Self-care really needs simplifying doesn’t it?
Self-care is for everybody and yet it can often feel elite. It should be simple and uncomplicated. Suzy Reading’s The Little Book of Self-care is both of these. It’s simply 30 practices to sooth the body and mind.
I love Reading’s definition of self-care; “nourishment for the head, the heart and the body.” Citing that everyday the type of self-care we need will be different.
So if our need for self-care changes from day to day, it makes sense to use a variety of practices. Using Reading’s vitality wheel you can pinpoint the area of self-care you need, judging by what feels appropriate in that moment. Reading goes on to explain, “an act of self-care is like a deposit in our energy bank and we need a healthy balance.” With this thinking, self-care is not only reserved for when you feel frazzled, it should be practised regularly. I love this analogy and I hope it will help those who have associated self-care as an unnecessary indulgence, who feel guilt at putting themselves first. Keeping our energy balance at a healthy level will help in times of need and for your future self by “nourishing the person you are becoming.” A deposit for your future self, that’s a sentiment many of us will be able to embrace.
Having said all that, this book can also serve as a comforter in times of anxiety or distress. Has anyone ever hit the SOS session in the Headspace meditation app? I have. It’s oddly comforting. Andy, the voice and co-founder of the app, who sounds like an English teacher you fancied in secondary school, switches from his usual chilled out-tones to match the somewhat dramatic nature of hitting an SOS button. It might just be me, but I find his urgency comforting. It offers a level of compassion. This book can serve a similar purpose. An understanding companion to your distress, offering a chance to reset when it all feels a bit much.
The first suggested practice is to keep a self-care journal.
I’m all for using writing as an outlet to manage my mental health and I believe we should acknowledge the negative thoughts and emotions we experience, however Reading suggests leaving these out, dedicating this journal as a place for positivity “writing about uplifting experiences such as moments of awe, hope, joy, growth and gratitude.” This was a totally new concept for me and one I will continue to use.
The familiar run a bath with essential oils makes an appearance, but hey, cliches exist for a reason and its an important one that can offer nourishment in the moment.
However, what comes next is more important and it’s a message Reading champions; that these isolated practices breed compassion towards yourself. Helping you grow and change in the long term. They ignite a self-awareness that can help you shed patterns of behaviour you no longer need. For me this is the real treasure of self-care.
This became evident for me a week into using some of the practices. I was experiencing feelings of anxiety and without giving it much thought, booked a yoga class for that evening. Groundbreaking I know. But this wasn’t a regular class for me and I had recently fallen into the unhelpful, toxic habit of using alcohol to destress after work. Having practised moments of self-care I was able to make a better choice in support of my mental health.
This book can provide you with a solid foundation on which self-development can grow. Entry level work for any type of recovery. Have this in place and you are in a strong position to build on many areas of your inner world.