When I first heard the words ‘self care’, I thought “oh cool, pedicure and mimosa day right?” But it wasn’t until the reality of working full time at PDS, running a magazine, and attempting a social life that things began to take their toll. I learnt that taking time to sit quietly in a room, reflect, manage your mental health and to treat yourself better increases your standard of life.
Finding the work-life balance
I met a young woman once who told me that she was struggling day to day. I asked why and she said “I work three jobs and take care of my family, I don’t have time for myself”. This isn’t uncommon.
It’s difficult to find balance when your choices allow you to merely exist. This blog post isn’t going to solve any of these problems. I’m going to reflect on my experience, share what has helped me and suggest what can help you.
Acknowledge your strengths
As someone who suffered from severe panic attacks as a teenager and lives with anxiety, I have to make sure I take care of myself on a regular basis.
The first thing I told myself to do was to drink less booze. The effects of alcohol on your mental health are significant. Running my magazine, Burnt Roti, means I have events to go to, I have things to curate, people to meet, contributors to brainstorm with and so on.
A hangover day would usually mean I would get very little done, creating a backlog of emails and meet ups. To make sure I’m successful with my magazine, I need to be on top of things.
This led naturally to the next stage, which was to celebrate every accomplishment. Simply replying to an email where someone has asked a handful of questions for an interview is now celebrated with a feeling of pride.
Well done Sharan, you did it, it’s crossed off your list, now you can do the next one. You can do this
Self care comes hand in hand with self love: know you can do what you’re doing, otherwise why do it? There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging your strengths.
Treat yo' self
Don’t ever feel guilty about doing something for yourself or (if you’re able) to buy yourself something. When I want to treat myself, I buy myself a nice top or trainers. Now when I wear a particular item of clothing, I wear it with pride.
I got this because I published my first print magazine
Sometimes I treat myself to a compliment. I tell myself I’m doing really well, or a project I worked on was successful. I learnt not to rely on other people to recognise my accomplishments.
Your body needs your attention
As well as reducing my alcohol intake, I’ve found that healthy foods and a bit of exercise helps. That one time I went to the gym was great! Okay, so I’m really bad at this one.
My body pretty much hates me, but I couldn’t afford the gym any more and I don’t like yoga. I don’t think you should run unless you’re being chased (quote stolen from cult horror film, The Faculty). When I made the effort to exercise, I did feel a significant change in my output. It’s something I’m hoping to bring back into my life.
Most of my mornings are spent managing my social media channels and scheduling blog posts for my magazine, as well as occasionally responding to urgent emails. I’ve recently downloaded an app called Headspace, so before I get started with any of that, I spend the first ten minutes meditating.
It prepares me for the onslaught of work I make myself do while still in bed. I used to scoff at the thought of meditation, wondering whether it meant I would have to buy a hemp bag and wear my hair in dreadlocks. I assure you, nothing I own is made of hemp.
Take a day off
It came as a shock to me that I could take a day off work and just play computer games for six hours straight. I used to freelance as a video producer/animator before I started working at PDS so I never really had a day off. I was always working on something and weekends never really meant anything, other than acknowledging I probably won’t get a reply for those 50 emails I sent out on Sunday at 2am.
Taking a day off now means closing my laptop, ordering a take away and ignoring texts saying “Brunch?”
Acknowledge your hard work
The best thing I do for myself, out of all of this, is acknowledge my hard work, whether it’s something that’s presented to people or not. There’s a thirst for the content I produce and it’s important that I don’t stop. I can pass on the baton when I need to, but for now, I’m doing great.
Find out more about Self Care Week on the NHS Choices website.