Having spent the last eighteen months establishing Green Heart Collective, founder Helen Redfern is reflecting on what really matters in life for her...and maybe her reflections may inspire you too to explore life with gratitude and curiosity. Catch up with last week's edition here.
What Matters? Self Care Matters...
Making Sense of Self-care
I'm not a fan of the phrase 'self care'. To me, it sounds too much like pampering and indulgence, all spa days and candles and 'treats'. I don't mean that at all. By 'self care', I mean taking care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally. Taking the time to care for myself. Making looking after myself a priority.
Because I know - we all know the theory, don't we? - that I can't successfully look after others and look after the planet if I'm not looking after myself. Ironically, during lockdown, I was doing pretty well with this. Partly because I had all the time in the world and partly because I absolutely had to in order to hold everything together and keep my mounting anxiety under control.
Since then, I've been far too busy. Far too busy. I'm not cooking (and therefore eating) as well as I was. I'm not exercising. I'm not resting. I'm not spending time with friends. I have a gift voucher for a massage that expires in August that I haven't got round to organising. I don't allow myself a bath in the evening because I know that I'm so wiped out afterwards, I can't function. I'm on a treadmill of doing, doing, doing...doing all things that I enjoy, but with no time to breathe!
It's so easy to take health for granted, isn't it? Until something reminds you that health is precious, a gift to cherish. Last week, I finally gave in to taking medication for high cholesterol. I'd been resisting for a long while, believing I could lower it by lifestyle changes. It turns out I couldn't. I hate taking regular medication, but knowing the consequences of not taking it and knowing that my mum was only six years older than me when she died of a heart attack, I had to accept that self care in this case meant doing as I was told by my doctor!
I hate ageing. I hate how the skin on my hands looks now. I hate the arthritis in my fingers and the constant lower back pain. I hate the thought of slowing down, not being able to do all that I want to do. But I need to slow down.
The irony is that my mental health has never been better. I have a reason to get up everyday to come to a workplace that I love. I don't have time to think any more, let alone ruminate in unhealthy ways! That's why slowing down scares me a little maybe. I'll have more time to think and that isn't always good! However, what I've realised is that the joy of doing things you love is sucked out when you try to cram too many things into one day. There needs to be time to transition well from one thing to another. I've struggled with finding pleasure in all that I normally enjoy because I'm simply too tired.
Back to Basics
I need to go back to basics:
- drink more water
- eat good food
- exercise more
- get more fresh air and get out in nature
- connect with people and laugh together
- be creative, make something, enjoy a hobby
- get plenty of sleep
These things have proven to be key ingredients of a healthy, happy life for me in the past and need to be reinstated in my life. It's not asking much really, is it?
So I'm going to reduce my working hours. I'm fortunate to be in a position to do so, although there is much within me that is resisting this move. It feels like giving up. It feels like failure. It feels like weakness.
In this moment, this is what self care looks like for me. It's not an exciting, big adventure. It's nothing to write home about. It's taking a step back that may turn into a step forward into a happier, healthier life.
Anyone else feeling in need for some really basic self care right now? What can you do to create some time and space in your life to look after yourself today?