Yes, we are in the month of love! And while I think it’s really important to tell the people you love that you care for them, it’s also a great opportunity to check in with your own self-care regime.
I therefore want to share a few things I’ve put in place for my own self-care. This is not really to suggest you replicate exactly what I do or to be a definitive guide to self-care in all its forms. Rather I’d like to help fire off a few thoughts for you to consider about what might work for your own particular situation.
I’ve found that with my digestive issues I really need to take time to check in with my body and my mind on a regular basis. However I still find self-care is one of the things that easily slips away when I’m busy, even though that’s exactly when I need it most!
This is why some of the things below are now non-negotiables, like my morning meditation, but I also leave a bit of room to experiment with new things I can sprinkle in from time to time.
Want to find out more?
My feelgood February guide to self-care
1. Morning meditation
I’ve been meditating (mostly!) daily in the morning for about four years now and it sets me up in such a positive way for the day. I meditate first thing and, very importantly, before any social media or email checking. It can be as little as 10 minutes or as much as 30 minutes depending on what time I have available, and what my mind and body tell me I need.
There’s no right or wrong on when is best to meditate as you establish a regular time which works best for you. However I’ve found if I meditate first thing I’m much less likely to find excuses not to. Setting up a daily practice and getting to know a few different techniques that I enjoy has also helped me to dip into mini-meditation moments during the day when I need them.
2. Writing my feelings
My other morning routine, and one that I’m grateful I’ve stuck with, is writing in a notebook for 15 to 30 minutes after my meditation. This is based on the morning pages approach set out in Julia Cameron’s wonderful book, The Artist’s Way. It’s very much stream of consciousness writing and is not about producing beautiful prose; rather it’s about expressing and expelling things in my head.
The reason it’s important to do in the morning is that it’s before you’ve let other things clutter your mind during the day. It still amazes me what comes out, and even on days when I can’t be bothered and it feels repetitive, I know it’s helping settle and focus my mind a little.
3. Body care
One of my tells when things are a bit of of whack is either a dodgy tummy or physical pain, as I have a double whammy of IBS and fibromyalgia. I’ve now learned that they are actually a bit of a blessing (even though it doesn’t always feel like it) as they let me know when I need to listen to myself a little better.
I therefore include something in my self-care regime that supports the management of physical pain.
And my top tip? Don’t underestimate the power of a good bath – and I don’t say this flippantly. As much as I’d love to have a weekly massage, unfortunately that’s not something I can currently do (but is definitely on my aspiration list). Therefore the next best thing for my body is a warm bath with salts followed by slathering my body in a lovely smelling oil. It makes me feel happy and calm AND it helps physically soothe any aches and pains. I think that’s called a win-win.
(Another little bonus is that if you have trouble sleeping, having a warm bath in the evening can help. The thinking is that warming your body up and then cooling it down helps you feel ready to sleep. You can find a few more tips on rest in last month’s post.)
4. Time in the kitchen
Don’t underestimate the power of simple activities! Especially ones that give you a sense of focus. For me, both in a professional and personal capacity, I get this from being in the kitchen creating lovely things to eat. It’s particularly important as tasting is one of the few times we use all of our senses.
You can use this time as a formal meditative activity or just as a time for finding some space and calm. I do both, but if I’m honest, more of the latter than the former. I find baking in particular in my ultimate soother as I tend to do it more for fun than for work. And I get something delicious, and delicious smelling, at the end of it.
If you’re not much of a cook or not that into food, you might like to play an instrument, create art or write. In some ways it doesn’t really matter too much what the activity is, but it’s about finding something a bit slower that encourages you to be genuinely mindful.
5. Time with boost buddies
As I work from home quite a lot and can end up having big chunks of time alone, I sometimes get caught up in the noise of my own head. Also, the challenge of being a solopreneur and making sure I have enough money coming in every month can be a big cause of stress (yes, I’m grateful for the flexibility and doing something I genuinely care about, but it does come with its challenges).
This is where my boost buddies come in!
Over the last few years I’ve built up a lovely little network of women who are at a similar stage of their business and in a similar field. We make sure we meet every 4 to 6 weeks to chat work and life, generally have a bit of a laugh, and to give each other some emotional fist pumps. Sometimes the best cure for my personal anxieties is to step away for an hour or so and have a giggle with people who empathise and care.
6. Gentle movement
I couldn’t finish without mentioning movement as part of self-care. There are many mental health benefits to having regular movement in your week, but I’ve also found that part of this is also being kind to my body to understand what it needs in different seasons.
For example, for me winter is not about HIIT classes or even muddy off-road running (which is what I used to do!). Instead I love crisp walks in the woods with my lovely dog Taz or meandering around the streets of London when I’m in there for meetings.
I also find generally that pilates and tai chi work better for my body than yoga (even though I do enjoy the odd yoga class too). But I find both of these are even better in the summer as my body is a little looser with the warmth, so if I’m doing any winter sessions I need to go a bit more gently.
Whatever the season, finding something that gives me time away from screens, from even thinking too much about my business and giving me the opportunity to physically shake out stress is really important. And it’s even nicer when it’s followed by my number 2 suggestion of a warm bath.
What could you do to add some feelgood self-care to your February?