Sunday, 28 August 2016

7 Self Care Suggestions

'Self care is not about self-indulgence, it's about self-preservation' Audrey Lorde

When I first encountered it, self care was a term I distinctly recall leaving me both bewildered and frustrated. What does it mean? How do I do it? Is it not sort of a waste of time?

The concept of conducting acts of care acts towards myself was a slow one to translate into my day to day life. I remember asking for examples of it when it was introduced to me and instead of considering what my own could be, I just latched on to one that seemed most doable and tried to implement it. It was forced, I wasn't connected to it and the action was being carried out merely to tick a box and be able to say I was self-caring.

After significant practice, exploration and improved understanding, self care has become an increasingly important undertaking for me. And I'm still learning about it. I've found that it needs to be continuous, and while it never necessitates a grandiose affair, it absolutely requires regular attention regardless how 'busy' we may believe ourselves to be. I'm learning that you cannot do all the things you want to do and be the person you want to be without making time for self care. And I've learned that it can come in a variety of forms for each of us.

If we want to grow and ultimately thrive, we need to find out what the definition of self care could be for us. We need to become self aware and identify what it is that will fulfil our needs, what is going to allow us to recharge and how can we cultivate a consistent habit of self care in our own daily lives.

Self care gives us the opportunity to build ourselves up to a strength that'll protect us from crumbling down. It deserves priority and investment from us so we can combat energy drain, burn-out and stress. Of course, it may feel uncomfortable, we may worry about being selfish or wasting our time but I guarantee that time given to self care is never going to be time squandered. As the quotes go 'you cannot pour from an empty cup' and another favourite of mine, 'if your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.'

Self care is paramount to us being the individuals we genuinely want to be, I wholeheartedly believe this. So with all that being said, here's some suggestions to kick start it.

1. REST

If we entertain a value of busyness, we're likely to be deficient in rest. Self care encourages that we value our own energy reserves instead and realise that we cannot do everything. We can't be everywhere, we can't take on every single task and we can't expect ourselves to have unlimited resources. We need to rest. Resting doesn't necessarily mean sitting on our bottoms doing nothing though, so we need to explore how we rest best. What is it that we can we do to feel relaxed and rejuvenated? From naps to baths to just having a few minutes sitting down, this can ask different things of each of us. Our job is to simply find out a feasible favourite of these options and gently incorporate them into our days.


2. EVENTS

Obviously self care isn't just about chilling out and 'preserving our energies'. We're daring to live here, so self care is a beautifully broad topic with a multitude of possibilities. Sometimes we'll notice that we're screaming out for rest, but other times it'll be saying something different. This is a diverse and changeable thing and that's why we need to explore it - so we can learn to adapt our actions accordingly. Sometimes a self caring action is actually embracing our enjoyment. Self care could be going to a gig, a show, an art exhibition. It could be any event that inspires us, that entertains us or makes us feel alive. Choosing to embrace events that make us feel good is a wonderful way to self care. Dismiss any declarations that it'd be silly or self indulgent or unnecessary and instead, embrace the idea that any event that ignites excitement is worth our attendance. Events that serve as fuel for us are the exact ones to add to our routine of self care.


3. ACTIVITY

Likewise, we might find that we're actually just lacking care towards activities we enjoy. For some reason, it can come naturally to us to minimise the importance of activities that we actually like as though their importance is insignificant in comparison to doing 'grown-up', boring or stressful things. We think we 'should' be doing x,y,z, so allowing ourselves to read a book or dance around our rooms or run around with our pets seems somewhat pedestrian. Yet, these are the things that are most likely to actually recharge us. For me, I know I found it weird that sometimes self care was all scented candles and a chilled out playlist and others it was blaring drum and bass and doing a round or ten on my punching bag.. but the results spoke for themselves. Our needs change and as such, our self care needs to be flexible to suit. These activities that feel good are so important and a crucial component of our self care.


4. INTERACTION

Humans are social creatures. We inherently seek connection, social involvement and inclusion. When we feel down, our instinct can occasionally be to isolate and bury ourselves a million miles away from the world. For whatever reason, we don't want to be around people or we don't want people to have to deal with us, but in reality, by doing this we end up depriving ourselves and others of our interaction. Self care can sometimes just arise in the form of reaching out. It can be a conversation, a joke, a quip, whatever. Sometimes we just need to connect to other people and let ourselves be a part of something and get outside of ourselves. Cutting off from the world does not nourish our needs, it pushes us away from our answers. Interacting encourages expression and when we do this we show compassion towards ourselves as thinking, feeling, sociable beings.


