This week is self-care week in the UK. The Self Care Forum and NHS are hoping to reach as many people as possible to raise awareness of the importance of self-care to physical and mental wellbeing within communities, families, and organisations. It looks at how small changes can help us look after our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of the people in our lives and communities. Small changes can be physical or mental – getting fresh air, engaging in creative or social activities, giving our bodies and minds rest and relaxation, doing movement that we are able to do and that feels good, and it can be treating short-term conditions as soon as they strike (such as colds), and safely managing long-term conditions.
Self-care is one of the things I struggle with, particularly in the last few years. Although I have made some positive changes – such as switching to a dairy-free mostly vegan diet – I am not so good at taking care of my sleep, or engaging in other healthy behaviours such as getting enough fresh air, going for daily walks, and even engaging in creative hobbies when I need the relaxation. I feel like this week is the perfect opportunity to start working on those aspects I have most trouble with, and making long-term plans to look after my mental and physical health. Working on a book and also working as the publisher takes a lot out of you, and my energy is currently very low. Anxiety has been creeping up, and I’m struggling with low moods. I take this as a sign that I need to pay close attention to the basic tenets of self-care – food, sleep, movement, rest, and refilling the creative well by reading, watching good films, and doing creative activities that I love to do.
Although taking part in Nano Poblano can be fun, it’s also been difficult to work out what I want to write about. Part of me feels that I was a little hasty in committing to writing a blog post every day, because I tend to be a perfectionist and don’t always feel that I can write things that are useful to readers. This is definitely related to not getting enough sleep – burning the candle at both ends and expecting my brain to be able to keep up is definitely not good self-care. Although I can only do my best and nobody should be too hard on themselves, I definitely have a streak that heaps pressure on myself and isn’t particularly kind when I’m struggling. It’s a paradox because whilst I hold myself to high standards (and yet I’m far kinder to and hold next to no judgement about other people!), I also neglect my own needs.
So where does self-care come into this? It just means that whilst I am trying to keep up with Nano Poblano, maybe I need to take the pressure off a bit. I will blog when I can and when I have something I want to write about, but since this is self-care week, I’ll be working more on getting myself to a healthier place, mentally and physically. When we take care of and are kinder to ourselves, that reflects outwards and we have more energy to care about people around us too. This is particularly important for people in care roles, people working in the community, activists, and those of us who find ourselves emotionally and directly impacted by world and news events. We live in tough times, and self-care is a tool that helps us to survive and manage.
On that note, I also have a few books and websites that have helped me, and continue to help. I prefer to use books that are body-positive and have a holistic (treats the mind and body as connected) philosophy. Much of what we know now about mental and physical health views the body and mind as one entity, rather than the disconnected Western view of mind and body as separate. For example, we have a ‘second brain’ in our gut with neurons and pathways, which is often why what we eat can have a major effect on our state of mind. Even so, I’m definitely not someone who doesn’t indulge in chocolate and sweet treats every now and then!
- The Self Care Project by Jayne Hardy.
- The Little Book of Self Care by Mel Noakes.
- The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor.
- Notes On A Nervous Planet by Matt Haig.
- Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig.
- 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think by Brianna Wiest.
- Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor.
- Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon.
- The Self Love Experiment by Shannon Kaiser.
- Braving The Wilderness by Brené Brown.
- The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith.
- Stress Proof by Mithu Storoni.
The Blurt Foundation
Although Blurt is dedicated to helping people affected by depression, they also share great resources for how we can take care of ourselves mentally and physically. For example, they have a self-care resource page, and regularly blog about self-care, managing your routine, topics such as social anxiety, support systems, and self-kindness.
Some posts and pages to check out:
Self-care info: includes blog posts, a PDF self-care starter kit, self-care planner PDF, and sign-posting for community support.
The Body Is Not An Apology
The Body Is Not An Apology is an international movement: ‘committed to cultivating global Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment. We believe that discrimination, social inequality, and injustice are manifestations of our inability to make peace with the body, our own and others. Through information dissemination, personal and social transformation projects and community building, The Body is Not An Apology fosters global, radical, unapologetic self love which translates to radical human love and action in service toward a more just, equitable and compassionate world.’
Their website is chock-full of resources and insightful articles. This is an especially brilliant website if you’re engaged in social activism, community work, care work, or want to make a difference. It’s also a great place to educate yourself about how to be a better ally.
I hope some of these resources help! Happy self-care week…
‘When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.’ – Jean Shinoda Bolen.