L&D Specialist and Holistic Coach Ali Hendry explores a topic that gets a bad reputation.
Self-care, what does this actually mean?
A quick search on Google generates over 22 million results for self-care. Essentially it is any activity that can improve your mental health, it is personal to you and doesn’t need to cost a thing.
I thought I was doing pretty well with my Covid-Friendly self-care list: regular walks in nature, purchase of a milk frother, downloading a yoga app and signing up to Spotify. All things I meant to do, but hadn’t assigned Purpose to them, so I placed them in the “luxury items” pile. Yet now, each of them give me more return on improved mental health than I imagined. Who doesn’t like going for a seafront yomp, accessorised with a home-made “proper coffee” while listening to Billie Eilish?
But is this enough?
I recently did a coaching exercise where you choose someone in your life and imagine a week in their world. I chose my 9-year old daughter and found a deeper level of empathy for the challenges she is currently experiencing. Then, they “spend” a week in your world. Afterwards, you identify the parts you didn’t want them to see. The main thing I didn’t want my daughter to see was the absence of mango in the fridge.
I am a co-parent, and every week when she is with me I buy her favourite fruit. I also love mango, I would eat it every day if I could afford it. So the days she doesn’t polish it off, I enjoy putting it in my salads, currys and soups. But it’s one of the pricey fruits isn’t it, so I don’t buy it for myself.
Wait! Stop the clocks! What exactly prevents ME from buying it for ME? A quick exploration via another coaching exercise around limiting beliefs, and things start to come up associated with income and self-worth. It’s an old chestnut, and which I clearly haven’t explored enough.
Then, I move on to the closed questions, to dig down further:
Here and now, can I afford to buy mango for myself? YES
Have I ever been in a situation where I couldn’t afford mango? NO
It’s a bit like my bright pink Moleskine diary. A diary is a diary is a diary, right? Every year I would purchase one from WH Smith. It served me well, it was functional, if unbeautiful. When I went freelance and installed a career coach to help me with the transition, we explored income and self-worth. Every day, at least once, I look at my diary. So why not choose one that gives me aesthetic pleasure? BECAUSE IT IS A WASTE OF MONEY, ALI!
Back to the digging questions I go…
Here and now, can you afford to buy a more expensive diary? YES
Have you ever been in a situation where you couldn’t afford a more expensive diary? YES!! Hmm, although actually I could have compromised on something else and bought one.
I try and recognise and feel grateful for the luxuries in my life. I make financial choices that others simply do not have access to. And I also know which monetary behaviours influence me; a hangover from having parents whose early childhood was restricted by war rationing. Such as, I will never throw away shampoo until water has been added and added to the final dregs, until literally I am attempting to wash my hair with tap water. And that’s ok. There may not be a war on, but I can still work on living sustainably.
So, Self-care = find your joy. This is your shot at life so make it a good one. And buy the mango.
Simple (free) things you can do to improve mental wellbeing:
- Download DownDog free yoga app. A great range of exercises for all levels and abilities including chair yoga and meditations.
- Go for a walk, once a week, by yourself, for yourself. Take the luxury of space and time in nature.
- Do a Gratitude List for a month. First thing in the morning whizz off a list of ten things you are grateful for, just go with what comes into your mind without censoring yourself, it can be as trivial or meaningful as you want.
- Make a weekly phone date with a friend, same time, same place, and see how strengthening your support tribe improves your and their sense of wellbeing.
- Do some journaling, either free-writing or focus on a part of your life you want to look at further.
- Have a long bath. With candles. And music. And a good book. Maybe some mango chunks.