4 things I learnt from a summer of self-care

At the end of July I embarked on a summer of self-care.

After an interesting 18 months, I felt I owed it to myself to process what has happened and to let myself enjoy life again. These six weeks were dedicated to living, trying new things and taking time out of my day to show acts of love and care to myself.

My main priorities were to get the endorphins going and increase my exercise, try new activities where I ended up joining a surf club, and doing more things that bring joy (lighting the candles that I didn’t want to light because they’re too nice).

Did I think it would be easy? A lot easier than it turned out to be, but there were many lessons learnt and I will definitely be incorporating more self-care practices into my routines.

Below are the top 4 things I learnt this summer. I hope the points can support you in your own self-care journey.

Day by day

Everyday is different from the next and so we shouldn't treat them the same. Being someone who tries to align and be guided by nature's rhythms and cycles, but also someone who is a perfectionist, it took me a good few weeks to find balance, and that's exactly what self-care is, balance. There were days where I had no energy but kept telling myself that I must go on that run. I created a guilt loop of if I didn't do things that I had planned to do, I was ‘bad’. After some reflection, it dawned on me that this cycle wasn’t what my self-care summer was about, and so, I took a step back and acknowledged that in order to work through the next few weeks, I must pause, check in with myself and take things day by day.

Self-care looks different everyday and it was important to try not to get caught up with my ‘self-care goals’ and actually take the time to ask what I needed from the day.

It's uncomfortable

A couple of months ago, I started EMDR. It brought up things that I had buried deep and made me extremely uncomfortable.

Despite this, it was a long, overdue act of self-care that I had been putting off for a long time. Having someone to talk to who is not a friend or family member is very important to my self-care. My time in the chair has taught me a lot about myself and helped me navigate the most beneficial ways I can take care of myself moving forward.

I have also been working on a project for the last few months that would have been completed months ago if I acknowledged my discomfort with being uncomfortable!

Rather than thinking, what if it’s a silly idea, what if it doesn't work, I took a leaf out of Anna Considine’s approach to the second quarter of 2021 and thought eff it, let’s knuckle down and just do it, who knows what will come out of it!

Facing fears, anxieties and getting outside your comfort zone prepares you to live a fruitful, free life. I think that's the ultimate self care tool to have.

Do it, even if you don't want to

This may be slightly contradictory to my first point, but hear me out...I don't know about you, but I’m really good at thinking of any excuse under the sun to not do something. Too cold? Not doing it. Raining? Definitely not doing it. I’ll do it later was my favourite thing to say.

This is resistance is very different to the days where I'm physically tired or need an alternative form of self-care and I think it stems back to protecting myself from anxious thoughts that went with pushing myself outside my comfort zone.

There have been plenty of times over the past six weeks when I’ve wanted to give up, go to bed early and shut away. I began asking myself, is sitting here doing nothing bringing me joy? Will the thing I’m putting off spark more joy? Usually the answer was no to the former and yes to the latter.

My internal conversations began to change and I parented myself to create joy in my life; to get up at 5am and go on that run, to surf in the evening and enjoy the beautiful sunsets and to sing that song out loud in your car even though the lights were on red and the car next to you thinks your crazy.

Invest in yourself

Since buying my new camera I have absolutely loved filming moments of my day. In the spring, I added myself to a videography course waiting list to develop my skills. When the course release date came in August I thought to myself that I couldn't really justify the cost and the self-doubt and putting off kicked in.

When I actually took a moment to pause, acknowledge my needs and what would bring me joy, it was a no-brainer; I needed to stop making excuses and sign up.

It seems our culture and society finds it difficult to invest in ourselves when it is such an integral part of self-care. Investing in yourself can only lead to growth, so if there's something you’ve been putting off, just do it!

So, how really was the six weeks?

I thought six weeks dedicated to myself would be easy. How could it be hard doing nice things for yourself?! What I actually found was that it was so much harder than I imagined. I actually forgot that I was supposed to be prioritising self-care, thank goodness for phone notifications reminding me to get up and do stuff. It required motivation, action and accountability. I’d gotten into such a habit of making excuses, it was actually boring.

The key things I took from the summer was that having fixed goals can hinder your overall goals. Take time to be still, check in and listen to what you need. Acts of self-care will be a more enjoyable experience when we listen rather than force. Remember to respect yourself and your boundaries. It's ok to say no, to honour yourself and your needs.

Self-care looks different to all of us but no matter how big or small the actions are, it is important to prioritise and honour our needs, especially after the couple of years we’ve had. It's easy to forget that small acts can be just as beneficial as the bigger ones and finding a balance that works for you is key in welcoming self-care into your life.

I hope you find these points beneficial and know that you’re not alone if self-care doesn't come easy to you.

I’d love to hear about your favourite acts of self-care and what you like to prioritise.

Until next time,

Paige. x