Updated: Apr 13
What happens when you do absolutely nothing.
Phone away, book away, distractions away. Zero.
What happens when you sit down and just exist in the present. Without a passion, or hobby. Just you.
And what makes you happy?
Here's the full blog, of what started out as my month of self care and ended up as the most insane and intense self reflective period.
I realised that I had to make a change when I would never ever really truly relax and just be. And when I did there was a searing pain. Of panic. I should be busy, I am busy. I should be writing, I should be planing. Life passes by without a moment to...
And so this year in August I decided to do a self care challenge. What pursed was not the month of “treat yo self” that I had envisioned. But instead a month of turning my whole world upside down and reassessing everything and questioning this whole system. Shifting my own status quo, and a deep reflection of societies status quo. Figuring out what my own reward system truly is. So here is the blog, I wrote as I went along.
Self Care Month.
Somedays I don’t feel like I breathe. I wake up with a million ideas, get excited, love my work, and I’m tangled in the tunnel of Making Roots all day. I love this, it’s fulfilling, it’s engaging and I am passionate about what we’re doing. I work hard, my brain is absolutely full of ideas, that I work on, research, talk to Lee, talk to friends about. I edit the website, I do my emails, I go to the beach and think of plastic reduction ideas. I cannot even put into words how much I love my role.
But self care is really important. And thats because some days I don’t feel like I have time for everything. Instead of taking a moment to reflect, breathe, digest and actually live in the moment, I scoot from one job to the next. I barely live. I cook the fastest thing I can, in between jobs and scoff it whilst on Instagram planning next weeks posts. I am an autopilot of life, and it’s going insanely quickly that I almost don’t remember my day at the end of it.
I do Making Roots mostly alone. Lee works 13/14 hour days and when he comes home from 2 dives and lecturing, I bombard him with questions. I also get a enormous amount of help and support, especially from my Mum who is fabulous with ideas. We have a team of writers too, who I often throw ideas at for them to mull about.
And since going full time on Making Roots, I have felt a huge sense of fulfilment, happiness and excitement. But, I have also noticed lots of other aspects of my life are in a bit of disarray. We’re both pretty happy to let a social life slide a little for now, in pursuit of a dream. Don’t get me wrong we both crave long summer evenings with good wine and good food having deep conversations with friends- but we’re not missing bottomless drinking on a Saturday night…
Anyway getting back to it. One thing I’ve noticed take a slide is my health and wellbeing. Although I am fulfilled intellectually, my fitness has dropped and so has my mindfulness. I’ve been an advocate for mindfulness for a while. I find being mindful, enjoying the small things, smelling the roses, curling your toes in the sand, is an extremely grounding, healing process that makes me feel alive. It’s these moments that nothing else matters but life- and are what I live for. It’s these moments that are the roots of being present and in the moment.
But working hard, I feel an increasing sense of guilt about taking these luxurious “off” moments to myself. And thats incredibly inefficient. Because an act of self care, is actually not entirely selfish. Maintaining a routine of looking after myself improves my work, improves my relationships with others, and is sustainable and responsible aspect of running my own business. If I burn out, I only have myself to blame, and I am the person that looses out. It’s incredibly important to manage myself properly.
So, whilst feeling an increasing sense of guilt when I put down my work, walk on the beach and let the waves crash and my feet, I felt an increasing need to do those things. This is also coming at a time, when I can sense the lead up to an event in my life that I dread. My Dad passed away on the 16th September 2011. It still feels raw, like yesterday and in some ways I think I like to cling to the idea that it is, as time moves quickly. I hate this day- I hate the passage of time and the official “another year” in a similar way I hate New Years. So, I'm planning to look after myself, take responsibility of my wellbeing.
I had a look on Pinterest, and found a Pin titled “30 days of self care” and whilst some rang a bell, others weren’t relevant, either to me, or to our life here in The Philippines right now (I can’t physically bake a cake, however much I pine to be able to do so!) So I researched more, and found heaps and heaps of ideas to practice self care. So I picked out some I loved the sound of and some I think I need to do. I am going to practice at least one a day, some I think I would like to become more of a habit, so may incorporate daily. I want to see how actively practicing caring for myself, not as a selfish act, but as a responsibility to maintain my wellbeing, impacts my work and my life.
I think somedays I’m sure to find it a lot harder, when the guilt and pressing deadlines encroach, and so I am going to record everyday, how I feel about the self care principals and what I’m learning.
So these are the 30+ things that I picked out of lots of self care pins, that I think I will enjoy, or that will teach me something. I’ve added in some extras, for inspiration for another time. I thought about doing them in order, but I think it will be much easier to have a flow, and to pick them out in relevance for the day. For example, I try to avoid social media on Sundays, so that idea is best suited for that day. It would be silly to do that one on a work day, as missing social media posting and the work I do there, is really counter intuitive. It’s not practical. I could extend the social media black out for two days over the weekend, but I have to balance self care with being practical.
