Any mention of ‘self care’ gets a bit of an eye roll from me, to be honest. Aside from the odd bubble bath it’s never something I’ve gone in for, using stress and Lucozade to get me sleeplessly through deadlines, exams and web builds. While I understand its importance for the chronically ill, the ‘hashtagification of self care’, as I’ve seen it referred to, makes me avoid it like the plague. To me it feels like something for teenage girls with the time to bankrupt themselves in Lush, who have yet to feel the impossible weight of deadlines.
And yet, I had a recent revelation on a lunchtime walk along the canal. A realisation that while I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, the only time I’m not staring at a screen is when I’m sleeping. That I can’t remember the last time I cooked myself a nutritious meal with vegetables. That I’d piled weight on over a winter of typing on the sofa so much so that I no longer recognise myself in the mirror. That actually, a bit of self care was probably what I needed.
This series of revelations came, luckily, the week before my holiday. I therefore write this wrapped in a blanket buried in a sofa by the sea. It’s the first time I’ve opened a laptop in a week. The day before yesterday we walked 12 miles up a mountain and back, and yesterday I had a glorious three hour afternoon nap.
So it’s been a good time to break out from my unhealthy routines and begin moving my body again, to take a breath and time to watch waves rolling backwards and forwards. There are no hustles, no algorithms, just day dreams and footsteps, one after the other.
But of course it can’t last. I write this on a Wednesday, and holidays have hump days too – the day where the holiday becomes shorter and real life looms like a rain cloud behind the caravan.
As soon as we’re home I will relight both ends of the candle again, with a little extra fuel as they’ll have to burn harder to make up for the lost week. All the relaxation will be snuffed out and my stomach pains and sedentary life will return.
How can I, can we, balance health with our hustle? What realistic, grown up, non-cringe self care practices can we adopt? I by no means have the answers. Having got home from holiday I’ve had a really unproductive week – I seem to only be able to work furiously or slob out on the sofa, there is no middle ground. But here are some things I’m going to try and do, and I would appreciate hearing your sanity tactics…
I listened to a Tara Swiger podcast in which she said “you overestimate what you can do in a day but underestimate what you can do in a year”. It took a little time for me to truly understand what that meant. I would often set myself impossibly long daily to do lists, all to be achieved within the three or four hours I had in the evening, and I would never complete them all.
I think that’s where that feeling of constant busy-ness and burn out came from – I was constantly working but never getting to the end of a list, so I felt like I was getting nowhere fast. Taking a step back and speaking to others helped me see that I have come so far since I started Simple & Season in September.
So I intend to take stock more often. To look at progress and actively check in on the quarterly goals I set myself (rather than forget about them as I get bogged down in the day to day). I’m also, crucially, going to cut myself more slack and not try to cram things in to the limited time I have (which will include saying no to things). I’m not going to give myself long daily to do lists, but work on projects one week at a time, so I can look back on a week’s worth of work and feel successful, rather than 7 unfinished to do lists.
Food has been such an aching gap in my life for pretty much the whole of this year, and with my back constantly playing up I have been struggling to exercise. This, combined with my diet of ready meals and crumpets, has not been good for my body or for me psychologically.
I’m already starting to walk a little every day, but my eating habits are where I need to put some attention. I used to be really good at meal planning, but that is one of the many things I relegated to the pile of ‘things I simply don’t have time for’. My aim is to spend time of an evening or weekend flicking through recipe books and blogs to get inspired, planning things to batch cook on a Sunday, and taking the daily task of thinking about what to eat away.
Working from morning til night every day without exception was bound to lead to burn out. The screen time was bad for my eyes, all the sitting, I’m sure, bad for my back, and generally having no free time was bad for my soul. I also would get up to go to bed some nights and realise that Dan and I had hardly spoken as I was so busy.
So in an effort to regain some sort of work/life balance, I’m introducing Sacred Days. A day where I don’t do any extra work (excluding a little Instagram and Twitter, of course) but instead do things for me. Maybe it’s a day out with Dan, meeting my mum, taking the dog for a long walk and having an afternoon bath. It’s a day where I won’t let myself feel bad for not working (in theory 😉).
These are just my initial ideas, and I don’t need to tell you that I’m not exactly a healthy living guru. I must also admit that in the gap between writing and publishing this, I haven’t kept entirely faithfully to these principles. But I have the intention.