Self care is a phrase that’s only recently entered my vocabulary. It’s banded about everywhere nowadays though – YouTubers will urge you to buy their new bath bomb as part of a “self care routine” and even big brands are hopping onto the self care bandwagon.
When these people/companies preach about self care, what they ACTUALLY mean is “treat yourself and give us your money”. And this is a very different thing to self care, mostly because a new face mask is not going to cure your anxiety or make you mentally healthier.
Additionally, if you are having money problems which are bringing you down, then this idea of having to spend to look after yourself is truly toxic. It’s also just not true.
Looking after yourself and improving your well-being does not need you to dig deep into your pockets. As someone recovering from depression and travelling on a budget, without a bath for bombing or an oven for baking, I’m going to share with you my self care rituals and goals.
Being present in the moment
I am so sorry about how hippy and wishy-washy that sounds but hear me out… So last Summer my mama found this course on “mindfulness” (another trendy word at the mo) at the Mac in Birmingham and I decided to give it a go.
It really wasn’t very good… I felt very silly doing the exercises and I made friends with an 80 year old lady who laughed at the sessions’ ridiculousness even more than I did.
But now, I realise that I did take some things away from it – such as living in the moment. It’s so easy to sleep walk through life; to tune out while doing a task or to just do things without taking it in. I am still guilty of it. But snapping out of it and purposefully trying to concentrate on the now, letting go of worries about the past or future and just enjoying the moment is so good for your brain.
Saying goodbye to emotional/binge eating
I know that binge eating and emotional eating (when you eat more when stressed/upset) is such a hard cycle to break and I don’t think I’ve fully broken it yet. It’s a tough journey but it’s worth it. All of us binge/emotional eaters know that it doesn’t actually make us feel better about our problems but it’s almost instinctive. I can’t even count how many whole packets of biscuits I used to eat in one go, but it didn’t make me any happier.
I have only recently started to improve on my binge eating and it was because I had a big kick up the bum in the form of excruciating abdominal pain. Now for the last month, I’ve cut out the crisps and have a little treat a day (one oreo, yummy) and I can feel my body thanking me. I mean, it’s also hating me because it loved crisps and chocolate and cake but I’m no longer in crippling pain from my tum.
Nuts and fruit and Ross’s delicious vegan curry is my new diet and holy crap it’s actually tasty. I never thought that I, Sarah Holmes, could enjoy such healthy foods but it’s true. I’m not hating what I eat, despite it being healthy and good for me. All in all, I now feel healthier, happier and in control of my food.
Focusing on experiences, not things
Before travelling, I used to have a lot of things – clothes, books, decorations, general tat. I had to get rid of a lot of stuff so that I could fit my life into half a van (maybe more than half as I still have more stuff than Ross!). Since actually moving into the van, I now know that I could have got rid of a lot more and I probably will throw it out when we return home.
It’s easy to hide things away in drawers and boxes and cupboards but getting rid of all the extra baggage floating around is kind of therapeutic. When I was cleaning everything out, I found things from my ex boyfriend and tough times in my life and it felt SO good to chuck them away!
We are also living on a strict budget now so I don’t buy anything that I don’t *need*. I am operating on a one-in, one-out basis so things have to break before I replace them.
Instead of getting pleasure from buying things, I’m enjoying my experiences and adventures. Going somewhere new; getting back to nature; learning something historical; spending time with someone who makes you laugh. These memories are worth so much more than material items and will definitely make you happier in the long run.
Getting rid of lists
I’ve already written a blog post about when I got rid of my lists (you can read it here). But essentially, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. My lists and schedules had really been stressing me out and making me feel down.
Recently, my wonderful friend Zoe (check out her blog here) told me that instead of writing lists of things she had to do, she only wrote things down once she had done them. Therefore at the end of each day or week etc, she could feel good about her achievements. Achievements can be big or small – from getting out of bed or doing some cleaning, to planning a trip or doing some more of an essay. I think that is a wonderful way to celebrate what we’ve done, instead of worrying about what we haven’t.
Writing down or talking about feelings
You don’t have to keep your jumbled up, confusing feelings in your head. They can be voiced. If I’m feeling really shitty or confused, I like to write a letter about what I’m feeling. Just a lil tip though- don’t send these letters to other people because feelings can be transient and the letters are for you alone. I usually delete them afterwards because the letters are not a record, but are instead a way for me to order my thoughts. Once they are in order, I can start thinking about how to counter the bad feelings, fix situations and work on any problems that caused the feelings.
I also think it is important to talk about persistent feelings. It is good to share and often other people can give you advice or an alternative perspective on a problem.
Doing more physical exercise
I am baaaaad at this one at the moment. When we were in France, we went on morning runs on most days but since arriving in Spain, we haven’t ran once. I’m going to blame the snow and torrential rain… But I think mostly we just forget.
I hate running. My body literally screams “NO! GO BACK TO BED AND NEVER LEAVE IT AGAIN!” with every stride, but it does make me feel better afterwards. Not physically better, but instead there’s a smug little Sarah in my brain saying “See?! I told you that I could do it.”. That feels pretty good if I am being honest so I should start going again…
One of my favourite exercises is swimming but unfortunately Ross didn’t think to fit a swimming pool in the van so I’m stuck with running, I suppose.
We do a lot of hiking and walking though, which leaves my legs nice and sore, indicating that something good is happening down there in my limbs. Walking is great for the soul too – lots of time for thinking or chatting away to your walking partner (Ross is slowly getting my entire life history from these walks).
Realising you are worthy
The most important thing about self care is that we are all worthy of it. Our happiness and wellbeing is so important and it doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have, what you do. We need to look after ourselves and each other. Take care and let me know if you have any self care tips that I haven’t mentioned!