I recently shared on my Facebook page an article by Brianna West about self care - it shouldn't be a one off spa day or the odd yoga class to help you momentarily escape from your exhausting, overwhelming life, it should be about changing your life in small, or maybe big, ways to make it satisfying and constructive for you.
As a single mum of 3 kids, this really struck a chord with me. It's amazing how the "just keep swimming" mantra, in the words of a certain little blue fish called Dory, becomes all consuming, just keep going through the relentless demands of everyday life, hoping that a glass of wine, a hot bath or booking a massage will somehow make it all bearable again...
But actually, what are the really annoying everyday things that if you could get round to changing would make a big difference?
I had a think about the things which irritate me day to day but I never have the time/energy/willpower to sort out:
1. I never ever have a matching pair of socks. And most of them have holes in. I don't pretend to be very glamorous but you know, hitting the basics of presentability might be a tad overdue.
2. The central locking system on my car doesn't work so every time I want to open it I have to prise open the emergency key with the car alarm going off, climb over the front seat and open all the doors from the inside so the kids can get in. ARGHHH!
3. When I'm searching for paracetamol in the middle of the night, my bathroom cupboard regularly empties half empty bottles onto my already aching head - lotions and potions that failed to cure my sensitive, combination, red, spotty, dry, inflamed skin...and are too expensive or full to just throw away.
These are little things that actually, I could just sort out. So last night, I put on the radio, got out my underwear drawers and had a rock 'n' roll evening emptying them out of old receipts, leaking lavender bags, random jewellery, odd socks, other people's socks...you get the idea. Then I put in some new socks, in pairs. Its not all Marie Kondo but it's a start. This little activity of self care gave a sense of well-being at least akin to spending a fortune on a jacuzzi and facial!
The car and the bathroom cupboard come next...
The thing that made a big difference to my well-being last year, was getting two young lively rescue dogs. Yes, you would be right, this would seem the OPPOSITE of relaxing. They need feeding, walking, taking to the vet, affection...maybe I didn't think it through for very long...
BUT what they do give me is absolutely non-negotiable exercise and head space. I can skip a pilates class because I'm too busy. I can accidentally waste my "me-time" vacuously scrolling on my phone because I'm too tired and lonely to do anything else. I cannot skip a dog walk.
So I go out in all weathers. I look at the sea. I think about things. Sometimes I go for a walk with a friend or phone a friend. I drag the kids out on bikes and we go and sit on our special bench and admire the view. This is relaxation and mindfulness and togetherness...in a kind of accidental, inbuilt way. I don't need to schedule it, it is just part of my routine now.
The dogs are naughty and hard work but they are also unfailingly loyal and affectionate. When other relationships around you are volatile, conflicting and painful, having a dog who just wants to curl up next to you on the sofa is a very lovely, companiable thing. Definitely a godsend for my children in turbulent, confusing times.
Dogs were a big change. The sock drawer is a small change. But I guess, don't just keep swimming...don't make resolutions which weigh you down even more. Make some changes that make you happy right now, in the life that you already have.