‘Just be kind to yourself’. I have heard that phrase a lot lately. In fact, it was said to me about 5 times in the space of ten minutes at the weekend (for reasons I am not ready to discuss) but nevertheless it got me thinking.
Am I kind to myself?
I think so. I don’t lead a particularly stressful life, to be honest but it does have its problems, same as everyone else. My husband works crazy hours and deals with an incredible amount of pressure and stress and I often wonder how I would cope in his world. But then I wonder how he would cope in my world, being a stay at home parent (as wonderful as it is) can be mind numbingly boring and incredibly lonely. How would he cope with the loneliness? Probably better than me if I’m honest.
We often talk about how stress is relative. Everyone has different stresses, pressures, coping techniques (or lack thereof). I can be monumentally stressed about the most trivial things that to my husband seem ridiculous compared to his work stress, but I am feeling stress nonetheless. Whatever you do, whoever you are, you can benefit from being kind to yourself.
I think what the phrase ‘be kind to yourself’ means in essence is: Practise a bit of self care and take it easy when you can and when you feel you need to.
So here are some of the ways in which I am ‘kind to myself’ (that phrase sounds a bit seedy now doesn’t it) that you might find useful:
- A hot, luxurious bath and a bit of frivolous pampering. Not a hurried bath where you shave your legs, but one where you indulge in an overpriced Lush bath bomb. You take the iPad in with you, prop it up somewhere safe. You take a glass of wine or a hot chocolate, you use that expensive product you have been saving for a special occasion. Luxuriate for an hour or so in the water, adding a bit of extra hot water in when it starts to go tepid. Hell, maybe even light a candle. Lock the bathroom door and tell your significant other that they are on duty. Don’t try and do this when you’re alone with the kids, I know from experience that they will definitely interrupt you and you will definitely get annoyed about it. There is nothing luxurious about leaning out of the bath to wipe a tiny bum and empty a potty and then being left with the lingering smell. After you get out, slather yourself in that expensive body lotion you never use. Spray the fancy perfume you save ‘for best’. Put on clean PJ’s and just ‘be’. Maybe read a book or a trashy magazine, maybe you want to sit and cuddle your family on the sofa while you watch a movie. Whatever you fancy doing, you will feel so much better doing it when you feel all clean and smell like sunshine. I promise.
- Food. They say you shouldn’t eat your feelings, but sometimes you just need some comfort food – Am I right? It depends on the situation though I think. Sometimes comfort food means toast, sometimes it means a green smoothie. If you’re feeling sad and you want something stodgy, do that. If you feel like you need to ‘make a change’ and you think something fresh and healthy might pep you up, go to town on the kale. Whatever you need. But food and mealtimes are a big part of our day and you can either enjoy them or resent them and I am firmly Team Enjoy. Don’t resent it if you are on a diet, instead think about how you are treating your body like a temple, indulge in some fancy ingredients and go hard or go home on a recipe you saw on Pinterest. If you just want to curl up and eat cheese pasta, then do it without shame. Savour it, enjoy it, make it worth it and don’t give yourself a hard time. Enjoy the family time of all eating around the table, play a bit of Buble, light a candle, leave all phones in the other room and take time to talk about your day. Make mealtimes an occasion, a chance to unwind and reconnect.
- Write stuff down. If you are in need of a little self care, chances are something is going on in your life you need to escape from. It could be work related stress, family life frustrations, sadness, grieving or any number of things. The best way in my experience to deal with these kinds of emotions is to address them. I find it quite hard to talk about things that are bothering me when I am face to face with someone. I try and put on a brave face or I make inappropriate jokes but that doesn’t really help. So I write about it. I actually just wrote an entire blog post that I will probably never publish, or if I do it will be months and months away from now. But it really helped me to write everything down. I find you can be honest with yourself, you can touch on the deepest, darkest, most controversial of feelings when you just let it all flow out. You don’t have to blog or put it on the internet. You don’t ever have to show anyone. You could write it on a piece of paper and burn it afterwards if you are really concerned about people reading it, but just take the time do it. Give yourself the chance to face whatever is bothering you. Write about the things you secretly Google and hope no one sees. Something I find comforting is to know that in a year from now, I will most likely not feel this way and the situation will probably have resolved itself. Try bullet journaling if you find it hard to write it all in one big paragraph. I personally don’t find that bullet journalling helps me as I get a bit stressed with it but I know it does work for a lot of people and there are a ton of blog posts and YouTube videos about it if you want to find out more.
