Ensuring Self-Care Doesn’t Become A Chore

by | Apr 8, 2021 | Blog, Midlife Mindset, Selfcare, Wellbeing | 0 comments

Over the past few years, self-care has become a mainstream term for taking time to look after yourself. How you do so is up to the individual of course but usually refers to healthy eating, exercise, taking time for activities that make you feel calm, such as meditation, and generally creating moments of mindful self-indulgence.

Women, in particular, have embraced this practice of self-care. Myself very much included. Yet, it’s highlighted, in many ways, just how difficult this is for women. Having grown up in a world that celebrates women as nurturers, caretakers, emotionally available and often the glue that keeps families together, the concept of self-care can feel uncomfortable. Selfish even.

The rise of self-care has partly been so notable because it isn’t an easy thing for women to do, even when they accept that it’s necessary, natural and important to our wellbeing. So, what happens when self-care becomes a chore?

Perhaps you’re a woman in your 30s. You might have children and a job and are juggling both. Being there for the school run, and meeting deadlines, and scheduling playdates, and making packed lunches, and dinners, and buying washing powder, and keeping up with the news, and breaking the glass ceiling, and being emotionally available to everyone. Now you have to find 10 minutes every day to meditate? And half an hour to do yoga too? And make fresh organic dinners from scratch?

Maybe you are a woman in your 50s. You’ve already done all of the above. You’re probably still having to work, and do household chores, and manage your finances, and make your house a showroom, and be politically engaged, and to top it all off maybe you’re going through menopause. Perhaps you’re not sleeping well and your body is tired and your mind a little muddled. Now, someone on the morning TV is telling you what you should be eating in order to respect your body. Someone in a magazine is telling you to stop drinking coffee and start lifting weights.

Suddenly, self-care is no longer a beautiful freeing concept. Instead, it has become another series of chores to add to your list. Even the idea can make you want to lie down. But hey, that’s ok. That’s self-care too.

Clearly, if self-care is something we need to add to our daily tasks then it’s not going to work. Already, many of us leave it until the jobs are done. We tell each other that when we’ve had a productive day we make time for pilates or meditation. As usual, looking after ourselves goes to the back of the queue. It’s still dependant on our ‘good behaviour’.

I want to assure you that it doesn’t need to be like this. There are ways of bringing self-care into your life without guilt. I believe in self-care. It’s awful that we even have to have a word for it because it should be such a natural part of our lives. I consider my role, as a wellness coach and supporter of women going through menopause,  an advocate of self-care.

Here are some ways I approach self-care so it doesn’t become a chore:

 

Replace don’t add

Our lives are choc-full of tasks which are essential to keeping afloat. Yet, there are probably a few you can ditch which wouldn’t cause life to unravel. For instance, although we feel time poor, how many of us are shocked by the time our phones tell us we’ve been scrolling through social media every week? Is that something you could consciously reduce? Perhaps two evenings a week your partner, if you have one, could take care of tasks around the house? Maybe you can set time aside where you don’t respond to emails? Or maybe your teenagers are reaching a stage where you don’t need to hover over them as they do their homework?

The point is, many of us feel that taking time for ourselves will mean taking time away from other people. Maybe it will but that shouldn’t necessarily make you feel guilty. You have to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs. Meaning, you absolutely need to look after your own wellbeing. Otherwise, you simply won’t have the energy to give to anyone else.

 

Do it your way

There is no right way of doing self-care. Let’s be frank, much of the media representation of self-care is very middle class. Expensive yoga classes, retreats, expensive supplements and the luxury of time. I believe everyone has the right to self-care. It is not a right reserved for only some privileged members of society.

The truth is that monetising self-care has led it to feel so. Yet, if you can only meditate in a beautiful studio surrounded by plants, in total silence and guided by a highly qualified expert, then you’re not really learning skills you can transfer into your daily life. However, you can learn to take 5 minutes in a messy living room to breathe deep and centre yourself whilst your teenagers are upstairs and the rice is steaming in the kitchen, then you’ve really mastered the art of meditation.

