Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, ideally just part of your everyday life. Getting some fresh air, coffee with a friend, eating properly, grabbing an early night. It can feel impossible, self-indulgent, unnecessary even, especially if you’re busy and have people who rely on you. But taking care of yourself is really important. It’s not something that comes easily to me. I always feel guilty about making time for myself in amongst the duties of making home and being mum. But in our house we all reap the benefits of doing the things we enjoy. Self-care is just as important as quality time together as a family and way more important than endless chores.
Self-care as part of an ethical lifestyle
Ethical living requires an order of sorts because you can’t rely on throwaway convenience. When you’re busy and tired, it’s easy to sacrifice self-care and good intentions.
I felt completely worn out last weekend and actually quite low, so I decided to really up the self-care last week. The thing about giving yourself some TLC is that you get to reframe what’s important to you. And you’re also a much nicer person to be around. I know that I haven’t been making enough time to plan for the basics as I’ve tangled myself up in organising the house, housework, procrastinating, volunteering at school and clubs and running around doing the mum thing. This has made me grumpy, frustrated, and snappier than usual. I don’t like this version of me very much.
Lots of the small things that I do as part of being more mindful have fallen away too. Such as forgetting my cloth bags and having to buy carrier bags. Or running out of time and doing our main food shop at the supermarket. Everything was packaged in plastic. I felt so guilty at the checkout as we’d made such good progress with reducing our waste in Zero Waste Week and this seemed like such a step back.
Grumpy, snappy, unorganised and relying on convenience. Time to up the self-care.
A little, often
I find the most beneficial self-care to be the things that can be built into everyday. The stuff that’s easy to overlook and forget when you’re running around trying to do everything else. Little things to look forward to often is the best way, especially when time is tight.
Here are my top tips.
1. Get outside
Stonywish Nature Reserve, Ditchling.
It’s free and glorious. We’re lucky to live in the countryside where there are lots of walks on our doorstep. You don’t have to live rurally to enjoy nature or have a nice walk. You don’t even need nice weather. We’ve recently been to visit friends in London and had a gorgeous walk across Regent’s Park on a cloudy day and back again in the rain.
Regent’s Park, London.
This is my mental health maker or breaker. If I start feeling low, panicky or tetchy, I can guarantee I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ve been taking myself to bed extra early this week. On Wednesday I turned in at 8.50pm. Yes, boring, especially if it means cancelling arrangements, missing a favourite programme or much needed childfree downtime. If you use your evening to do chores, it can also mean getting behind for the next day. But you only need a couple of early nights to catch up. No one will hate you for taking time to look after yourself, we live in the age of catch up and on-demand and a couple of evenings doing the bare minimum and getting some extra sleep is very worthwhile.
Early to bed kit: pjs, water, a face mask, good book and magazine. Simple pleasures.
It’s easy to forget to drink water now it’s cooled down. I’ve been drinking too much strong coffee to try and overcome tiredness and lethargy. It hasn’t worked. I’ve just ended up feeling frazzled. This week I’ve been drinking lots more water. My skin is better and I feel much less jumpy. Keep taking your refillable bottle with you and keep a glass nearby on your desk or at home. Drink often!
4. Healthy food
I try to eat as healthily as I can all year round. Lots of veg, beans, nuts, falafel, yoghurt, fruit. Autumn is the best season for home cooking. It’s the perfect time to dust off your slow cooker, take time to make soups and my favourite, warm salads with roasted vegetables.
It’s incredibly easy to eat like this. It doesn’t take much planning or skill. Chop up some veg, throw in some chickpeas or beans, sprinkle on some spice (we’ve been using loads of Sumac), grab some herbs from the garden or windowsill, liberally cover in olive oil, salt and pepper and pop in the oven until cooked (about 25-35 minutes). A plate of home cooked food can be such a simple pleasure. If you double up when you cook, you can store or freeze leftovers for a quick dinner another night or a tasty packed lunch during the week.