5. ORGANISATION

Sorrynotsorry to all the procrastinators out there (myself included) but sometimes self care can even be in how we manage our time. Leaving ourselves short, putting important stuff on the long finger and ignoring certain time constraints rarely fail to put us under unnecessary pressure. When we avoid dealing with the things we need to do or spend our time ruminating in negative practices, we leave ourselves short for what actually matters. I'm not going to pretend I'm the most organised person by any means, but I would suggest that self care becomes a part of our organisation. Self care in our time management gives us those beautiful moments of 'Thanks, Past Me' - you know the ones where having laid out our clothes the night before means we won't be sprinting for the train? Or tidying our room means we're not behind in laundry and run out of clothes? Those moments of satisfaction are so worth it, yet instead it's as though we prefer to runaround like headless chickens getting stressed out and in a hurry because we didn't give our schedules that little splatter of self care. Learn from these anxiety instilling disorganised messes - they're not worth it!

6. LEARN

For some of us, we thrive on growth, learning and development. When we're not stimulated it can feel as though we're doing ourselves a disservice. Our self care can kick in here by nurturing our need for knowledge. When we give ourselves the freedom to learn, we open up our own worlds. But denying ourselves this because we 'don't have time', 'can't focus/concentrate/be a*sed' doesn't really do our self care any favours. Knowing ourselves and what matters most to us guides our self care practiceS. If learning is important to us, then without question, learning is the self caring thing to do.

7. CREATIVITY

For those of us with a creative streak, I think our self care is incomplete without nurturing this innate urge to create. As with any talent, passion or desire, I believe that giving our creativity a place of importance in our time is a prerequisite for self care. Creativity burns within us, it's a consistent flow of energy and to stifle this is to deprive ourselves of the reward it offers. If we endeavour to make self care a value in our lives then we commit to our creative compulsions; we write, we compose, we draw, we craft, we dance, we do whatever it is that lights our souls on fire because we understand that these are the things that bring us alive.

***

Self care is an honest process of discovering the areas of our life which we neglect in favour of hardship, negativity or self-deprecating. It permits us to nourish what we need most from ourselves and in so doing, creates a practice that optimises our experience, energy and potential. Self care is a crucial part of supporting ourselves and exercising genuine compassion in our own lives and towards others. 

We're not invincible, unfeeling things - we need to remember that caring for ourselves is not an option, it's an incredible necessity that continually grows in worth and benefit the more we commit to it.

When we make time to explore who we are and what we need from ourselves, we take our responsibility of self care seriously. In doing this, we get to show up and give ourselves the best chance we can.

'Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others' 



Sunday, 21 August 2016

Month of Gratitude: Check in

As you may or may not know, we've been running a month of gratitude over on our Instagram since the month of August kicked off. 

Using the hashtag #daretobegrateful each day there's new images of gratitude popping up to gradually grow this little idea and turn our attention towards an attitude of gratitude.

Today marks day 21 - which is also the amount of days it takes to build a habit - so if you've been doing it since the start, you're on to a good thing!

Of course, it's still not too late to get started, it never is. Every drop makes an ocean and whether it's everyday or not, adding to the pool of positivity is always going to be of value.

We're just over 3/4 of the way through and already I think there's been learnings along the way about the effects of gratitude. 


1. Variety

Each day I don't know what kind of visuals I'll be greeted with as there's such a wonderful array of what people are finding gratitude in each day. There's so much to be grateful for and even seeing where others spread their appreciation can awaken ours for those things too. Be it mundane or extraordinary, once we start looking for it, its possibilities are endless.

2. Focus

Choosing to seek out gratitude in each day trains our eyes to see the good. It cultivates a habit of focusing on the positive. Drawing our eyes to the things we can give thanks for teaches us to look for the silver lining. If we're looking for our 'next post' in the world around us, we're choosing to find something to appreciate, a practice which is only going to significantly improve our outlook.


3. Commitment

Creating a positive routine in ourselves can be so helpful in adding a bit of light into our day. When we commit to something, we give it importance, a place of priority in our day, which notably adds worth. No doubt we've been given plenty of advice along our own paths of what we could be doing to help ourselves. But the difference is in the doing. Deciding to be a part of this or even making sure to follow it shows a commitment to positive change. 


4. Embrace Ideas

For me, I've learnt too, to give my ideas a place when I believe them to be of worth. The month of gratitude is just something I wanted to do. I love the idea of actively practicing gratitude and I think it's a worthwhile tool to share and encourage. So I started it, having no idea whether it would catch on, if anyone would look at it and even if I would actually manage to stick to it. It has now taught me to give my ideas wings, with no expectations on them, to just give them a path of flight paved with my own belief and commitment. That's how they'll become a thing. Any of us can create the things we wish existed and put something new in the world that was never there before.

