When shit goes down, I suck at looking after myself. It’s not that I’m bad at realising that I’m Really Not Ok™ (although it sometimes sneaks up on me) or being aware of what I need to do to help myself feel better. It’s not even that I’m bad at doing that stuff. I’m alright at doing it for a day or two, or doing some of it regularly, but I’m terrible at doing all of it in an ongoing way, which is what I really need to do. I basically become This Is Fine Dog.
Without getting into a whole medical history, cause that isn’t what this post is about, the route of medication and/or therapy does not work for me. I know this because I’ve tried it, lots of it, for years, and I swear to gods if anyone comments telling me I haven’t found the right medication or therapist yet, I will reach through the screen and tip a cup of coffee all over their keyboard. Not everything works for everyone even if it works for you, OK? Right. Onwards.
Actually accepting that I deserve to dedicate time and energy to not living in a constant state of physical and mental collapse took me a long time. About 35 years. I don’t like to casually throw words like ‘recovery’ around because I’m wary of unwittingly suggesting that doing some stuff that helps me with some things is a cure for anything. So, to make it clear, I have developed coping mechanisms that help with some things I experience and techniques that keep me out of my holiday home in Rock Bottom. Unfortunately my tendency to reach “I’m not entirely imploding right this second so I’m completely alright and can return to not giving a fuck about myself again and it’ll all continue to be OK” is strong and I reach that point over and over again.
As the result of some Pinterest browsing I found myself reading about self-care journaling and since I love an excuse to hoard notebooks and a reason to write (and I need to get better at not treating myself like crap), I decided to give it a shot. I’m going to talk about my own self-care journal, but this is most definitely not to only way to do it or the way that will work best, or at all, for you. It’s just what I’m doing and I only started this week so I’m not even sure how it’ll go in the long run.
There are no photos here of my journal because one of the most important things about it (again, for me – there are plenty of photos of other people’s self-care journals out there) is that it is completely personal and not for anyone else to look at. That said, I’m happy to share some of the content in text form, so here goes.
Make Time For
These are things that are good for my mind, body and soul but that I’m bad at making time for because of the stupid little voice in my brain that likes to tell me I don’t deserve to make time for anything that doesn’t benefit other people in some way.
- Creativity (photography, writing, painting, making things)
- Learning (online courses, books, documentaries, new skills)
- Spirituality (study, ritual, connection to nature and the divine)
- Self-Care (relaxation, exercise, healthy eating, pampering)
- Connection (spending time with, and talking, to people I love)
I have been meaning to get this sorted for the longest time. I have a terrible habit of turning on my phone while I’m still in bed and reading emails before I even get up. Because of various physical and mental health issues, mornings are really not good. I often wake up in a lot of pain, already in stress’n’panic mode, so it’s super important to me to have a routine that helps deal with those things.
- Conscious breathing (being still and focusing on my breath)
- Drinking water (I’m not sure why but this helps me wake up)
- Affirmation (more on this in a minute)
- Yoga (not a full session, just a little bit of good stretching)
- Morning blessing (including lighting candles and incense on my altar)
If you’re interested, my morning blessing is a sweet little elemental one I found somewhere ages ago and fell in love with.
Air to inspire
Fire for desire
Water my healer
Earth my church
Spirit to guide me
Along the way
I call upon you
To bless this day
I don’t have any caffeine or look at any screens until after my morning routine. I’m not even going to pretend that’s easy but I’m pretty sure it’s worth it.
Because part of my problem is that I get a little bit too focused on achievement and productivity, I don’t want to set goals that involve doing something a specific number or times or on certain days. I choose things I want to do once or at some point or a bunch of times, and am totally not stressing about doing them every day at 3pm or whatever. November’s are…
- Start the day with reading instead of the internet
- Go for a walk in the forest
- Watch a documentary on a subject I know nothing about
I also have a section on this page called How Did It Go? that I’ll come back to at the end of the month and fill in with some thoughts about how doing these things made me feel and how they helped me. And I will not beat myself up over not managing to do them all as often as I’d like!
I may change this to monthly, but for now I’d like to have a different focus every week. This week’s is I deserve to experience unconditional joy. On this page, I also make a quick note about why I chose the affirmation. This week’s note is I need to remember that I am allowed to be happy without having to earn it. Happiness, fun and positive experiences should not be contingent on achievement, success and productivity. It’s easy to say the words but not so easy to truly mean them. This is a tough one for me but it’s important and it’s something I’ve struggled with since forever.
These are pages for making short notes on specific areas. It’s not a habit tracker as such, which I know some people love for this kind of thing, but part of looking after myself is specifically not tracking, assessing and evaluating Things I Have Done. It’s simply a place where I can record experiences I’ve had, somewhere I can look back to when I’m a mess and need an easy reminder of things I can do to help myself feel better, and a gentle prompt to do things that are good for me and think about why and how they help. My weekly logs are divided into…
Life has held some pretty big changes for me recently and while these are good changes, they haven’t been easy changes and still aren’t. I’m flitting between Yay! I love the feeling of potential and possibility and Oh my gods, what the hell am I going to do? followed by a bit of I’m just going to sit here and cry for a while about a thousand times a day so I’m doing my best to focus on actually trying to do good things for my mind and body, and being open to ideas and inspiration, without always looking at the next step.
I was talking to my husband about how I struggle to be kind to myself unless I’m also being useful and he said, “It’s like putting on your own oxygen mask before you help someone else with theirs. You can’t do anything for anyone if you can’t breathe”.