The 12 Days of Self-Care: T’is the season to be silly?
I wrote a version of this article four years ago after I had been off work for a while following what turned out to be a fairly big, albeit planned, operation. Taking time away from my business and being much more reliant on others for help, physically, emotionally and financially, even for a short time, was a very new and challenging experience, as it often is if you are someone who is used to being independent and self-sufficient.
When I first started to contemplate what was ahead of me it felt very overwhelming. It was the first time I had experienced something that so physically stopped me in my tracks. My body simply wouldn’t let me push on through or rush my recovery in ways I had done in the past. I had to be patient and not do many of the things that I was used to doing for myself and that would normally help me find balance. I had to surrender to stopping and give my body the time it needed to heal.
I came to realise that it was an opportunity for me to consider different ways that I care for myself on a deeper level. It is easy to feel that you are letting others down if you become ill or need help. You may feel you have failed in some way because you’re not in fact invincible and there can be a sense of deep shame in this. It can make you feel very vulnerable and exposed to rejection if you need to ask for help. This can mean you may not ask for the help you need and end up compromising your own health and healing. There can be conflict between what your mind thinks you should do, alongside real or imagined pressure from others, and what your precious body needs from you.
This time of year, during the festive season, can be a time when self-care drops even further down the priority list. Alongside my surgery, the idea for this article was also prompted by a conversation I had with my good friend and teacher, Chyna Honey, (author of Understanding Reiki: From Self Care to Energy Medicine). I had wanted to find a way to share some of the things I had been thinking about and learning in a presentation I was due to give at a forthcoming business women’s networking group, (Women on Wednesdays in Salisbury).
My Clinical Psychology training, way back when, discouraged practitioners from sharing anything about their own experience but it was becoming increasingly important to me to try to be as authentic as I can be in my work. This is something I have endeavoured to build upon and continue over the last four years. There is no point recommending that my clients drink more water to keep themselves adequately hydrated, for example, if this isn’t something I am striving to do for myself.
Together, Chyna and I came up with the idea of, (rather than The 12 Days of Christmas), The 12 Days of Self-Care and I once again share the essence of this with you here.
Before you read through the next section you might want to grab a pen and a piece of paper...
With each of the 12 days, pause for a moment and see if it is one that resonates with you or brings something to mind that you think you might find helpful or would like to do more of. Try to be specific. By this I mean that many of us could proclaim that, (to continue with our water example), we “want to drink more water.” However, unless we get more specific about what steps we might take to achieve this it is likely that it will remain a vague and unrealised goal. If instead we decide to add a portable water bottle for our bag and a larger one for our desk to our shopping list, we are more likely to get closer to our goal.
1. Water - well it wouldn’t be right not to start with this one!
Everything we do dehydrates us but keeping adequately hydrated makes everything else our body has to do easier. Make a habit of carrying water on your person and perhaps having a larger bottle on your desk. If drinking cold water, especially at this time of year, is a challenge for you drink it hot or add a non-caffeinated herbal tea bag.
2. Positivity - Start each day with a positive thought and make that your daily mantra.
Here are some examples to give you some ideas but make it something that is personal and meaningful for you. Perhaps write it down and stick it somewhere you will see it every day. There will be lots of other ideas on Google.
-I will listen to myself today
-What I do today is more important than my past
-Today I will be kind to me
-I remember that my beauty comes from inside me, I am special and worthy
-Today I will look for something beautiful in the world
-Today I will love myself, I deserve good things
-Today I will offer someone a compliment and I will also compliment myself
-I will smile more today
-I will be my own cheerleader, today and always
3. Cosiness - make it a point to wear comfortable favourites.
We are more and more encouraged by marketing to wear things that may not be comfortable for us. Choose clothes that you feel relaxed and comfortable in. This might be one thing we can thank the pandemic for!
4. Peace - do something each day that gives you a sense of inner peace.
For some it’s prayer, others meditation or perhaps simply stopping to take a few deep breaths and feel your feet on the ground. Some people find peace through exercise, while still others may find it’s enjoying a cuppa while scrolling through Facebook. Whatever it is for you: a shower alone, a nice smelling candle, getting creative in the kitchen, writing in a journal or a good sing-along in the car. Find a way to build that into each day.
5. Time - make time for your friends.
Even if it is just a quick text or sharing a few minutes at the school gates, take that time to connect with the people who matter. Share a cup of tea, lunch, a stroll in the park, a phone call, or make a date to go shopping or enjoy a new restaurant or film. There are lots of ways we can connect without spending money so don’t add to any financial stress if this is a challenge for you.
6. Support - Ask for help and allow others to support you.
Remember that good feeling you get when you’re able to help someone else? Allow someone to have that feeling about you. Be brave and ask for what you need. If someone says no it is often not personal.
7. Acceptance - accept your own wisdom by taking your own advice.
You’ve probably had the experience of something not working out and afterwards ‘knowing’ that you should or shouldn’t have done something. Forgive yourself any past mistakes and aim to trust your own intuition more.
8. Space - Give yourself more space for answers or to be aware of what you need, today.
Pause whatever you are doing, take a few deep breath and allow answers to come to you. Give yourself time to hear them.
9. Privacy – Yourself is the most important person to tell how you feel about things.
Allow yourself to feel however you want about things, (including things like Christmas!), without feeling you need to share that information with anyone.
10. Comfort - Touch people you love.
A little cuddle, a gentle touch on the shoulder, a hug or stroking someone’s hair can be both heart-warming and deeply soothing to mind, body and soul. A cuddle with a pet can also be a wonderful and easy way to experience this kind of love and comfort.
11. Compassion – Share your smile.
Smile more, for you never know the burdens others carry but also because smiling is infectious and as you smile more at the world, the world is sure to smile more back at you.
12. Bravery – Be brave enough to see the good you do.
There will be much good you do if you look. Dare, in small doses, to treat you the way you treat your best friend.
Take a look at your list. I hope this has given you lots of ideas for how you might take a little more care of yourself and be kinder to you, especially at this time of year. Perhaps identify just one or two of the things on your list that you would like to start with. Circle or underline those and keep the list with you or put it somewhere you will see it.
Caring for yourself is truly a lifelong journey and something that you can strive to keep perfecting, always.
©Dr Karen Janes.
Created December 2018, updated 2022.