Take (self) care

It’s Christmas time! For me, it’s the most wonderful, magical time. But it’s also a very stressful time and while I, personally, wish it could be Christmas more than just once a year, I know that the festive season can be rather challenging for others; be it because of those annual Christmas-family-fights, past traumas, the cold weather, annoying family-members, triggering foods for those suffering from eating disorders, or, maybe, you focus too much on everyone else and too little on yourself.

Christmas is the time for giving, but don’t forget about yourself. As Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel (2017) suggested in their book, We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere: “Ignoring our needs can become habitual. Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re doing it, and we may not even see it as a problem. Maybe we’re comfortable living small – or, at least, we tell ourselves we are. We may give ourselves just enough to get by so there are no crises, but we never actually reach our full potential. Some of us shove our wants and needs deep down inside so that we can be nice. Or maybe we call it realistic.”

Selfcare doesn’t always involve a pamper-session with face-masks and soaks and hot chocolate with marshmallows (although I do love a good face-mask and hot chocolate – I mean, who doesn’t?) and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Selfcare is whatever feels right to you and whatever makes you feel better. And for those who might be struggling to practice selfcare, here is a list of 10 small gestures to yourself, your body and your mind, that make a big difference. (Please keep in mind that these are things that work for me – they might not necessarily work for you, because everyone is different).

10. Go for a walk. Walking helps clear your head, it gets your blood pumping and it’s healthy for the cardiovascular system, healthy for your bones and muscles. Bonus points if you take a walk in nature. Take a deep breath in, feel the cold air filling your lungs, and breathe out. If you, like me, sometimes struggle with silence, pop in your headphones and listen to your favourite songs on repeat and just walk.

09. Meditate. I love meditation. I used to hate it. To be honest, I don’t think anyone ever tried meditation for the very first time and thought, ‘Oh, I absolutely love this.’ No. When I started meditating, I felt like an idiot for the first couple of days, as I was sitting there, not even cross-legged, because I had surgery on my hip a while back and can’t twist or turn my leg in certain angles, I thought I didn’t even look the part and suddenly it seemed like I was thinking about everything that had ever crossed my mind and all at the same time. But after awhile, I managed to teach my brain to shut the f*** up, I learned to control my breathing and now I can meditate almost anywhere. If you struggle, I recommend using meditation apps for the first couple of weeks or months or even guided meditation on YouTube.

08. Make a list. Make a list of things you’re grateful for, make a list of things you want, of things you’re looking forward to, a list of your favourite memories… just make sure it’s positive and you’ll see how blessed you are in your life. If you’re struggling, here’s a challenge for you; make a list of 15 things you’re grateful for every single day for a month. It’s hard at first, but after a while, your brain will automatically start making these lists and you’ll feel happy and grateful everyday.

07. Clean and tidy your flat/house/room. I know – ugh. I hate cleaning, too. And how could doing chores ever contribute to practicing selfcare? Well, here’s the deal: A clean house = a clear head. I used to hate cleaning, but at some point – and unfortunately I can’t tell you what happened, because I don’t know – I realised that the joy and peace of mind of a clean flat was greater than my profound aversion against cleaning and tidying up.

06. Buy your favourite drink. This sounds like the most mundane thing ever and some of you probably have Starbucks everyday. But I don’t. For me it’s a proper treat – it’s almost like a ritual; I take my dog on a Sunday-walk through the city, the streets are empty, I go and order an Iced Almond-Milk Decaf Vanilla Latte, (or in colder months an Almond Chai Latte) preferably in a re-usable cup, because #environmentallyfriendly, if I’m feeling especially luxurious, I might even order a blueberry muffin as well. Then I carry everything (including the dog, because who was I, thinking she’d walk all the way to Starbucks AND back?) back home and enjoy it, while watching my favourite YouTubers. Also, side-note: that’s how it was in Vienna, now that I live in Nottingham, things are different, the streets are never empty and the dog can’t come to Starbucks with me. But now we have a quite similar routine, albeit still not as perfect, but it involves Almond Turmeric Lattes and vegan cake and if that isn’t amazing, I don’t know what is.

05. Light Entertainment. While I’m a big fan of profound, feminist, non-fiction literature and deep, meaningful movies, there are days when all I want is to watch a hilariously-predictable, cringe-worthy Hallmark Christmas movie. Or, as mentioned above and preferably combined with a hot beverage of choice, YouTube – I love watching other peoples’ lives. There are so many feel-good vloggers out there – I’m sure you have your own, but my current favourites are Annabelle (Catcreature on YouTube) and Danielle Carolan. Annabelle is the queen of aesthetics and Danielle’s optimism is contagious.

04. Practice Positive Affirmations. Positive affirmations are what I would describe as brainwashing yourself into being happier; positive, affirmative messages to tell yourself (not only) when you’re feeling down. For example: “I am in control of how I react to this,” or “Today I will have the courage to be me; irrespective of what others think.” There’s thousands on the internet and they all help.

03. Eat a Poke Bowl. No, it’s not a ball that houses small creatures you send into battle – that’s a poké ball. Poke bowls are delicious, nutritious and colourful, full of healthy ingredients and superfood and they keep you full for a while. They are becoming a thing in Europe now (depending on where you live, you might or might not find a poke place in your area), but in case you don’t have a poke restaurant where you are, you can always make them yourself. Here’s a recipe I’ve tried and loved. Enjoy.

02. Say no. You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no. If you need time for yourself, say no. Even realising you need time to practice selfcare is a form of selfcare. If you’re struggling with saying no, you might find this post about the importance of putting yourself first, helpful.

01. And if none of those seem to work for you, here is my number one tip – well, technically it’s not mine, but something I took from a book as well, but it worked wonders for me, so I keep recommending this practice to everyone I know: Imagine your best friend is having a crisis and you invite her to stay with you for a week. Think of things, gestures, that would brighten her day – buy her flowers, take her out for a nice dinner – whatever you think she would enjoy. And then do these things for yourself. Because you are your own best friend.

On that note, I hope you’re all having a wonderful Christmas or, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, enjoy a couple of days off. Take care (of yourself).

Sarah x (MH stories ambassador)

To read more posts by Sarah, click here.

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