- Meditation / Mindfullness. I have the headspace app. I signed up for the version where you pay £9.99 a month for a little while but I didn’t actually find it any more beneficial than the free version. I find it really beneficial to just take five or ten minutes and think about nothing but I admit, I do find it very difficult to actually find the time to do this. I think it is best to try it in the morning, to kind of ‘regroup’ for the day but that is obviously the worst time when you have kids. It is impossible to not be interrupted. But if you can set your kids up with their breakfast and go and hide in the kitchen for ten minutes, then definitely give it a try. I know it feels and sounds a bit ‘hippy’ but I promise, it is basically just about sitting quietly and letting your brain not think about the general mundanity of life for ten minutes. If guided mediation isn’t your thing, try and just sit quietly for ten minutes and not think about things. It is a little harder then it sounds not to let your thoughts run away with you, which is why I prefer guided mediation, but do whatever works for you.
- Exercise. I won’t pretend to be something I’m not here, I hate exercise. You only have to look at me to see that I am not exactly a gym bunny, but even just a gentle stroll around the park can be good for the soul. It can be hard to drag yourself out of your pit and venture out into the world, especially in winter, but it really is beneficial. If the gym or an exercise class is more your thing, go ahead and put your trainers on, but just get moving and get those endorphins flowing for a natural pick me up. Theres something about the fresh air, letting the kids run about and release all of their energy, being outside surrounded by green things that helps me put my life into perspective a little bit. Failing that, on the crappiest of crap days, dabble in a bit of yoga. There are all kinds of yoga for beginners videos on Youtube you can have a go at if you can’t get yourself to a class. You could even get your kids to join in if you fancy it.
- Accept that is ok to not be ok but that you don’t have to live this way either. I think as a mother or as a parent in general it is easy to put on a brave face and just carry on. It is the British way isn’t it, that stiff upper lip, stoic attitude towards just getting on with life, whatever the hand you are dealt with. The you watch TV and you see on all the American shows that everyone seems to see some kind of therapist, it seems a bit crazy doesn’t it? But maybe they have it right. Like I said earlier with writing stuff down, it helps to talk about stuff. If you have trusted friends they are probably a good place to start but if you are anything like me and you feel a bit uncomfortable with that kind of thing, speak to a stranger. If you think you might have anxiety or depression, see your Doctor. There is no shame in admitting it and getting treated for it. It is an illness the same as any other and you wouldn’t suffer in silence with a broken arm or something like tonsillitis so why should your mental health be any different? If you are experiencing overwhelming grief or sadness or just emotions that are affecting you daily, there are a number of organisations where you can just call and talk to someone. Talk to your family if you feel you can, talk to your husband or wife. Obviously, we don’t want our children to see us in our PJ’s for 7 days straight weeping into our Cheerios and you most likely still need to go to work so there is an element of needing to ‘get on with it’ involved with life. But if you need to destress or just ‘be kind to yourself’ accept that it is ok not to be spinning fifteen plates all in time with each other at the same time. Drop a few. Don’t overload yourself. Don’t offer to pick up the slack for others, don’t volunteer to bake two trays of cupcakes for the school fete or co-ordinate the Christmas Jumper Day money collection, just take it easy. Do the bare minimum that it takes for your family to survive and accept that you can thrive later, when you have healed. Live on beige oven dinners for a few days and let the kids watch a bit of extra TV while you re-group. We all need a bit of down time. Take yours and don’t feel guilty for it.
Do you practise self-care? What are your top ways to ‘be kind to yourself’? I would love to hear them.