Twice a year I go to CPD (continuous professional development) sessions that Slingababy, who I trained with as a carrying consultant, organise. The two I attended in March got me thinking about the term "SELF-CARE" as it came up rather a lot, despite the sessions being on very different topics! (side note: I actually started writing this blog in March!).
And it is all over the internet and instagram, and on the journey back from Rugby, Katherine and I chatted about our learning's that weekend - the word interesting featured very heavily!
So what is self-care? Well that is not easy to answer actually!
The Oxford dictionary defines it as
1.1 The practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.‘expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care’ as modifier ‘self-care methods such as meditation’
The Self Care Forum go a bit further describing it as
"The actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness."
It seems obvious when we discuss self-care in terms of our physical health such as brushing our teeth, eating healthily, exercise but it can be harder to define in terms of our mental wellbeing or wellness.
Ray Dodd discussed it on one of her live video in her group Finding the Balance: Nailing motherhood and business
( the one on 26th March in particular reasonated as I was just starting this blog post, and there are many others that go over self-care from a quick search).
I also recently watched a series on ACE's (Adverse Childhood experience) and they discuss how to help prevent these and self-care was also discussed there (Resilience Summit part 3 - well worth watching all on day 3).
It seems to be a huge buzz phrase!
However, essentially being in a commercialised culture, this term has been grabbed and used by many companies to sell us things and make us feel that it is something that needs to cost us money and it has made me feel like "SELF CARE" is for the privileged. Only for those who can afford a nice spa day or a manicure every week or 2. (and you know what if you can then amazeballs to you!!!).
Yet for many of us struggling to make the money stretch each month, self care can seem un-achievable.
But you know what, we need to re-frame the conversation around self-care!
No-one but you can define what self-care means to you.
And even this may change over the period of a day, or day to day, week to week, month to month. As Ray discussed having broken her ankle her needs changed significantly as did what self-care was to her in the period.
And whilst I am sure many of us would all love a nice weekend away or a spa day or a night in a hotel room to ourselves without anyone needing us, for others that would be their worst nightmare. And also this isn't possible very often, usually for most people due to money constraints or childcare etc. A break once every 6 months is also less likely to have a long term impact on us than say trying to do something every day.
Metaphorically thinking, of yourself as a glass of water, full at the start of the day/week/month and people and life keeps taking some. It can seem more achievable to keep topping up your glass of water little by little, rather than waiting until it is empty and pouring lots in in one go.
Sometimes it can actually be very simple to try and implement a few things into your day or week that mean self-care TO YOU.
Some people may need more self-care than others, we all respond to and deal with stressors in our lives very differently based on our childhood experiences. It takes time to build awareness of how we are feeling in the moment and even more awareness to think about what we might need to help support ourselves in that moment. Or before these moments happen to make them easier for us to deal with.
Many of us have been there, we are tired, we are constantly under the demands of small people (or not so small!) life is busy, always this or that needs doing but sometimes we just need to STOP.
In fact it has been shown that mindfulness and yoga, improves productivity.
This was a great graphic I saw on Instagram recently shared by @theparentingcollectiveuk and many of these cost nothing and can feel achievable in our busy lives and to me count as SELF-CARE and a positive mental outlook.
Original Image from http://www.fullcupthirstyspirit.com/
It is too easy to be overwhelmed by doing lots ALL THE TIME! If we aren't busy then we aren't doing enough is a big fallacy. Sometimes its easier to be out and about to not get bogged down by the washing or the hoovering or the cleaning or the endless task of tidying the toys away! I know I find it easier and more productive to do things like making notes and blogging when I am not at home.
This week is Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness week (30th April 2018- 6th May 2018) by Perinatal Mental Health Partnership (https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/)
Another useful website:
It is the second time this has been held to raise awareness of how being pregnant and becoming a parent can impact on mental health and to encourage others to talk about mental health and strategies to help. 1 in 5 women experience mental health illness during pregnancy or in the first year after birth.
There are many ways carrying helps mental health and the reasons why this is.
Carrying helps reducing crying and improves sleep of babies and this reduces stress for parents. Also it impacts due to the interaction of all the hormones when you have your child close to you. This is a wonderful graphic from Carrying Matters on how it impacts mental health:
Also there is a huge body of research that shows getting out and about in nature helps improve mood and feelings of anxiety, Slings/carriers allow us to do this easily.
Many of the 50 ways to take a break above could be done using a sling/carrier, enabling us to meet the needs of our child as well as our own as it can be difficult to sometimes separate these. We provide comfort to our child, we provide nourishment to our child but we also need those things ourselves. It makes sense when discussed in terms of the on a airplane, putting the oxygen mask first on you then your child rather than the other way round but it is important day to day to remember this too.
Connections matter whether that is with our child, our support network, our peers, nature, our thoughts, our feelings.
It is ok to say it isn't ok and a huge part of self-care is accepting how we feel and what can we do about it right now.
It can often (or always!) feels like a juggling act meeting my child's needs or my own and sometimes it can be both by using a sling/carrier.
For me slings/carriers falls under self-care in many ways.
What does self-care mean to you?