Hannah here: In celebration of the month of luuurve, we are starting a series of blog posts dedicated to love, and we’re starting with the most important: Self love. We happen to believe it’s one of the most radical political acts you can do, particularly as a woman (but also as a man) in a patriarchal capitalist society that thrives on making you feel like you need to defer to mens power or buy products to make you feel more ‘acceptable’. We also happen to believe that loving and accepting yourself can lead to deep seated happiness too; fewer comparisons, less doubt and less guilt.
We strive towards honesty on this blog and I have made a few references lately to feeling stressed, but I’ll state it here clearly: I had a major case of the blues in the months before christmas. Lots of individually stressful situations evilly converged and left me in a bit of a dark place. My blues were mild compared to friends and family who have had severe depression, but depression it was and I ended up on drugs.
January has been a restorative and healing month for me, I’m off the drugs that never agreed with me anyway, with new resolve to simplify. I’m eating better, running and falling in love with yoga, (which I mentioned in this post.) When you boil it down, what changed things was that I took measures to parent myself. I’ve been ruminating on that concept ever since; I make sure Frankie eats wholesome healthy food, drinks lots of water and is offered healthy snacks. I go to Herculean lengths to ensure she naps, is in bed early and gets enough sleep at night time. I know her and so I know I need to ensure she gets time outside, to fill her lungs with cold winter air, to run and play in the woods. She needs time to draw and paint and create, to dance and sing and play. And it has slowly dawned on me that I need those things just as much as she does.
So, based on sometimes gruelling personal experience, here are...
10 practical ideas to show yourself some love in the month of love:
1) Wrap up warm and go outside. Just do it. Winter air is restorative and invigorating. Walk round the block, saunter through the woods or take a brisk beach run. After I run, a deep sense of wellbeing, almost like heat, radiates from my core, and I feel fucking great. It takes a while to transition from desperately drained and light headed post run, to radiating wellbeing and running joy but as long as you’re pacing yourself and not over stretching, you’ll get there eventually!
2) Have a bath. Light the candles, and sink below the water. Yes, even if it involves your toddler, and them laughing uproariously at your “funny bellybutton”. (Some lush DIY bath recipe’s coming soon!). Turning the lights off in the bathroom has the added benefit of hiding the state of it's cleanliness from view...
3) Take a moment to view yourself with a parent's gaze. Are you getting enough good food and sleep? Enough time outdoors? Enough hugs?! Is anyone pushing you around? No one else can do this for us, not effectively anyway- we need to learn to do this for ourselves.
4) Write a Valentines card to yourself. This is a suggestion from our Sunday Supplement and we think it’s great. If you don’t have time to craft something, then take a few minutes, sit back, and really think about why you’re the bizniz. Are you brave? Kind? Creative? Clever? There will be loads of reasons. Oh yes there will. Dare to love your body. Think about your whole body from head to toe and list what you love about it- do you have shapely toes or elegant feet? Smooth skin? Good hips? Nice Nips? Perfect elbows or pleasing earlobes? List em. And remember them.
5) Make time for wine with friends. I can’t state clearly enough the benefit this has on my mental wellbeing, on my kick-ass-ometer. I chose to have kids and that means I go out a lot less and I’m totally happy with that. It also means when I do get out, it makes it all the sweeter.
6) Pamper yourself. I recently started oil cleansing and I find it so relaxing (hot flannel, oily face massage….bliss). Try dry body brushing (it’s also really good for you), Paint your nails, blow-dry your hair, don your brightest lipstick, wear your nicest bra, your wickedest knickers… for no one other than your own good self.
7) Stop talking negatively about your self- all of it. Stop verbally beating your body, your decisions, your house, your clothes. Stop excusing the state of your car/hair/eyebrows/toddler/loo/floors. Stop agonising over past mistakes and perceived failures. Instead make a concerted effort to silence those nay-saying inner voices and replace them with positive words. In my experience, it can have amazing results.
8) Take time out every day, even if it’s just a few precious minutes, to really savour a nice cup of tea, and a piece of something a bit decadent. This is Davina’s tried and tested way to re-coup in 5 minutes flat.
9) Date yourself. Take time to nourish yourself, and re-discover what you love. A mornings reading? A gig? Afternoon tea for 1? A film?
10) Sleep. Create a cosy, appealing nest (my room= decent bedlinen, fairy lights, posh candle, plants, clutter either tidied away or chucked into another room) then use it. If there was one single element that has the greatest affect on my mental health it would be the quantity of sleep I get. Don't underestimate the sheer evil power of sleeplessness. It makes you question your decisions, your appearance, your relationships. It makes you sick and grumpy. It magnifies any fear or doubt to gargantuan proportions leaving you quivering underneath it. It's fucking evil. Having kids means that sometimes you feel you simply can't get the sleep you need. But speaking from experience YOU CAN ALWAYS FIND TIME TO SLEEP. Sod the washing and the dishes. Leave those emails till the morning. If you're knackered and your kids napping, leave the to do list and sleep, dammit. This is a lesson I STILL have to remind myself about, something i'm still a bit crap at sometimes. A more rested me will feel, and be, far more capable at life.
I share all of these things because they have made a massive, massive difference in how I feel, and I reckon they can for others too. As much as you may feel otherwise, you don’t need a holiday to recuperate. Holidays are brilliant and often amazing soul time (our big trip was, anyway) but they are also expensive and unpractical. But It’s possible to find moments of ‘holiday’ or peace every single day, you just have to carve a little space around the rest of your day for them. A 5 minute peaceful cup of tea and a hot bath, don’t require much time or money and can make the world of difference to the state of your head.
I also share these things because, well, no one talks much about having a hard time or feeling low, not in the lifestyle blogging world anyway. Lots of people comment saying they think my life looks rather nice, and it is, I am incredibly grateful. But it isn’t all beaches and babyccino’s, and I hope you know that. Some of my favourite bloggers have had a really tough time, either explained on their blogs or in personal emails which I was incredibly grateful to read. (This post on Peonies and Polaroids blog was so refreshing and the comments like therapy. I soaked each and every one of them up, and felt bold enough to add my voice into the mix too.)
It can sometimes look from the outside that us lifestyle bloggers live life as depicted in the pages of Kinfolk, complete with a moody VSCOcam filter. I know that certainly when I poked my head out from my little hole before Christmas, I quite often found that what I saw made me want to curl back up inside it again. Square shaped visions of perfection. Worthy blogposts, not all that realistic. I’m sure I’ve been a proponent of that too at times, and I'm sorry if I have. I miss hearing about real life. I’ll bet a good wad of cash that life is very different to how it is depicted on most lifestyle blogs. Theres office work and plastic beakers and ugly tupperware and dirty nappies and debt and sickness and shouting and career indecision and anxiety and major burnout and writers block- all things true for me at some point since I started blogging. I am not asking for detailed misery journals. I have stopped reading blogs who detail their misery at great length in the past because they literally made me feel a bit down. But I really really appreciate it when other bloggers occasionally share a bit of truth about the reality of the tough bits of their life. It can offer a lifeline to others, like me. And so I share mine too, and some practical ways I made myself feel a whole lot better, in the vague hope that it may prove helpful for someone else.
So. Self love. Think about it. What are you going to do to love on yourself this month?