As we slide towards the school holidays and I begin to feel the load lightening with homeschooling, I’m feeling a sense of emerging from something. In lots of way, the gradual reducing of lockdown restrictions hasn’t made much difference to us with the boys still at home and our day to day not really changing. So the end of term feels like the real shift and one we’re really welcoming.
I’ve been checking in with myself over the past few days, acknowledging the need for a bit of a reset on the self-care front.
After years of learning how to tend to my needs and make good choices that keep me well and in balance, I’m pretty good at knowing what I ought to be doing. I’ve learnt many times over to tend to my own needs before something starts screaming at me (hello lower back, we’re old friends at this hey). But there’s knowing and there’s doing and when we’re tired or the days feel overly dominated by other things, when I’m needed more than I’m not… it just feels really hard to get to it.
The thing that never fails to make me laugh at myself is that I know my own non-negotiables so well that I can somehow convince myself I’m doing them when I’m not? That might sound mad, but take drinking water as an example. I heard myself say the other day ‘I don’t know why I’m feeling like I’m dehydrated, I’m drinking loads of water’. My husband bravely asked ‘but are you actually?’. Hmm, maybe I wasn’t. I guess when some things are such habits you don’t always notice them slide.
Bedtime is another one of those things that easily slides for me. My own bedtime gets later in direct proportion to how busy and noisy our days are. I use the quiet of the evening to rebalance and stretch it out way past the hour that I’m happy with.
So since I’m working on a reset for myself this week I thought I’d shared some of the self care rituals and routines I’m returning to and some I’m leaning a bit further into with the curiosity of ‘what if… how would this feel if I did this?’.
I almost typed ‘the non-negotiables’ and then laughed and got back in my box. I negotiate them plenty, but I know they are the cornerstones of feeling good in myself and present in my days.
- Drinking water – it’s such an obvious one, I know, but when I don’t (or when I rely more on herbal tea which ends up not being in the same quantity) I really notice the brainfog and tiredness creeping in. This week I’m back to the 8 glasses of water minimum a day.
- Nutrition – I could write a book on this one but I’m not qualified to so I’ll just say this – after years of learning I know what good looks like for me. I never stray too far or I know about it, but the odd things do slip. This week it’s out with refined sugar (once again) and curbing the wheat intake, plus I’ll be making good use of the spinach spilling out of our veg patch with daily green smoothies again. If the idea doesn’t sound that appealing to you – trust me, my kids love them – I’ll share the recipe here in another post soon.
- Sleep – there was a time when I had little control over this one since my littles were not great sleepers. Even so, I was often my own worst enemy, staying up late into the evening if I could swing it to bank something of ‘an evening’ and going to bed just when they were beginning to hit the restless part of the night. So so basic. Gone are the days when I thought I was achieving something in staying up late, riding the second wind and feeling like I was winning. I am never winning if I’m not getting a decent sleep. I never was. I was just running on adrenalin so didn’t notice how rubbish I felt. Or just really desperate for some alone time. Something that sticks in my mind from a book I read is that hours of sleep before midnight are worth double in terms of quality compared to hours after midnight. I don’t have a scientific source for that but it does seem to ring true for me. This week I’m clawing my bedtime back from midnight (yes, the need for quiet rebalancing time got really bad) to ten o’clock, or even half 9, with a book. Knowing it’ll do me so much good to get back there. If you’re at a stage with your children where you can make good sleep decisions for yourself, it’s really worth looking at them.
And the other important things
I’ve separated these two lists out to give myself a base line to begin with. I’m certain that having the basics above in place makes it a little bit easier to get nearer to what follows here, even when I’m feeling really time poor. When the basic stuff isn’t happening all that well I can’t really see the woods for the trees. But after those, comes this…
- Time outside – between the boys, our dog and the garden / veg patch this one has been fairly constant but with the days freeing up in the holidays I’m holding out for a bit more. Long, whole days outside from morning until bedtime are balm for my soul. I might be more plant than human. Natural light and good air are the best medicine I can think of.
- Moving my body – this is feeling like an area of growth for the Summer. I already walk a fair bit but I’m itching to move my body more and I’m open to what form that takes. Some experimenting maybe. The nearby mountains are calling especially. I loved the wild swimming we did recently – more of that please. Also, consistent yoga would be so good. I’ve tried for years to build in a daily short yoga practice and it feels amazing when I do but it’s just not happening right now. An intention for the holidays and perhaps daily is a high bar to reach for. I’d actually be really happy with 3-4 times a week so that’s where I’m beginning.
- Finding headspace – two things that do this and I have such a lot to say about the effect they can have on wellbeing that I’ll write a fuller post just on them soon. I’ve started with eliminating noise and I’m finding that by dealing with some practical stuff I’ve been carrying around in my head for too long, it’s becoming quieter in there. Also has an impact on anxiety – I think they go hand in hand. With that happening, I had enough space in my mind to seek out even more space and so I’m a week into a Deepak Chopra 21 day guided meditation programme. I wish I could just sit and meditate silently but I seem to really need the hand holding of a good guide to fully drop in and I’m really wanting to stick to it and do the whole 21 days this time. Last time house guests arrived on day 19 and that was that, dammit.
- Creating – Answering the call of inspiration is a form of self care for me and this is something I’m hoping to carve out more time for over the summer. I have things on the go that I dip into in short lulls and snatched moments but I’m longing for a good chunk of time to just make for the joy of making. The list is long and I’m going to have to narrow it down. Maybe the entirely indulgent few hours at a sewing machine making myself a dress from the pattern I’ve had for 6 months will win. It should win, yes?
Self care can sometimes be viewed as self indulgence. As if it’s a negative thing. What would be wrong with indulging ourselves anyway? When I look down this list I see most of it is about meeting our simple human needs to be in a good place – physically, mentally and emotionally. Just as we’d look to do for our children.
The thing is, for a family to be in a good place, every member of that family needs to be having their needs met. Too often that can play out as ‘everybody except mum’. Worse, side-stepping our own needs is often lauded as ‘being a good mum’ and I’m sorry but no. As the centre of our little people’s world we need to be thriving rather than just surviving. Firstly, it’s exactly because they need us so much that we need to take good care of ourselves. We are not infallible and neither should we be. And secondly, it’s because they are learning from us how to take care of all the parts of themselves. Just as we take time over showing them how to brush their teeth well, we can positively instil in them what it means to be a well-nourished, whole and thriving human.
Side- note: If you’re reading this and you’re sleep deprived or in a difficult place, I’d urge you to catch yourself before you take what I’ve just said and make your lack of self-care another thing to feel crappy about. It is so so hard sometimes to do all the things for all the people in your life and still take care of yourself. Above all else, hold yourself in kindness and acceptance. We are always doing the best that we can. And another true statement is that we often back ourselves into corners where because we’re so depleted we can’t do anything to feel better.
When that feels true for me, I pare it all down to this: what ONE thing could I do that would make a difference to how I feel today? What would help me breathe a little more easily and allow me to soften?
A nap. A walk in the fresh air. Ditching something I ‘should’ be doing to do something I know will fill me up a little bit. Calling in some help. Talking things out with a good listener. Drinking extra water. Pulling out my yoga mat / craft project / dancing music despite having no child free time because it’s good to show my littles what makes mummy feel good, calm down or light up. Or some other simple thing that would work for you.
Starting with one thing that feels possible one day can lead to one thing each day – like a gift to yourself – which in time can add up to taking a whole lot better care of ourselves. But today, if it helps, just focus on today.