Wait, it’s 30th September. Why am I writing a blog post about September? Well, like they say in The September Issue, September is the best month to shake off your old skin and start afresh. For me it’s been a month of change. It’s also the month where self-care really landed on my radar as a real, doable thing and not just a vague idea I read about on Goop.
Maybe it’s yet another thing you only appreciate as you get older, like drinking wine for the taste and not just to get drunk or young Tom Cruise. I used to scoff at the idea of taking care of myself but – hello, self-help bible alert – if you don’t look after yourself, no one else will. Self-care is all about the little things, from taking your make-up off every night (even when plastered) to just avoiding situations and people who cause you stress.
Self-care is an ongoing thing that I’m sure changes throughout your life, if not day-to-day. With this in mind, I just wanted to share six new self-care strategies and steps I’ve been trying this month:
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
One thing no one tells you about anxiety is that it leaves you fucking exhausted. When your mind is going into overdrive over things that don’t cause other people a second thought – did I turn the gas off? Did I turn my curling iron off? Should I leave work and trek the hour journey home to check? – you’re using up all this valuable energy that could be used to come up with a witty putdown for the office mansplainer. This month I’ve really been working on letting the small stuff just slide off my skin, rather than taking over my day. I recognise that it’s an anxiety thought and just let it go. It’s really hard and takes practice but I’m getting there. Slowly.
Stop whatiffery in its tracks.
On a similar note, whatiffery has taken over my life in the last year or more. If you don’t have anxiety, this is pretty much being consumed by irrational, ‘what if?’ scenarios that might never happen. What if this bus is late and my boss who is on holiday, is not really on holiday, and he sees me coming in late? What if I’ve typed a digit wrong in this bank transfer – even though I’ve checked it 18 times – and sent my rent money to Nigeria and what if I never get it back? You get the picture. There are a lot of anxiety videos on Youtube but I recently found this Lo Bosworth video where she recommends replacing ‘what if?’ thoughts with ‘what is’ and I’ve found this simple tip to be so helpful.
Become a morning person. Well, kind of.
September saw me move to a new house and start a new project. Both things called for a new routine. While I’ve always been a night owl, I’ve started to get up earlier, make coffee, plod back to bed to read for 15 minutes and then hit the laptop by 8am. I initially found this to be painful but logging off at 4pm and going for a walk along Clontarf Promenade while it’s still bright, instead of being online all night, makes the early start worth it. I also don’t turn my computer back on once I finish work for the day and it feels glorious. Getting a 20 minute walk, preferably somewhere scenic or where I can get a bit lost in nature, is another self-care essential.
Last year I interviewed Professor John Cryan of UCC for a Science Week feature in the Irish Daily Star about his work on gut health and it was such a fascinating interview. Cryan’s work looks at the role microbiome – all the bacteria, fungi etc, in our guts – has on overall health, in particular mental health. Diet plays a major role in microbiome health and this past month I’ve started to take gut health seriously. I’ve been packing my diet with the best food for gut health – green veg, high fibre and prebiotics like fermented food, as well as eating natural yoghurt with live cultures. Check out Prof. John Cryan’s amazing TED Talk and remember to feed your microbiota, guys.
Breaking up with Twitter.
It’s always been my go-to social channel but in the last month I’ve turned into the worst kind of Twitter user after The Troll: The Lurker. I’m happily retweeting and liking tweets but I haven’t said anything in weeks. As many more eloquent writers have pointed out, Twitter is like an outrage competition where everyone is perpetually indignant. There’s only so much screaming and shouting about the latest Donald Trump ‘revelation’ I can deal with. I know that leaves me open to being labelled a snowflake but I really don’t care. Now I go on Twitter once a day, scan the headlines and get out of there as soon as I can. You can stay informed without being on Twitter all day. Who knew?!
There’s always a backstory.
As I mentioned in my post on digital detoxing, despite my better judgement I’ve started falling into the trap of comparing my life to what I see on Instagram. When I find myself sliding into this train of thought (usually when things are going a bit Mercury Retrograde), I remind myself that there is always a backstory you can’t see on social media. That freelance journalist who seems to be killing it? She’s moved home to live with her parents because most of her work is unpaid. That fashion blogger who is living a Serena Van Der Woodsen life in the Upper East Side? Well, she really lives way up on East 96th Street and tags fancy shops on Fifth Avenue each time she’s passing through. The travel blogger jetsetter? She spends every trip on her laptop, toiling away as a virtual assistant, to make a living. There is always a less glamorous backstory to what you see on social media and realising this stops the filtered fantasy in its tracks. Be thankful for what you’ve got, instead of comparing yourself to the social media daydream. That’s the best self-care tip you can get.
What small self-care steps do you take in every day life? I’d love to hear about them!