I also am not a big fan of the ideas to “splurge”. Although I do think there is a freedom of breaking loose of self imposed frugal ideals and budgets- I don’t think it’s necessarily healthy to splurge. Allowing flexibility in our spending and fluidity is something we practice with day to day budgeting. I feel the desire to “splurge” is associated with mindless spending and consumerism. Plus there is really not anything we need, or at least have access to buying right now. Our spending day to day is mostly on visas/ insurance/ rent and food. Needlessly spending and acquiring something new would just be silly and counteract the self care principle. So therefore most of my ideas for self care are those that are free, and easy to do :)
LOOK UP AND WRITE DOWN FIVE POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS.
GIVE MYSELF A PEDICURE
JOURNAL: FREEWRITE ANYTHING I NEED TO
WRITE A GRATITUDE LIST FOR RIGHT NOW
DRINK A WHOLE BOTTLE OF WATER AND REFILL IT +
WRITE A LETTER HOME
EMPTY WASHING HAMPERS +
GO TO BED 30 MINUTES EARLY
MEDITATE FOR 5 MINUTES
HAVE A CUP OF TEA IN THE GARDEN WITH NO PHONE.
WRITE DOWN SOME GOALS, BOTH PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL
LEARN SOMETHING NEW
TAKE A NAP
TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS
COMPLIMENT A STRANGER
EAT SLOWLY WITH NO PHONE
THINK OF SOMETHING I ENJOY AND DO IT
READ FOR AN HOUR, SOMEWHERE COMFY
DO SOMETHING CREATIVE
TAKE A WALK ON THE BEACH
DESIGN A MORNING ROUTINE AND STICK TO IT THE NEXT MORNING
PUT ON SOME ESSENTIAL OILS
WHOLE DAY WITHOUT CHECKING SOCIAL MEDIA
DO YOGA FOR 15 MINUTES
MAKE AN EXCITING PLAN. EVEN IF THATS COFFEE DATE WITH MYSELF NEXT WEEK
GIFT, REHOME OR RECYCLE FIVE THINGS
CLEAN OUT MY HANDBAG
EAT SOMETHING I LOVE.
Ok, so it’s a week into self care month. The first one I did was empty the washing hampers. It’s sounds boring, but I wanted to elevate some pressure of “things to do” when I was sitting down with my coffee having me time later on. And it sounds so silly, that this is self care, but honestly in-between a huge litany of things to do, my laundry normal comes completely LAST. So, that felt good. Then came walk on the beach. Lovely. Essential oils is a good one, I have recently really gotten into lavender oil at night. My Grandma used to spray my pillow with it, so the memory makes me sleep like a baby. Then comes the gratitude map. I have always practiced gratitude (it can always be worse after all) and this one is a good one for the evening. This week I also find out that drinking a whole bottle of water is actually insanely good one! I really enjoy and feel better in about an hour after mindfully hydrating. This is one I can defo put into practice more.
So I’m in the middle of week two, and last night the self care involved a slow relaxing treat dinner to myself (Lee was at work.) So I went for pizza and wine. Hmmm. Whilst defo a “treat yo self” I’m not entirely convinced this is very good self care. Instead of making myself healthy mentally and physically, the wine gives me a bit of a headache and I feel hazy today. Perhaps there are some “toxic self cares” that feel good at the time but not so good long term. And ultimately I have entered this experience to improve my wellbeing in the long term… hm…..
One self care I have loved this week is turning off notifications for social media on my phone. So I don't have meaningless distractions constantly. I am going to leave the notifications off permanently. I have big issues with social media, and ethics so this suits me really well. I also went to a yoga class this week, and whilst I do love yoga, and preach the benefits, in very high heat and humidity it made me feel a bit crap all day. I also sat down and read a book in the evening before bed. Loved it. I also decided to treat myself to watching the sunset (alone). I sat with a cocktail and watched the sun go down and pondered the fact that this wasn't necessarily what I wanted... I have done small acts of self care everyday this week.
So it’s the start of week three. And I’m having a little bit of a crisis about this challenge. I realise I am not so interested in the small “treat yo self” things I have set out. They don't really excite me, and I don’t necessarily think forcing myself into a 5 minute cup of tea outside whilst toe tapping to finish an email is doing anything. I have to look deeper. My lifestyle is so fast paced at the moment, I’m exhausted and heading to burn out too. Little things in my day for a month isn't the solution. Surely?
And, some of these things aren’t luxuries… they are things I should afford myself the right to have everyday. Drinking water mindfully is not a luxury that I should have only just realised!
I have stopped doing things everyday as a set thing. The challenge, as I set out is changing.
My career, my passion and my life involves the environment. But. At the moment I am donating my life (and my sanity) to the cause. This work is always going to be what I do, but maybe instead of little tiny things I am doing for a month I really need to assess how I got about looking after myself better all of the time. As this is really the only way my life is going to remain healthy and sane, and allow me to do some incredible work too.