I’ve been teetotal for 6 months today. It’s been an absolute revelation. No more drunken rows, boozy late nights and foggy mornings. No more regrets and parental guilt from being hungover. Clearer skin, healthier body, happier mind. Now if this isn’t a radical act of self-care, I don’t know what it.
Cin cin! A celebratory Crodino.
It hasn’t been easy and I’ve really had to use all of my willpower at times. Last weekend, feeling flat, was the worst. I really fancied a big glass of wine to tune out. I didn’t. And I’m glad I’ve stuck with it as I’m definitely weathering the blue patches much more easily.
I’ve made a mental note of non-alcoholic alternative treats for those times when I’m feeling weak. My favourites? Sparkling water with slices of citrus fruits or cucumber and lots of ice, Persian rose lemonade, apple juice and mint over crushed ice, karma kola and my favourite by far, non-alcoholic Italian aperitif, Crodino. Oh, and of course coffee, cake, chocolates and biscuits.
6. Take time to get organised
I’ve been (very loosely) trying to follow The Organised Mum Method. And I mean very loosely. This is a definite lifestyle choice; you really do have to resign yourself to it with as much enthusiasm as you can muster. And I’m not sure my heart’s really in it. I’d much rather be reading a book, looking out of the window, drinking tea or writing. But I think it’s worth some persistence. I can see some great benefits already after “very loosely” following it for a couple of weeks. I’m still a novice and I figure it’s a bit like anything new. Tackling just half of the tasks each week is a win, in my eyes.
This week, for a while, we have a spotless bedroom.
We’re also working on a weekly family meal plan. I’m hoping to get to our local farm shop on Monday to do the weekly shop next week rather than relying on the supermarket.
I’ve been making packed lunches in the evening. This has made for much more relaxed mornings. I’ve even had time to listen to the Big One read on a few occasions. She’s fresher before school and it feels like a great parents’ job ticked off the list before 8.30am.
Getting organised may not be an act of self-care in the traditional sense. However, getting on top of “life-min” and being more organised creates the time and mental space for more regular self-care. And that’s really what we’re aiming for here. For me, a more structured approach to life is a very simple way of making time for the more enjoyable things in life.
7. Do something fun / indulge a hobby
I had the rare opportunity to take a few hours off on Thursday, just for myself. Usually I clean the house or do house admin or run errands or volunteer at school when both Girls are at pre-school and school. This week, I ignored everything but the bare essentials (kids gotta eat) and had a day to myself. After dropping the girls off I had coffee with a friend, drove to Brighton, spent an hour wandering around Waterstones and met The Husband for lunch. When I got home, I ignored the housework and washing and read a new book for 45 minutes before doing the school run. By the end of the day, I felt lighter and rested. This was a really special treat. I can’t do it every week, but it’s something I plan to do with more regularity.
I really, really recommend taking some time out if you’re starting to feel rubbish or overwhelmed, or just because you can. You don’t have to spend time alone, you don’t have to go on an expensive trip, just take time out of your normal routine and enjoy.
Keep it simple
You don’t need to buy anything for self-care. You just need to be able to set aside a little time for yourself and get into the habit of making it happen. You may have to say no to commitments. You may have to let something else slide. You may have to ask your family to step up and help. You may need to leave work on time and switch emails off.
All of my suggestions are achievable without spending a penny. Fresh air, free; sleep, free; water, free; time to get organised, free; being teetotal, free.
Yes, a day out and healthy food cost money but there are plenty of free days out (library? museum? beach? park?) and healthy food doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Rested, rejuvenated and more positive after a week of self-care I’m hoping to get back on track with reducing our waste and to start implementing the new meal plan next week.
I’ve especially loved the cosy, early nights and this is something I plan to do a couple of nights each week. As the evenings draw in and we all get into hygge mode, I’m looking forward to reading more, taking better care of my skin and banking some extra sleep.
And remember, it’s all the little things that you can make part of your regular routine that keep your mental health in tip-top shape and your perspective grounded.
What are your favourite self-care rituals? Do you have regular early nights? Have you considered being teetotal for a while? Do you always make time for self care during the week?