If you can’t afford to do Bikram Yoga at a fitted studio three times per week then take advantage of the multiple 10-minute yoga videos on YouTube. Do it before bed and wake without the ache.

Self-care isn’t about being virtuous it’s about being kind to yourself. Some of us get something out of listening to classical music and sitting quietly. Some of us rid ourselves of stress by dancing madly around our living room to punk music. Whatever works for you is ok. So long as you are letting go of stress and indulging your inner self, then there are very few rules.

 

Don’t stereotype self-care

When we think of self-care we often focus on yoga, meditation, herbal tea and mindfulness. Which is great. These are all wonderful activities and habits that can assist some of us in achieving a fuller sense of self and healthier life. However, they are not definitions of self-care. Sometimes, self-care means reading a book cover to cover on a Sunday. If you’re carrying frustration then an activity like kickboxing might be more clensing than yoga. Just because it’s not a stereotypical form of self-care doesn’t mean it’s not a great method of looking after both body and mind.


Obviously, I’m not going to advocate eating pizza and drinking beer regularly, even though it’s enjoyable. Unfortunately, in the long-term, it’s not doing our body any good. These types of indulgences sadly affect our sleep, digestion and mental health even. So what we’re looking at is establishing habits that don’t feel like too much effort but also are predominantly doing us more good than harm.

Yet, spending an hour reading a magazine, though it may not seem ‘worthy’, can be just as good for us or better even, than stressfully fitting in a mindfulness class in between a midday work meeting and the after school pick up. 


Keep self-care close

When you are learning a musical instrument one of the first things you are often told is to keep it within reach. If you put your guitar into a case and keep it in a cupboard then progress is likely to be limited. Yet, if you leave it out in a place you walk past or sit near it often then you’re more likely to pick it up and practise.

Self-care is a little like this because keeping it up is dependant on your set up. Of course, it would be lovely to have an exercise room or a meditation space set up at all times. Yet, most of us don’t have this privilege. Still, there is much we can do to keep our self-care practices within easy reach. Do you put your yoga mat away to keep your lounge tidy? Or are you someone who’ll leave out the jigsaw puzzle to remind you to take time out?

Most of us strive to make our homes welcoming but also with a sense of ourselves in there. So, for example, if something like daily reading is important to your self-care then there’s no need to put your book back on the shelf every time you put it down. If you leave it on the coffee table it’s not untidy, it’s there to remind you to pick it up again when you’re ready. In the same way that you might place fruit in a bowl on the dining table to encourage you to reach for it.

These small acts of self-care are so much better for us if they are almost unconscious. Hiding them away is part of the damaging behaviour that makes self-care something we fail to prioritise. So those items that remind us to look after ourselves shouldn’t be in cupboards and hidden behind sofas. They need to be there in the way that our laptops and mobile phones and to-do lists are always kept close. They must be present so we keep ourselves present.


Self-care is planning for the future

Sometimes, when life is good or particularly busy, self-care can seem unnecessary. Yet, think of self-care like weaving a parachute. Spending a little time every day stitching the fabric together means you will have something to protect you if a crisis hits.

self-care


Usually, when we are stressed and life gets the better of us these nourishing activities get pushed to the bottom of the list. However, the less of these we do, the more likely we are to reach burn out. We need to start approaching self-care as an essential part of our daily lives and not a special ‘treat’. Especially in perimenopause because our hormones can make managing stress particularly challenging.

Most medical professionals will tell you that, whatever the medical problem, prevention is always the best approach. Your mental health and your body is something you need to be looking after even when  it is well. By doing so you are ensuring that disaster is less likely to strike, and if it does you’ll be strong enough to take it on. 

Do you know you need to better take care of your physical and mental well-being but are not sure where to start? Book a discovery call with me here and we can begin to put together a plan for you to flourish and thrive!

 

 

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As a qualified nutritional therapist, mindfulness teacher and trained chef, I have a deep understanding of all the factors that contribute to our wellbeing.

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