Life comes at you fast, and when it hits, self care is the way to go.
My interest in psychology has genuinely saved my life on quite a few occasions, so I will pass on some of my knowledge before getting to the fun part.
In science-y terms, we have neural pathways which are created from childhood through observation/action.
If you learned from a parent/ TV show/ friend an unhealthy way of thinking/ coping with problems; that thought pattern becomes embedded in your brain in the form of a neural pathway.
For example, if you watched SKINS when you were 13 and you saw all these cool teenagers dealing with their problems by taking a bunch of drugs, smoking, looking glam- that might have soaked into your brain a little bit and you might have picked up that behaviour. Now you take drugs when you’re dealing with problems because you tried it once for shits and gigs but now that’s how you learned to deal with life.
It’s not necessarily because you consciously thought ‘my fav character did this so now I will too’, it’s mostly because your brain is literally just a massive sponge always growing and soaking up new information until you’re about 25.
When you see it on the TV it looks pretty harmless because you don’t live the consequences- but in life, your brain gradually deteriorates and now you’re a really lost soul who’s hurting and in need of a way out.
That is where self care comes in.
Neural pathways can’t just be deleted, but they can be outweighed with conscious effort.
You can create new neural pathways by doing things differently.
By engaging in self care.
Self care comes in many different forms. Emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, etc.
Self care can mean reaching out to someone, withdrawing from your circle for a little bit, leaving relationships that cause you pain. It can mean going to counselling, addressing issues from childhood, the list goes on.
The biggest, most life changing act of self care I ever learned was to address my past and work through it from a psychological standpoint. Listening to my emotions, learning where my messed up habits come from. Going back to my childhood and giving little Becky the forgiveness and compassion that she needed.
This helps me learn which areas in my life I need to adapt to create new neural pathways. Recovery is about dealing with the past so you no longer have to live back there.
But this is a huge topic that I’m not educated enough on to cover all by myself.
I’m going to tell you a bunch of cool self-care activities I did to help me heal.
- Signed myself up to a weekly pole dancing class… and actually did it
I work too hard. I do so much, and yet I feel like I’m not doing enough. Then I get into a rut because I have no material to write about or life experience to draw enthusiasm from. It turns me into this little hermit who shuns fun.
I need fun. I need confidence. I need constant stimulation. It’s time I met those needs.
I always wanted to progress with dance, but I never had the opportunity, so naturally a pole dancing class with a group of insanely open-minded women at a local gym was the place to start.
My muscles hurt in places I didn’t even know that I had muscles- and this is coming from someone who actively works out and does yoga pretty much every day. Being able to lift myself up on the pole, being able to see my progress with the spins, being able to see what my body could do and how wonderfully it can move gave me a whole new kind of appreciation for myself. I won’t be stopping any time soon. In fact I’m looking into progressing into other classes with trapeze and aerial silks. Maybe I’ll join the circus.
2) Deleted social media for a few days.
I wrote a whole ass article on this which I will link here (when it comes out). Now, the only social media apps I have on my phone are Instagram and snapchat- which rarely gets used. If I want to use social media I will go through safari, which is usually off putting. I have so much to say about what this is doing for me. Read the piece if you’re interested.
3) Went to acrobatics
When I was really young I did gymnastics, but as I progressed it got more expensive and I always had this weird complex where I hated the idea of my parents spending their money on me when I knew full well that we didn’t have a lot. Also, my sister cut off the tip of her finger in the doorway and the last time I left the gym I was riding in an ambulance.
I loved it so much, though.
Now, I’m older, I make my own money, and I love fun.
The same gymnastics centre that I went to as a kid (Pipers Vale for you locals) has an open night for adults every Tuesday and Thursday, basically just one big play time.
I go to that now.
I went on Tuesday with my friend Alice and I hadn’t had that much fun since I literally was a kid. Cartwheeling, flipping, roly polying, running around, trampolining, spinning on bars, somersaulting into massive sponge block pools. We made friends almost straight away who hype you up and support you and help you progress. I went to bed with a stupidly big smile on my face knowing that I did a forwards flip into the sponge pit and I could still (somewhat) do a walk over/ backwards bend. I can’t believe I still got at least a bit of it. I’m gonna make myself so proud.
The fun I had knocks my old coping mechanism of smoking out of a window on a freezing cold night feeling sorry for myself RIGHT out of the park.
4) Listened to and sang along with ‘That’s Life’ by Frank Sinatra and ‘Truth Hurts’ by Lizzo on repeat for 2 days
They’re good songs man.
5) Started reading and painting again
Because of my ‘addiction’ to social media and work, I realised that all my hobbies had faded out of my life and I no longer have any sense of self.
Books are so peaceful. It takes time to get into reading again, but books are educational, they’re a form of escapism, they just make you feel so much better for having read them.
Picking up a paintbrush again reminded me that my mind can often only be emptied by having a pretty place to put all my crazy. Not only that, but there is literally always room for advancement/ learning a new technique. You can make a mess, you can match a vision in your head, and by the end of it you look like a piece of art in itself with paint stains all over your hands.
For my birthday my Dad got me a mindfulness colouring book, too. Very much recommend if your mind is full of chatter before you go to sleep.
6) Started eating
Never actually have spoken about this and often refrain from going near the topic, but I have had a weird relationship with food for a large chunk of my life which I’m progressing with everyday.
I have educated myself on proper nutrition since being committed to this ‘more vegan than veggie’ lifestyle which does make me feel so much better.
I eat actual portions of food with actual nutritional value which I actually put some thought and time into, and now I’m in the swing of things I actually really enjoy it. I’ve benefited a lot from it too. I might write a whole piece on this one day because I have a lot to say about it.
7) Reached out to my friends.
I have some good friends. All they want is the best for me, I am so lucky. An act of self care was to stop telling myself that I was a burden and just reaching out to them. To my surprise, they had been missing me. Nothing had changed, I just returned to a lot of laughs and a lot of love. I am so grateful.
8) When in doubt, just get lost somewhere
The week which led to me deciding to switch my life up had me feeling so overwhelmed that the only logical answer was to get away from this messyyyyyyyyyyyy life I have.
I went to stay with my Dad in Mersea Island.
Went to a little festival called Cosmic puffin, explored the island a bit, went to see my Dad and Stepmum’s little rowboat. A weekend of gin and spontaneity.
I needed that.
It made me realise that I need to move about more.
Since that little trip away I’ve made plans to return, and I’ve also made some city-break plans. I’ve arranged some visits to friends across the country at uni, booked a holiday, started looking outside my bubble more.
I need dat.
I don’t really have a clue what’s next for me, but self care is something that I need to be focussing on right now while I have the chance. You gotta love yourself before you can give and receive love fully. I hope that perhaps I’ve given some people some creative ideas, it’s not all bubble baths and face masks.