Thursday, 11 February 2016

Look After Yourself

I was reading an article about mental health, when I came across this expression:

You have to look after yourself before you can look after the rest of the world.

It sounds obvious, but - to be honest - it was a bit of a light bulb moment for me.

You see, we all run around madly trying to earn money, bring up our children, look after our parents, the dog, and - somewhere along the line - squeeze in the odd 'date night', and there just isn't enough time to look after ourselves.

I feel guilty if I even sit down, let alone take time out for a massage or a pedicure.

I'm actually rather thrilled that my hair is going grey (fyi, American friends, that's not a typo, it's the correct spelling of grey. See also colour), because I'm forced to go to the hairdresser every six weeks to have it coloured (never say dye), which means that I have to sit still for nearly two hours. Bliss.

Then I saw that line in my magazine and thought, hang on a minute. I've got it all back to front!

You see, I used to run around like a whirling dervish, doing all that stuff. By the end of the day I'd be shattered and stressed, so I would reward myself with...... you guessed it.... a bucket of vino. Which would mean that I'd start the next day already below par and exhuasted. Repeat, ad infinitum.

Actually, what we should be doing is 'rewarding ourselves' in advance. We need to make sure that we are properly healthy, rested and relaxed before we can look after the rest of the world.

It's NOT an indulgence, it's actually just good common sense. It's obligatory. It's part of your job description.

It's a bit like the safety briefing on an airplane when they tell you "In the event of the oxygen levels in the cabin falling, oxygen masks will be provided. Make sure you fit your own mask before helping your child."

They know that your instinct is to help your child first, but you will be entirely useless if you can't breathe.

I know what you're thinking: It's all very well, SM, but I don't have the time or the money to look after myself.

Nonsense. How much time did you spend drinking or hungover? How much money did you spend on booze? Just take a proportion of that time and that cash, and make sure you do something good for yourself.

(See my post: The Concept of Self Care written when I was on Day 52, and badly in need of a pick me up)

On that note, I went to the gym yesterday, for the first time since the cancer thing. I spent an hour doing a full on aerobics session with ladies half my age, then came home and had a good long soak in the bath (because my muscles had seized up and I could barely walk).

There are recent studies that show that aerobic exercise is one of the most effective ways of reducing cancer recurrence rates (or avoiding cancer in the first place). So, it wasn't an indulgence - it was a way of ensuring my children have me around to help look after their children. Medicinal.

So, don't leave 'self care' to the bottom of the list, when you might be able to squeeze a bit in after doing all the other 'more important' things. Schedule it. Make it a priority. Not for you, but for everyone else in your life.

Love SM x


  1. Crawling, crawling, crawling at the moment... so the idea of self-care is a good one, and one which I need to prioritise. Annie x

    1. Definitely! Make sure you rest up over half term, Annie! X

  2. Dear SM. I have a feeling of excitement as I type this to you. I have been reading your blog for the past two months and love, love, love it! This is the first time I have ever posted anything anywhere. I am currently on day 12. I had a go at giving up November, 2015 but ended up giving in during Christmas and New Year's festivities. Back for round 2! Many of your posts have struck a chord but this one especially so. I work in the mental health field with young people and adolescents and their families. I am forever telling parents to look after themselves but this message somehow gets lost in translation and I do not practice what I preach. This post was a great reminder for me. Thank you for sharing your experiences and taking the time to help so many in so, so many ways. I am extremely grateful x

    1. Hi Letitgo! Welcome, and huge congrats on day 12! Awesome! Self care is especially crucial in those early days, as I bet you're really tired? Big hugs xx

  3. Oh yes... big one.. Self care all the rage here in Denver. A friend of mine has just published a book on it!!! It's so 'un-british' but I do make sure that I
    a) get to the gym 4 times a week. (I love love love hot yoga and it keeps me sane)
    b) get my hair done every six weeks
    c) get a mani-pedi on a regular basis
    d) meditate most days
    e) Try to slow the f down
    f) not eat crap food when I get stressed. Quite tricky now I don't have the wine.

    Hey I am at day 50!

  4. Great post. So true. I can feel my self esteem/self worth growing and spending time (and money) on those little treats has definitely helped. I am worthy. And now I am starting to believe it (fake it till you make it ;-) ). Big hugs LNM x

  5. This is so true SM, and I'm only just coming to realise it. I've neglected myself for so long. Since stopping drinking, I've finally been to the docs to sort some health problems, I'm making sure I go to bed earlier, I've cut right back on caffeine, and next stop is some treat time at the Turkish Baths near me. My children will I'm sure feel the benefit of a rested mummy who has the energy to care for them properly! Red xx
    Ps Can you point me in the direction of the studies on aerobic exercise v cancer? xx

    1. Hi Red! Sorry for the slow response. There are LOADS of articles about the impact of exercise (and weight loss) on cancer recurrence rates. Here's one example from The Washington Post:

    2. Ooh thanks SM - I should have just googled, but I was typing ax I was thinking, plus I guessed you'd have found some good articles based on solid science!! I will take a look at this now xx