One of the positive developments I have noticed over the past few years is the growth in understanding around self-care. There has always been a current of thought which considered its important however many people were excluded from the discussion. A room of ones own might be a wonderful thing, but presumed you had the financial capital to achieve it.
There has been a move to frame self-care as something which should be accessible to all. I wrote here of how cheaply you could make your own self-care box, and try to build nurturing into your daily routine. Income is not the only barrier people can face, disability, caring and parenting responsibilities, space (a luxurious bubble bath is not always possible in a shared house) and a number of other things have left people feeling like they are “failing at self-care”. It can be hugely upsetting, every Facebook meme and self-help book telling people something is vital, and then not being able to do even that. I believe however it is not that people are failing, but that our idea of what self care is fails to be wide enough.
Whilst we have moved past the idea of “me” time being about spa breaks and trips to Greek Islands to find ourselves, self-care is still framed about “doing”, about being active. We feel guilty if we are not doing, which adds to the guilt of taking time to look after ourselves in the first place.
Being, not doing
Self care is about nurturing oneself, prioritising your own feelings and experiences, and saying “I matter”.In a society which so often expects women especially to put others first people can worry that putting themselves first is selfish. It is not, self care is vital, but these can be hard lessons to unlearn.
Sometimes self-care can be active, doing something which makes you feel positive, whether that be a cycle ride or having your nails painted. However often what we need the most, especially in our interconnected always available world, is a time when we don’t “do”. The need is not for another activity, but a moment’s pause, a time of being. Siting for ten minutes on a park bench might not fit on most lists of self-care activities, but can be more nurturing than something which actually ends up draining us, and making us feel that self care is just another chore to be fitted into the schedule.
Perhaps its an even more radical act of self validation, of saying “I matter” to do so by not doing, to take time where we step outside of the constant push to say every moment is filled. Whilst the many mindfulness and other apps for monitoring our moods, reminding us to include self-care, can be invaluable, they to can become another link in the chain of believing we must always be doing.
Remembering Natural Rhythms
I live in a rural area, a part of Northumberland where the landscape is still shaped by the seasons. It’s currently Autumn, dark soil is lying dormant and stubble remains where just a month ago corn and wheat grew heavy in the late summer sunshine. Now we are in the in-between time, a pause before the winter, a vital moment of taking stock which has been recognised by those who work closely with the land for thousands of years. We can forget that yes, we are a part of nature too. Now of course a lot of what I shall politely call hokum is talked about what is natural. It is pure fallacy to equate natural with good, and causes a lot of harm. However remembering that we are not robots, but living creatures, who need to live within the rhythms that all nature does is important. Without times when we stop, when we pause, when we simply are without the pressure of doing, then there can be no harvest.
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