There's a fountain of learnings to derive from this and I think they'll be different to each individual and continually grow as the month progresses. So onward we go and I'd encourage anyone who hasn't posted yet to consider it, why not? :-)

I'm so grateful to see anyone's involvement in this and really appreciate all the contributions thus far!


Sunday, 14 August 2016

Endlessly Create Yourself

In search of blog ideas, I find more and more that just one little line can quickly be all that's required to push my mind into a whirring wheel of contemplation. The smallest inkling of inspiration will pipe up and demand to be made into a bigger idea. 

This week, the one that kicked it off simply said 'I am endlessly creating myself'

A simple affirmation yet it's one that boldly shows commitment to personal exploration, discovery and learning. It denotes change, movement and the freedom to not confine ourselves to one box, to not pigeon hole our personalities into a type.

But how much do we embrace the endless creation of ourselves?

I think instead, we create a concept of who we are going to be, we take on a label or become what others say we are. We fear becoming something more or something different because that drives us to depart our cosy comfort zone and enter the unknown.  

To endlessly create ourselves means taking on the role of creator and actively getting our hands dirty in cultivating who we are.

And that's a scary thing to do. Because we get caught up in what others think, how we'll look, what we should be doing. Instead of creators we're just barely spectators of how our life plays out. So we don't get full experiences and we don't get to see the full potential that's out there.

Which is not really what we're here for. 

So, how can we embrace our inner creator and embark on this journey of self creation?


Discover

Open-minded discovery is the path to creating a richer experience. We need to push out of the confines of our own little box and see what else is out there. Those things that you think are silly or weird or 'not for you'? Do them. 

Expand your mind to the possibilities of what you might enjoy, learn from or want to give a bash. It doesn't mean you're going to love every new thing you attempt or become a whole new person, but you get to continually add to the colourful repertoire of who you are. Listen to a different band, go to a different event, explore a new place. Take a leaf out of Spotify's book and dare to discover weekly. Find out what's out there that takes your fancy and break down any barrier that's keeping you from discovering it.


Release 

Quite often the challenges we experience in our lives or with ourselves stem from the self-limiting beliefs we keep playing on repeat. If we want to create more of ourselves, we need to release ourselves from the wrath of a label or diagnosis or opinion that doesn't sit right. We need to realise that that is not our identity, it's not what makes us who we are and it's not a life sentence. When we release ourselves from who we believe ourselves to be, we get the freedom to create who we'd like to be.


Change 

If we want to create something new within ourselves, of course we need to open our arms to change. But understandably, change can be a somewhat scary undertaking for some of us. It's unfamiliar, it might not work out and we don't know exactly what's going to happen. Yet if we let ourselves welcome it instead of holding tight to control, we open up our worlds to a vibrant variation of new experiences and learnings. 

Instead of clinging to who we thought we were or had to be, change permits us to mix it up a little, throw a spanner in the rituals of routine and tumble into a different perspective. Becoming a committed creator of ourselves means whether we like it or not, at some stage we'll need to take a chance on change.

Own It

Being a creative being enables us to be proud of the product of our efforts. When we create ourselves, we know and understand each element of who we are. We know that sometimes we might like to cuddle up quietly with a book and others we like nothing more than bopping along to a loud, crowded gig - we're not a fixed, rigid thing. We understand our needs and respect each unique part of the person we are and our ability to adapt and explore. 

Our continual creation comes from a place of love and trusting our own intuition. We know what we're about and that creating ourselves further doesn't make us fake or flaky or all over the place. It makes us more and more whole, robust and well-rounded. It makes us the interesting, distinctive people we are.


Mistakes

In any endeavour to create and undertake something new, we will make mistakes. This process is not about manufacturing a beautifully multi-faceted yet robotic being - we'll make some choices along our creation that may not work out, may seem questionable, may leave us feeling vulnerable - but if we are to be creators, that means accepting the imperfections of art. It's learning to accept that some brushstrokes might not be technically perfect, but my god do they add colour, depth and intrigue. Our mistakes teach us and the more we can learn, the more possibilities we can pursue.

***
Endlessly creating ourselves is an exciting and empowering journey. To do so splatters freedom into our own masterpiece and opens up an unending exploration into what's out there for us

'Nothing is permanent, everything is subject to change. Being is always becoming'. Buddha



Monday, 8 August 2016

How to Handle Being Human

This topic has been trickling through my mind for a while now. There's been various signs pointing me in its direction, encouraging my exploration. I've had consistent reminders urging me to give it my time and energy and finally get right into the niggling nitty gritty of it. But while I heard and saw and felt all the signals, I still absolutely did not want to.

Which is exactly why I'm now writing this.

