2016 has been a tumultuous year on every scale, from the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the catastrophic state of international politics through to personal struggles and hardships. It’s been a tough slog for everyone over the past 365 days. Without going into too much detail, I’ve experienced a lot of lows but also some very happy highs this year. Through my journey, I have realised the importance of self-care. Self-care is about identifying and prioritising your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It’s so easy to be swept away by life – work, family, friends, partner, hobbies, pets, fitness – and constantly giving until you have nothing left to give. Self-care seeks to redress the balance, making sure you take the time to nurture and nourish yourself; treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.
Like most women, I spend a significant amount of time focusing on others rather than focusing on myself. It’s all too easy to forget to put yourself first from time to time, especially when you have a to do list as long as your arm. This time last year, I had a horrible chest infection which just about cleared up for New Year’s Eve but it returned with a vengeance a few days later. Despite having a chest infection, I tried to carry on as usual with work, blogging and seeing friends and became worn out, stressed and more run down on top of having a pretty awful infection…which then developed into walking pneumonia. All because I neglected to care for myself, cut down on my obligations and take a couple of days to actually be sick.
While walking pneumonia isn’t as aggressive as pneumonia and doesn’t require being hospitalised, it’s pretty awful. I had no choice but to take a couple of days sick and cut down on blogging and other obligations. I spent a few days bedridden and it’s safe to say I learned my lesson! Neglecting your own needs just means you give until you’re running on empty Lack of self-care can manifest itself in the form of illnesses as well as negative thought processes, thinking errors, anxiety, low self-esteem and stress among other things, so it’s important to ensure you’re taking time to refuel.
For me, the key is practising self-care every day. Little and often works for me, whether that means stepping away from my computer to take a 10 minute walk, having a bath at the end of the day or making time in my day for a nap at the weekend. A small amount of self-care every day adds up. I also like to plan trips away to totally disconnect with everyday life and switch off. Last January, I had what felt like a very indulgent self-care trip – I spent a weekend at a yoga and Ayurveda retreat in the Catalan Pyrenees. Daily meditation, pranayama breathing and yoga felt almost decadent and it really felt like I had started the year in the best way by re-centring myself
I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions, but as we approach the New Year, I’ve been thinking about how I can start this year as positively as last year.
1. Define your circleHaving a strong, positive support network is so key – people you can count on when the chips are down, not just the good times. I have gotten rid of a couple of fair-weather friends this year, which has created more space for people who have my best intentions at heart and I trust completely. I speak to my core circle everyday, about big issues and small niggles. Sharing is caring, especially when it comes to what’s on your mind.
2. Have a spring cleanBreaking: spring cleans aren’t just for spring. Over the last week, I’ve been slowly having a spring clean, just a corner or a draw here and there in between Christmas parties and events and it’s already making a huge difference to my mentality. My bedroom is my sanctuary and it feels like it’s had a breath of fresh air, just by having a little reorganise and throwing a few things out. It feels so good to enter 2017 with order and serenity in my home.
3. Detox, digitallyIn the same vein has having a physical spring clean, I’ve also had a digital spring clean. I don’t mean switching off from social media; please…I’m a blogger! I just mean tidying up your digital life. Both my blog and personal email are out of control, mainly because I’m signed up to dozens of newsletters. Instead of my usual tactic of bulk deleting emails, I’ve been opening every email and unsubscribing from the companies which don’t interest me. Now, when I open my emails in the morning, my inbox is a lot tidier and much more relevant. I’ve also done this with my social channels, unfollowing accounts which no longer resonate with me. Both of these steps have helped so much with my productivity.
4. Get activeExercise is super important for self-care. In the words of Elle Woods “Exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy”. I actually quit the gym this month, as I haven’t been for 6+ months, but I’ve started doing yoga every morning again and I do workouts with resistance bands for more targeted sculpting. Whether you’re a runner, like lifting or do Krav Maga, make sure you get active a couple of times a week. I have a ton of exercises you can do at home saved on my Pinterest board if you need any inspiration.
5. Learn something newLearning a new skill is great for your self-esteem and committing to classes forces you to take time for yourself on a regular basis. I live in London and I’m fortunate enough to be able to pick anything. This year, I want to do a makeup course, learn about digital photography and learn French. There are also some great online resources for distance learning too, try Coursera and NCC Home Learning. The Nutrition NVQ I want to do is through NCC Home Learning, it consists of 4 units looking at the principles of healthy eating, nutritional needs and planning a healthy diet so it’s super comprehensive but also very handy that I’m able to learn so much from the comfort of my own home.