The Importance of Looking After Yourself
Recently I have found myself speaking with many women about the time they spend looking after themselves. This is the time that women spend on self-care, exercise, relaxation, mental health care. The over-riding words I am hearing is that women do not have enough time to care for themselves and they feel guilty about taking time to self-care.
Every time I hear these words I recoil in shock. It is incredibly important that we, women, mums take time out for ourselves. We need time to relax without that constant nagging of mum, mum, mum. And I will revert to the popular analogy, if the plane was going down, you absolutely put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before your children or anybody else.
I practise self-care
I have made sure that I have had time to myself always. My boys are soon to turn 12,10 and 7. And since my first born came along I have prioritised time to myself. Indeed, it changes over the years and as they boys get older self-care becomes easier.
I remember the feeling of being tied to my first born. I was breast feeding and literally could not be parted from him for more than 2 hours at a time, I felt strangled and trapped with this baby. Of course, I carried on breast feeding, because that is what society told me to do. And the entrapped feelings grew and grew.
I had to return to work when my first born was 8 months old, that was my cue to stop breast feeding and suddenly I had my freedom back again.
I have taken holidays with friends with no children. And not felt an ounce of guilt. I have always spent time exercising, gone out running for miles and miles. I have been on plenty of spa days or weekends. And so many nights out with my friends in London.
What can you do to Look After Yourself?
The Body – Exercise
It is so important to get out exercising not just for your body and mind but also setting an example for your children. And the best thing about exercise is that it can be free!
Every Sunday morning rain or shine I go out for a run. A 4 or 5 mile run I have got up to. I always run the same routes around the villages where I live, as I like to track my times to see how well I am doing pace wise. Just make sure you invest in a decent sports bra and pair of trainers.
I like to do HIIT classes, and there are so many free ones on YouTube. Joe Wicks has lots of free ones, 10 to 15-minute bursts of high energy exercise. The same applies to yoga, another thing I love doing. You can follow a free YouTube tutorial and maybe get out into the garden to do this.
I also go to a personal trainer, Kane at No Bull Fitness in Stevenage which is often featured on Mrs Mummypenny. I help Kane with his business, and he helps me with personal training. These sessions are brilliant, never the same, and he always shocks my body and uses muscles not often used. And he pushes me so much further than if I exercise by myself. Personal training does come at a cost of around £40 per hour upwards though, not cheap.
The Body – Food
You can never out-train a bad diet. I see this phrase on the wall in the Joe Wicks HIIT videos. Eating healthy, home cooked food is the way forward to a healthy body and mind.
This year I have spent two separate weeks cleansing my body. Eating clean for a week to remove toxins from my body. This basically means cutting out caffeine, alcohol, sugar, red meat and anything processed. It’s a great chance to reset the body and helps you wean yourself off the more addictive food groups of sugar, caffeine and booze. Each time I do this program I lose a chunk of weight, last time around 10lbs in 2 weeks.
I am doing the clean eating program again now. It is run by Victoria At Future Fit and costs £75 for 5 days of training (including HIIT, circuits, stretching, boxing and boot camp in the woods) plus a week eating plan and a support group. It’s a hard week, the withdrawal from sugar is the worst with day 3 and 4 being particularly emotional and tiring. But it worth it for the cleanse, fat reducing and muscle building.
Protecting your mental health is probably the most important part of self-care. We often prioritise body health, paying for the gym and exercise classes but how much do we spend, money or timewise, looking after our minds. Hey, I have even written about the healthy body aspects first!
Everybody has some level of **** in their lives, everyone. Some of us are brilliant at covering up the hurt and the pain and some of us not so much, but we all have something. And we all need to work on that something to accept the pain and not have it impact too much on our lives.
I make no secret of the fact that I have spent many years in therapy. My demons are forever there and I am acutely aware of how they impact my life. I chose to spend money on counselling or retreats or self-help books to help understand my past and accept it. I wish everyone did or could do the same.
Meditation and yoga are so good for the mind. Going for a walk into nature or to water are brilliant for a reset. I have personally spent a lot of time this summer near the sea or water and it has really helped me to cope with current extremely tough times.
Holidays and Weekends away
You cannot underestimate the power of time away from your children! I love my children and of course love spending time with them but I do love my weekends away and holidays away. April saw me head to Las Vegas with my best mate Neilboy. I had no responsibility and could do whatever I wanted for a whole week. It was bliss. And of course, I was in Las Vegas having the time of my life.
Just this summer holiday, it been a full on 6 weeks of keeping the boys entertained. And part of that was them spending 7 days with their grandparents in Essex. Again, I had this time all to myself and could live life just looking after myself. I packed it full of self-care treatments, work meetings in London and a long trip to Bristol to see friends and family.
Read a Good Book or Magazine
I feel like I don’t read enough books, but I love losing myself in a great book that inspires me or teaches me new stuff. I have a stack of 10 books that I have been given or bought that I need to read. My choice of books at the moment is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, I always have a money book on the go that I dip in and out of, but my favourite so far is Meaningful Money Handbook, by my good friend Pete Matthew. I adore Brene Brown and devour anything she reads or does, one day I will get to one of her live talks.
And I love treating myself to a glossy magazine, Vogue is my monthly magazine of choice currently. Packed full of beautiful image and incredible writing.
Of course, something close to my heart is writing. Okay it my job, but the power of sitting down at my laptop and just writing what is in my head is incredible. Or sitting with a journal and writing all those feelings, worries and frustrations onto paper. It is incredibly powerful, and I find it brilliantly cleansing. I have a busy mind with so much whirring around constantly. The act of writing helps it to pour out of my head onto a laptop screen or a page. Most of my work is published on my blog if I think it is going to help others. The occasional piece sits in my word files, tucked away for a later day or never to be read by anyone.
What do you do for self-care?