looks like, or what we can’t do with it physically. So in any self-care regime, taking time to treat your body with kindness is essential. Do the stuff that feels great: take a long luxurious bubble bath or a walk, dance around your room or indulge in something delicious, meditate or reconnect sexually by yourself or with a caring partner. Reconnect in the ways that work for you. For example, I felt great after a few weeks of drawing – self portraits, and just very rough pencil sketches that showed the gestures my body made while drawing. For me, reconnecting with my body definitely did not mean daily visits to the gym, but for other folks two hours a day of pain and sweat might be just what you fancy.
The Early Night Ritual
Once a week, usually midweek, I like to have an absolutely epic early night. I take a bubble bath with all my favourite bath goodies, get into my cosiest pyjamas, and hop into bed and read for a few hours. Reading is possibly my favourite activity in the universe, and taking some seriously snuggly time out to do it recharges my batteries enough to survive the rest of the week. Whatever your schtick is – movies, art, planning your travels or chatting with friends, you might find that you feel truly awesome after a cosy evening doing just that. My bed really works for me in my self-care routine, but your cosiest safest space might be somewhere different – experiment to find your perfect formula for the early night ritual.
Care for Something Else
For some of us, caring is what we do day in, day out, and what we need to switch off from occasionally. But a really great exercise to do if you’re finding self-love and care difficult is to relax with your breathing, and then focus on the love and care you feel for another, be it a person, a pet, or a project. You’re an amazing being, full of the awesome capacity to love and to have a positive impact on your community and environment. Caring for something else in a practical way can also be a great addition to your self-care routine. I find that nurturing a houseplant or two gives me a few minutes a day to spread love and see the positive results.
A Few Helpful Extras
Learning to enjoy and be comfortable in your own company feels great, but for some of us it can take a while to get there. Most of these suggestions can be done with one or more trusted friends, and this can be a great way to vary your routine or get you started off. Take a walk or dance around your room with friends, do the early night ritual with your partner or room mate, or start a group project that you can care for and bring to fruition. And of course, if you’re able, volunteering in your community is a brilliant way to care for others.
I keep a journal that I can turn back to when I’m down, and see just how much self-care has changed me over the past year. I find this a great way to keep momentum. You don’t even have to write down your feelings and secrets: just keep a list of the movies you watch during the early night rituals, or the books you read, or how much your houseplant has grown over the past week. When you look back at it, you’ll see how much progress you’ve made on your self-care journey.
I also use Tara Brach’s Buddhism and meditation podcasts a lot. Her teachings are delivered with a smile as well as compassion, and, unlike many other meditation teachers out there, she isn’t afraid to talk about issues of race, gender and sexuality, and the possibility of healing for marginalised groups. She’s well worth a listen.
Words by Flo Reynolds