“Self-care is how you take your back,” used to be one of my favourite sayings and while the words still resonate they have been harder than ever to follow when my self-care wallowed into the depths of dirty sheets inside a bed crammed into an overcrowded understaffed hospital ward.
One year ago I launched my first published book Eat. Sleep. Control. Repeat.
‘From ‘self-harm to self-love, to be truly successful’ is one of the tag lines, so you’d think that I’d gotten my self-care and life in order. But luckily I was honest in the book and in life that I am ‘perfectly imperfect.’ Knowing too well how life can twist and turn, changing like nature because that is the power of building our resilience e.g. it’s not the fact that we don’t get knocked down but it’s how we get up again, faster and stronger than ever.
For me ‘getting up again’ and regaining my power begins with my own mindset and determination. Then it is the power of having a strong gang of ‘cheerleaders’ aka a community around you that will love you back to life no matter what, whilst challenging you too.
Next comes the action of self-care which is individual to you as a human. At some times it may mean a facial or reading a good book or going on a holiday or it might be as simple as washing yourself.
It used to be dancing, writing, vlogging, having my hair, nails, and even facials done because my self-care had always been pretty good. Following my childhood and spending my teen years using negative coping mechanisms. I would self-harm through addictions, habit cycles, and an eating disorder.
But when all your ‘positive coping mechanisms’ are taken away, what do you do? Many of us discovered this in Lockdown or at times in our lives when we don’t feel ‘enough’ mentally or our health is at risk? It can mean we lean on old broken crutches such as compulsive behaviours or addictions.
I survived lockdown with the odd ‘blip’ which came in random waves of drinking lots of caffeine and pop, so less sinister than previous years but boy did I glug it.
But then recently, I discovered why so many people struggle with self-care and realised what a privileged position I had been in when I found myself critically ill in hospital.
Unable to move properly, isolated, and trapped in a hospital bed. But even when I could manage to walk to the nearby bathroom for the toilet, I would look at the shower and my wash bag and could not bear to stand in it, let alone look at my beauty products from what felt like my ‘former life.’
There were positive parts too such as not feeling the need to put on make-up or wear a bra which is the best feeling, but deep down I didn’t want to wash until I was better.
Suddenly faced with physical ailments in hospital, I knew I needed to get my mind in gear again so I could heal my body rather than sit slumped in a bed feeling gross and ‘sorry for myself.’
So while this wasn’t the luxury retreat I had planned on writing about in Malaysia, instead, I could use this time wisely and find new ways of living and getting “my sparkle back” aka power.
Luckily I have a close circle of family and friends who kept nudging me with self-care reminders. At first, I would cry because I felt unworthy, but once it became a habit again I realised what a healing process this was for me, to accept help from them when I could not for once even return their actions in my current state.
Gratitude helped me to realise that I was surrounded by an abundance of love. This helped me to cut out any negative coping mechanisms I still leant on such as coffees, diet coke and social media until I was strong enough to reintroduce them in small doses.
Then it was over to me, when I left the hospital. Again I struggled with the change of routine, but I have been able to continue with small doses of self-care such as looking after my health and allotting time to study and write, the latter is my ultimate self-care.
As my first book alludes to, what we consume as well as what we do is another way of looking after our minds and bodies. From what we listen to to what we eat and who we spend our leisure time with. If you’re an empathetic introvert like me, you really notice non-verbal noise as well which is why I always say “spend your time with cheerleaders and reduce contact with vampires.”
If we spend most of our time with energy sapping people, we feel depleted whereas those who lift us up and have positive energy, can reinvigorate us too.
I have had my friends treat me to spa days, home-made Vegan food and decluttering. My parents have helped me to clean my house, and my relatives have even cut and brush my hair when I didn’t give myself any quality time.
From colleagues insisting they work my shift to give me some time off to my local community of creatives, fitness enthusiasts and church delivering whatever I need in support or workouts to recover my body from being sat in a hospital bed for so long.
Even the online world has meant that I have still been able to work and write for clients and publications as the editors know how much I love my work in the media. “Crisis doesn’t create community, it reveals it.”
Even my publisher is working with me on my second book which will be a practical self-care journal.
I am fortunate however that I now have this self-care community knitted around me who understands what nurtures my mind, body and soul.
If you’re still struggling to think of self-care ideas, I break ideas into these categories (as per my self-care planner, which you can download for free by joining my mailing list on mamamei.co.uk):
“Failures are our stepping stones to success” as I had previously written in Eat. Sleep. Control. Repeat.
This recent ‘set-back’ experience of resilience building has been an ignition for me to focus on vlogging and writing again to share other people’s journeys which is why I went into journalism. So I am starting a new channel on youtube.com/sophiemeilan called Sophie’s Stories where I share your story, your wellbeing journey and discover what works for you in mini 3 minute documentaries.
Here’s how to (re) start practicing self-care:
We can challenge our spiral patterns of behaviour and replace them with positive coping mechanisms such as self-care.
But to get us to the point of self-care often we need support at home, work, in life, or in hospital.
- Identify issue
- Admit you have said issue
- Discover the Root cause (may need help from a professional)
- Trigger (stems from the root)
- Negative coping mechanisms (which we can eventually replace with positive ones)
- Eventually self-care can replace a negative crutch and create incredible results rather than trigger a new cycle of destruction.
Steps to self-care:
You can hop on the ladder depending on how you feel…
- Seek support whether it be from a professional, loved one, or programme (sometimes it may mean you asserting your needs for ‘more time.’
- Experiment and try a range of things to see what works for you right now and where you are in life
- Start committing to doing your self-care even when you least feel like it and schedule it like an important meeting… This is the most important appointment of your week or day, yourself.
- If something is not working just experiment with what feels good to you, we all need these regular check-ins with ourselves
- Make it a habit by adding it to your weekly routine
We can challenge this cycle and replace it with positive coping mechanisms aka self-care.
But to get us to the point of self-care often we need support at home, work, in life, or in hospital. Luckily after my long hospital retreat I have a close circle of family and friends who kept nudging me with self-care reminders. At first, I would cry because I felt unworthy, but once it became a habit again I realised what a healing process this was for me, to accept help with them full knowing that I could for once not even return their actions in my current state but also the fact that I was surrounded by an abundance of love. This helped me to cut out any negative coping mechanisms I still leant on such as coffees, diet coke and social media until I was strong enough to reintroduce them in small doses.
Then it was over to me when I left the hospital. Again I struggled with the change of routine, but I have been able to continue with small doses of self-care.
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