If you aren’t practising ‘self-care’ or learning to love yourself then are you even a millennial?
In our stifling, yet animated modern day society it is not surprising that there is a fresh prominence surrounding the notions of ‘self-care’ and ‘self-love’. Nonetheless, I have always had a problematic relationship with these concepts. I have spent endless days worrying that ‘self-care’ parallels selfishness, while ‘self-love’ makes me feel arrogant. But after reading the Chloe Brotheridge’s The Anxiety Solution, I came to realise that my knowledge of both concepts were completely skewed and I had a deep misunderstanding of what they truly meant. After some re-education and self-reflection I was able to shift my thinking and adopt healthier ‘self-care’ and ‘self-love’ practices that are elevating my own happiness.
I was notorious for allowing myself to become stressed out and bogged down by ‘normal’ routine which left me in the most foul mood. The getting up for work and spending 8 hours a day in an office, making the commute home just to cook dinner, wash-up, to then struggle to make time to see my loved ones and find time for myself often left me feeling lost and wondering what the point was. But, understanding what these concepts actually mean to you, makes living a happy, more fulfilled life simpler.
So, when you stop imagining ‘self-care’ is selfish and simply becomes those things you do that make you feel contented and happy, and ‘self-love’ takes on a meaning of needing to be kinder, more forgiving and accepting of your own self and flaws, while really listening to what your body needs and craves, the storm raging inside subsides.
I quickly realised that during isolation I was able to slow down and really take some time to focus on the things that make me happy. It was blissful. However, as normal life is beginning to resume, things are starting to pick up pace. My time is becoming more and more precious once again, so I wanted to share the simple things that I continue to do in my everyday life to ensure that I am able to look after myself:
1. Do just one thing a day that makes you feel happy.
This can be anything from reading a book on your commute to work, spending 30 minutes in the evening working on a creative project, indulging in a film, baking a delicious cake, or simply going to a coffee shop and watching the world go by as you ignore your mobile phone. I think I had forgotten to make time for the simple things that made happy and this contributed to my misery. I do think it is all about perspective, and how you view the ‘everyday’ things; just taking the time to enjoy cooking a nutritious dinner becomes an act of self-care, so it really is easy to upgrade your self-care routine with a positive mindset.
2. Spend less time on social media.
It can be difficult to escape the online world, with its barrage of notifications and alerts perpetually disturbing you. I know that social media has been the catalyst of a lot of my upset and worry over the last twelve months or so. The world is troubling enough in the current climate, so I have really needed to strip back my use of social media and cut my screen time in general to allow myself to practice self-care and show myself some love. I always try to abandon my phone when I can; it is so important, so you can fully indulge in those things that you identified as making you happy.
3. Practice positive affirmations.
This may feel a little bit cringey and you may laugh when you start to do this, but it is a great way to practice self-love. I am not kind to myself and never have been, but self-affirmations teach you to have self-compassion and really does break those negative patterns of thinking. So, every morning when I am putting on my make-up in the mirror, I look at myself I say things like: “I am confident”, “I feel good about myself”, “I am enough”, “I am calm and relaxed”. And before you know it, you will find that you have created a much more positive headspace for yourself.
4. Exercise when you can
Throughout lockdown, I benefited immensely from regular exercise; it proved a great mood lifter and really boosted my energy levels, but you really do need to find something that works for you. Nothing puts me off exercising more than the thought of struggling through some high intensity workout. So, I keep it light, and first thing every morning I do a 20 minute yoga flow and go for a short walk most evenings which is enough for me. I also never scold or punish myself if I do skip my morning yoga and opt to have another 20 minutes in bed instead.
5. Listen to your body
I have always been too hard on myself and I become ‘unproductive’ and ‘lazy’, my healthy diet slips away and I get incredibly frustrated with myself. But as I have grown older, my body has started fighting back and trying to tell me in subtle ways to go a little easier. But if I had just remembered to listened to my body in the first place, everything would still be okay. So, if you feel like you need to go to bed at 8pm and those things on your to-do list have to wait until tomorrow, that is fine; if you cannot muster the energy to exercise, it is okay; if your body craves a whole bar of chocolate or a large pizza, don’t deprive yourself. Surrendering to what your body needs, or wants in that moment is important. It isn’t giving up and you certainly aren’t failing. You are allowing yourself vital time to rejuvenate and recover and are forging a positive mindset to look after yourself in the best way possible. Your best is always enough, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Remember, life is hard, and things can get on top of you, but it is important to breathe. Whether it is through the literal act of meditation and breathing exercises, or pressing pause and just getting outside into the natural world, appreciating why we are really here and embracing the calmer moments. With a positive mindset, life is a lot easier and spending some time investing in your self-care routine is vital. Just a few simple changes can completely overhaul your self-care routine and ultimately create stronger relationships with yourself and those around you.