Baths, coffee with a girl friend and trips to the hair salon or nail spa feature on many a mum’s list of self-care practices; – things that help us fill our own cup. After all, – looking after ourselves is important. We all got that memo.
Perhaps you – like I – have succeeded somewhat at reconciling this message with the one that was modelled by your own mum – that looking after yourself and not burning out isn’t selfish. It’s sad. And unhelpful. To us. And to those we love.
But how do can we carry on practicing self-care at a time when our go-to pleasures are no longer available and we are having to be everything to everyone 24/7 with no where to go?
Have you ever stopped to reflect on what you tend to do when adversity strikes? When faced with a threat, danger or stressful event – we all default to one of two learnt responses; we either fight or flight.
We will notice that we have a tendency to either soldier on, buckle up and get ready to do what needs doing – or we escape, become little and helpless and unable to cope. Have a think – what is your learnt response?
I myself identify as a fighter. I will cruise along in the same gear, expecting the same of myself and those around me until something forces me to slow down. Lower the bar. Pause.
And many of the mums I work with have similar tendencies. When the ship is going down – at least the kitchen will sparkle, the beds will have been made and the kids will have had their Five a Day. My late and beloved grandmother always used to say that it’s important to have clean underwear should you end up in hospital. Need I say more? I was weaned on these types of messages.
And perhaps you have too!
It can be exhausting. And difficult for those around us to be of service to us or feel good about themselves in the face of what we manage to get done. Despite a global pandemic.
Self-care is lowering the bar
If there is one thing that these past 2 months have taught me – it is to lower the bar and redefine what being kind to myself actually means. For me. And one thing that feels caring towards myself is to lower the bar. To lessen my self-imposed standards to a level that allows me to feel good about myself at the end of a long day spent with my family 24/7.
Never has my house looked so ‘lived-in’. And never have I cared as little as I do now. Okay – sometimes I still get an urge to deep clean the house and ban all messy projects.
But I remind myself that there IS power in that too. The key is balance.
A new way of looking at self-care
- Allowing the kids to watch a bit more TV if it means that you can survive the day without screaming and shouting
- Taking off your ‘teacher’ hat if your kids are having a tantrum and flatly refuse to engage with home learning. Most things work again after we unplug them. Including us.
- Not feeling obliged to respond to every Face Time call and text the minute it lights up on your phone. This can be a massive stressor – and a great relief to allow yourself to respond when you FEEL like it without over apologising.
- Sitting down with a magazine or a book in the garden. And leave the kitchen sink full of dirty dishes.
- Skipping PE with Joe Wicks – if there’s nothing in the tank
- Doing PE with Joe Wicks – even if it means the kids will have to be bored while you fill your own cup.
- Going for an evening walk instead of watching TV
- Delegating. Not assuming automatic responsibility for all domestic chores.
- Rather than meditating (if you don’t have the time or it isn’t your thing) – mindfully apply body lotion to your clean body. Taking your time instead of rushing through every activity as if it was a means to an end.
How can you re-define self-care for you if time is of essence and you are finding you have little support or opportunities to escape?
Often it is less about doing MORE as it is about becoming aware of our own habits and default ways of responding when life get’s difficult.