I have a creeping suspicion that this might have to involve something a bit bigger.
I have begun to realise that this was not so much about a little act of self care everyday, but actually turning this all on it’s head to actually figure out what self care is for me.
This is about self care and that is very different to treat yo self.
Drinking a pint of water and eating vegetables sets me up much better for wellness and wellbeing. I feel like I need a bigger change to really change a change. I am ready to explore a different way of living…
I’ve reached the end of selfcare month. And holy smokes what a month. What turned from a challenge to promote a little bit of sanity in my day turned into a huge reflective period.
Culture of drinking and coffee, stimulated society doesn't really fit me. No matter how much time I give it, I think these actually make it worse.
I quickly learnt that the best acts of self care were mindfully drinking water. It’s absolutely insanely basic, I know!! But seriously, we live so fast, that I swear I forget to drink water. Self care is about eating a bowl of vegetables that make you feel good ALL day. And slowing down in general, not just for 5 minutes in the afternoon.
So this month really did turn inwards on me. I have had a lot of time and continue to really assess what makes me happy. What makes ME feel good. How I can best look after myself AS PRIORITY.
Because as the saying goes, you have to fill your own cup before you try to fill others.
The Pinterest pins that I looked up at the start of the month, didn't cut it for me.
The best kind of self care you can afford yourself, is actually figuring out what makes you happy, what is best for you- long term.
A glass of wine, a pedicure, are plasters onto a problem. A treat. A momentary aid. Sure, they're nice and do it if you want every so often, but if you're feeling anxious or stressed, cure the source. Drinking water, exercising, vegetables and noticing what is making you feel shit (alcohol, chocolate, sugar or certain toxic friends) is what will really resolve your self care problems. That will maintain your energy, your mental and physical wellbeing.
A few weeks later...
Does anybody else get it, when they work really hard and try and focus on something for hours, when you finally give up and put on a movie and take the pressure off, suddenly you can do it?
So, this whole month was an absolutely insane rollercoaster of really deep inner reflection. I planned to write thing blog and also vlog. But it suddenly seemed insanely private. I wasn’t sure if this very personal ride I’d accidentally signed up for should be published. So I sat on this article for a few weeks. I felt that there was a bigger idea yet to come out. There was still something to learn from this.
I have always struggled with winding down. With relaxing. I could feel the moral scratching at me. Trying to be released but I had a block.
I am currently in Bali. Over breakfast I got chatting to my bunk mate in my hostel. Turns out he’s a pyschologist on a business retreat here. After chatting for a while, he mentioned he was having a day of self care. Aha! Ironic. “I’ve just done a month of that and holy f*cking shit I don’t know if I’d recommend that if you need to work and go about life!!!”
We chatted. And accidentally over toast at the hostel breakfast he let slip the answer I’d been looking for.
That a problem in society is treating alcohol as a reward, as well as other non beneficial activities.
And here really does lie what I’ve been brooding over. Reward systems. Using a glass of wine as a reward is shitty AF. It’s an unhealthy and poor reward. I want to find those rewards that are meaningful. That benefit me long term, that have a positive impact.
I've been trying to figure this out alone, and I feel a huge weight come off my shoulders to finally realise the issue I have is with reward systems.
So this has got me thinking, if I remove any monetary, material or alcohol rewards from reward system-
WHAT MAKES ME HAPPY? What is my own personal self care.
This thought is not something unique to me. In the incredible book, "The Self Care Project" by Jayne Hardy, she discusses that this is actually pretty common and people "don't always understand what self-care for them individually".
And really, after this absolutely INSANE 6 weeks, I realise that the most incredible reward that makes me so happy- long term, is spending time with my friends and family.
Manicures and massages have a place. They are treats. But they are not self care. Self care is the things that aren't sexy or necessarily luxurious. It's healthcare. It's prioritising health over anything. Not consuming your way into feeling better, but getting to the cause of your problem. For that real time to unwind, to flourish and de-frag self care is simple.
To me, the ultimate self care, nurturing, relaxing and times to really ground in life, is very very simply, spending time with my family and friends. It’s free, it doesn't go on instagram. But just being around my family. My brother showing me his bees, cooking with my mum, being stupid with my best friend, snuggling down with Lee. These are the moments that are real. That ground me into this fantastic life.
And being really busy, working a lot and being away from home most of the year, I find it really hard to do this. But I guess if I’ve learnt anything from the past 6 weeks of rollercoaster is that my favourite thing to do for myself, doesn't mean going shopping, spending money, having a glass of wine.
It’s just being present with my family. It’s the ultimate luxury.
If you are interested in a similar challenge, I cannot recommend The Self Care Project by Jayne Hardy. It's a fantastic book that will guide you through a little better, to find your own true self care.
P.S. I’m going to write an article on removing alcohol from my life for the time being. It’s not a permanent change but I am really relishing the opportunity to challenge my reward systems and finding what works for me- and makes me happy without the fall back of alcohol to relax. Watch this space.