I’ve decided that when it comes to Self-Care, 80’s pop bands Fun Boy Three and Bananarama can say it far more succinctly than I can, “It aint what you do it’s the way that you do it, and that’s what get results!” Let me explain.
Following my research exploring how practitioners cope and therefore care for themselves when working in the field of domestic violence, my interest in self-care was ignited. I signed off my last article with an elaborate flourish and a rather blasé grandiose suggestion that I could ‘feel a bit of a Self-Care Revolution coming on!
In my quest to explore stirring up this revolution and considering how to communicate the benefits of practicing self-care, I started to actively investigate ways of looking after myself. Ways that are meaningful to me, and grasping every opportunity to discover why looking after ourselves is so important.
After a birthday, I was fortunate to receive some vouchers for a spa treatment. So excited was I, I literally pounced upon the brochure outlining the various treatments available. I spend a good while working out how I could get my best value for money for these ‘wonka-esque’ golden tickets as I savoured the thought of a manicure, pedicure or massage and devoured all of the other fabulous ways of treating my mind and body.
Lucky enough to have done this last year, just walking into my gym where the spa is, I always savour the smell of the beauty products and oils wafting out of the door as I head to the changing rooms. I covertly look at the beauty products shiny and enticing on the shelves promising never ending youth, health vitality and beauty.
Having delivered workshops on body image, I truly understand the pressure we can find ourselves under by being exposed to the media and the marketing strategies used to sell such products, however I do have a guilty pleasure of curiosity when it comes to such potions. I feel about beauty products the same way I do about stationary. Both face washes and notebooks awaken an intense fascination as I scour the full ranges on shelves in shops, or more recently online. They’re generally pretty, clean, fresh and sometimes very sparkly, but I think the bottom line is that they represent a fresh start to me. A new term at school or in the case of the beauty products, a new opportunity to start a beauty regime that in reality I never manage to maintain, even if I have, on occasion bought a wonder cream to experiment with.
But back to my vouchers! I finally chose the treatment that fit my yen and pocket, and booked them with relish for the following Sunday morning whilst on a visit to the gym with my husband.
“Great” says hubby, “I’ll take the dogs out for a long walk whilst you’re there, if you just drop me half a mile down the road on your way”. “No problem,” says I, happily envisaging him walking our gorgeous dogs in the wind and the rain whilst I am smugly lying on a couch in the spa having a mini facial, swaddled in blankets in a dimly lit room listening to floaty music.
My Self-Care Sunday dawned, and we were up in plenty of time. So much time in fact that as we lay in bed having our cuppa, we decided we could fit in going to run some rather urgent errands at the other end of town. Showered and breakfasted we got into the car at half ten and headed off. As I sat in the passenger seat I started to feel very uncomfortable.
I suddenly realised, we actually only had an hour to do what may take a little longer, and there it was. . . stress in buckets, and feelings of anxiety that triggered a million questions. Would we get there and be able to park? Would the traffic be heavy? Would we be able to get back and get the dogs in the car in time? Would the same dogs escape from the boot and run away across the fields and we’d never see them again? Within seconds, my carefully planned self-care treat had become something that was causing me stress and anxiety, the exact opposite of what I had intended!
Now needless to say, I did get to the gym it in time, but by this stage I was irritable, pre-occupied and angry with myself for not having planned a more organised space to start my treat of a morning. The treatment was idyllic, but I couldn’t actually switch off as I was busy composing the beginning of this article in my head. I had learned a couple of valuable lessons about self-care in my world as opposed to my academic research and I thought I would pass this on.
1: It does not necessarily matter what you actively plan to do to look after yourself, what matters is that you look after yourself whilst you’re doing it.
In this case, leaving myself enough time to savour what was to come, instead of creating further anxiety by trying to fit a quart into a pint pot would have been very sensible and far more mindful and fulfilling.
2: It can be something quite unexpected that makes you feel good, and being open to this is key.
In reality, the smells I pick up when I walk into the gym from the spa automatically bring about a sense of wellbeing. I don’t have to be having a treatment to conjure up the relaxation and sense of calm that the smell of the oils brings.
So my mission has begun, and brought with it some nuggets of learning which I believe will stand me in good stead at the start of this self-care revolution. There is no right or wrong way for me to practice self-care, there is just my way, I’ll do it my way, but I think we’ve had enough of the song lyrics for now!
Sass Boucher is a psychotherapist and counsellor registered with the BACP and working for a private practice. She has just completed her MSc in Counselling Psychology, and is committed to developing and practicing self-care and in her words "this is still very much a work in progress!"
For further information on Sass Boucher you can take a look at her website here