As we start 2019 some of us celebrate our achievements of 2018. Unfortunately, others find ourselves lamenting our perceived shortcomings with bittersweet feelings about the previous year coupled with anxiety about the uncertainty of what’s to come. A reason for beating ourselves up in this way may be due to a lack of self-esteem and having yet to master a positive balance between the rigors of everyday life, mindfulness, self-esteem and rest. Some of us start the month of January with an abundance of energy and determination, ready to “strike while the iron is hot” along with the many cliches that come with new beginnings. On the other hand a fair few of us will adopt a case of the “January blues.”
To avoid that happening this year, I have decided to intensify my journey of self-care. This is now my planned lifelong exploration which I started with some success in 2015 after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis at 47, resulting in me having three operations and a course of radiotherapy to treat it .
To be fair I was already a believer in self-care although I didn’t realise it at the time. Back in the day I remember making the decision to give up a nicely paid full time position within local government to raise my own children (I say my own children because my first two children were being looked after by a childminder). I was able to make this decision with ease at the time (despite the fact that financially this would be a struggle) following a statement made to me by my mother who was gravely ill at the time. She said ‘If I had my time over, I would not have worked as much as I did because I never had the time to spend with my children.’ So, as a wife, stay at home mum to three, a full time design student and part time receptionist, I used to squeeze in a aromatherapy massage now and then with a practitioner who rented space at the leisure centre where I worked. I am sure it helped keep me calm and gave me the insight to create a small space at the back of the garden where I was able to listen to audiobooks whilst watching my children play, blocking out any confusion going on at the time but most of all I lost myself in music. As my children got older, unlike many people within our culture I was happy to ‘sit in the chair’ to talk through issues and visit alternative therapists such as Bowen Technique with my kids to help with a range of issues from a bruised coxis to enuresis and even my hayfever.
There are many positive and insightful self-care books and apps to support us through what really needs to be a life journey of self-care. I regularly use the Headspace App in the mornings and during the day when I need to refocus. I also use playlists via Spotify which provide hours of mindful music for any relaxing reason. You see, once you start and truly get into your personal journey of self-care, it will be difficult to not see the value of self-care being the central part of your being.
When looking for books on self-esteem I found that numerous sources offered helpful guidance, which focused on either the “inner” or “outer” part of change. The “inner” books I noticed, centred on a more spiritual understanding with an undercurrent message being about the worth of each human being; with little indication of the outside structures that challenge this worth in order to guarantee their own influence and importance.
The “outer” books expressed particularly to women how to look better, deal with stress better and succeed in our many roles but rarely mentioned that women’s self-esteem might be damaged by the very expectation of fulfilling all those roles. As a woman with dyslexia the good of self-care books are often lost on me because I find myself reading and re-reading the same line/paragraph which then gives me another reason to doubt myself. I have found Audible books and various apps far more useful. We tend to find that a lot of self-help books place an equal amount of weight on the individual, which can leave many questioning the status quo or questioning the ability to change it.
As our lives and circumstances change we need to adjust our own self care. Sources of self-care can present themselves to us in many ways. It has been said many times that we are influenced by the people we meet and the books we read. I have recently listened to Becoming by Michelle Obama and Native by Akala both of which I found tremendously inspiring. Many years ago when I eventually went back to full time work as a School based Community Worker, I was required to attend regular supervision sessions with a practitioner from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). She advised me that it would be irresponsible of me not to take a regular ‘duvet day’, it took a while to sink in but eventually made perfect sense. She has since become a valuable friend and colleague of mine.
What I am trying to say is that self-care has taught me; I am the champion of my thoughts, that my life is in my own hands, that quiet reflection is a powerful thing, not to hide from my neuroses and that nothing is promised.
So enjoy the now because the now is you and you are good enough.