The topic is that of being human - of being flawed, emotional, confused, afraid, insecure and anxious. To being a feeling, thinking thing and to honestly embrace that. 

As you'd recognise if you'd read here before, I am greatly inspired by the importance of vulnerability as researched by BrenĂ© Brown. But yet, going and actually doing vulnerable things really awakens the human side of us and I've realised, as much as I see the worth in doing these things - I found it so challenging to genuinely embrace them. 

Because you really feel this stuff. 

Committing to vulnerability, to love, to dreams, to challenges means that we have to feel the fears, the hurt, the embarrassment or whatever authentic living ignites in us. Quite simply, we can't dive into the fire without feeling the heat. 

And so we might find ourselves suffocating in swirling shame or defeat or anxiety and it feels uncomfortably awful. And that's probably why we choose not to do this so often. Even if it does turn out to be incredibly worth it each and every time.

Instead we find solace in being numb, in staying in one place, in shying away from opportunity and possibility and instead seek to be robotic in our quest for perfection and saving face. We strive to be 'strong' by hiding emotion, 'perfect' by not being who we are and 'independent' by not letting any one else in.

This is not allowing ourselves to be fully human and truly alive and on this blog, we're all about being daring in our living. So in conquering my conflict between valuing being human and also never wanting to look 'weak', I've learned a few things along the way:

1. Awareness

Some of us just feel a lot. That's simply how we're wired  - we're sensitive and we get invested. We need to become aware of how we operate and get interested in what makes us tick. Emotions will run high and maybe we cry easily or scare easily or are quick to anger. Maybe we fear disappointment or letting others down or getting too involved. Whatever it is that we begin to notice, we need to stop ignoring it and seek to understand it instead. We need to get curious about what it is that makes us human, and how we may be trying to avoid that in our actions. 

We need to become aware of how we label our humanness. What do we perceive it to be? What do we strive to be? Does humanness equate weakness? Does attempting to ignore our emotions equate strength? 

2. Numbing

As we reach towards creating this image of our perfect selves equipped with flawlessness and steely strength, we can try to numb our instincts, feelings and emotions. We turn down the volume of what our true self inside is shouting about. We turn off our tears before they get the chance to run. We push people away before they get too close. Instead of listening to our gut, we shroud ourselves in 'should's, barricading ourselves with the expectations of others and numbing ourselves to our own passions, desires and dreams.

And so, in our attempts to turn down the potential backlash, we eliminate our ability to fully feel. But the fact is, none of us are here to artificially act our way through our experiences. To fully embrace being human we need to let ourselves feel and crumble and make mistakes and fall. Because this is the pathway towards feeling real genuine joy, love and success.

3. Judging

This is one that was pretty loud and it goes hand in hand with our 'shoulds'. When we do begin to see ourselves feeling our emotions or our uncomfortable thoughts or the stories we're telling ourselves - we can become critical. Instead of welcoming the fact that we're expressing, we judge what's coming out. This is where the tug of war comes into play because it's as if we're turning on our human side with one switch and off with another.

We need to open our minds to non-judgmental feeling. So you got a bit upset or jealous or anxious or uncomfortable? That's okay. If you feel fear or apprehension or nerves, they're all okay too. This is not about perfecting anything, this is about respecting our innate humanity and allowing it to have its own airtime. 

4. Suppressing

When we begin to judge our expression, we run into a struggle. Of course we can continue to try to embrace our human experience but as long as we hold onto judgement, we won't be able to fully immerse in it. So we end up suppressing. Instead of giving our feelings their right to a voice, we push them back down into the pit of our gut. So the feelings come, but are silenced and I can promise, this feels even worse than the raw exposure of expressing them. 

Suppressing does not help and it does not make us stronger, it just lets the challenges pile up and bring us down. We need to listen to what we're trying to say - regardless what we think it should feel, sound or look like. To do this means to honestly and kindly listen and contribute to the conversation of what is going on within.

5. Let Go

We become accustomed to certain beliefs about the person we need to be. We create definitions of who we are and what we need to do and how we can become strong. We believe that we need to have our sh*t together and look successful or accomplished. We think we need to be beyond hurt, unfeeling and unaffected by others. But if we continue to do this, we miss out on the incredible, unpredictable, stormy and wonderful experience of truly being alive and a part of our own lives. 

Letting go means redefining strength and where our values lie. It means rewriting your story about what kind of human you want to be and why that's important.

As Elizabeth Gilbert says, we need to 

"Embrace The Glorious Mess That You Are."

What I've discovered in finally surrendering to this exploration is that we don't need to have it all figured out, we're not immune to emotion or throwing our whole heart into something,
And we were never meant to be.