Words by: Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips
Self-care – it’s a movement set to be red hot for 2018. In this exclusive extract from acclaimed book Self-Care for the Real World, wellness pioneers Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips share their small and achievable steps for coping with our ‘always on’ culture
“How are you?” “Oh, you know, busy.” Is that your usual answer? Being constantly busy can feel like a badge of honour, indicating to others that your life is full, you have people to see, places to go… It’s a signal to the rest of the world that you’re not lonely, or needy. Being busy tells everyone you’re wanted; your time is precious and you’re in demand.
Why not try to make some of that time precious for you? If you don’t leave any gaps in your life for your body and mind to process the ridiculousness that is the fast pace of modern life, the stress builds up. Some people feel the need to fill every moment of the day with activity. Or they feel guilty when they’re not doing something or worrying about doing something. Self-care reminds you that you need time being, not doing.
If you’re feeling stressed, shouting at people or getting ill, these are signs that you need more gaps in your life. These gaps are whatever self-care practice works best for you – it could be yoga, cooking, exercise, lying still, or even just pottering around with nothing important to do. When was the last time you didn’t have to be anywhere? When every moment feels accounted for, it’s hard not to feel like it’s all getting on top of you.
You could get up 10 minutes early and use that time to just sit and be, maybe make yourself a cup of tea and drink it in silence. Or you can do some meditation to clear your mind – the sense of peace it gives you will help you throughout the day.
How do you know what makes a good gap for you? It’s how it makes you feel afterwards, for the rest of the day, for the next day and even beyond.
IN SEARCH OF THE WORK/LIFE BALANCE
Do you look at other people’s lives and think they have it all sorted? They’re probably looking at yours and feeling the same. But we don’t believe that anyone has it absolutely together all the time.
Work/life balance is great when it happens – but life always gets in the way. Most of us are just doing our best, going from one thing to the next. It can help to think of work/life balance as something that is achieved over the space of a month, or a year, rather than day to day.
There will always be days when you have to prioritise family over work, or vice versa. If you have children, run a business, have dependent relatives or friends, deadlines to meet, a job, or any kind of responsibilities, you have to accept that things will go wrong from time to time. All you can do in that moment of crisis, however big or small, is try to fix the things you can and surrender to the things you can’t – and take care of yourself. It is better for you to embrace and accept the mess for what it is, instead of fighting against it.
When the immediate panic is over, this might be a great time to figure out where you can make some space for yourself to get perspective – maybe take a walk, or do some meditation or exercise that clears your head.
Even though we accept that the work/life balance is elusive, we believe you can still put systems in place to take some of the pressure off yourself. Just like the self-care savings in your bank, having some of these systems established as a habit will act as a buffer for times when everything goes crazy.
Be more organised than you ever thought possible. Put everything you need to do in a diary and/or planner and your phone. Put alarms on your phone for daily and weekly tasks, and anything else that comes up. Enlist the other people in your household by having regular diary catch-ups. Empower children (and your partner) to be in charge of their own PE kit/homework schedule/club schedule.
Practise setting boundaries. You need to be able to say no to anything that adds to your to-do-list burden without giving you something back. We’re not saying don’t help out your loved ones, but don’t help out to the extent that your own life falls apart. Make a list of the things in the past month that you could have said no to; making cakes for school, organising a work lunch, or an evening out with a friend you felt obligated to see. If these things come up again, say no.
Make time to do the things you love. It’s always personal time that is the first thing to get knocked off the to-do list. What is the thing you love to do most? And when did you last do it? Put that at the top of the list and underline it.
Turn off your phone at least once a day. Create your own silent sanctuary where nobody can get to you. Try switching off your phone in the evenings. You don’t need to have instant access to other people, or them to you all the time. We remember having to write letters to communicate with people (and it wasn’t that long ago).
Clear your mind so you’re not thinking of what you’ve got to do all the time. Making lists helps here, but so does having time to yourself out of your day. Meditation is the absolute best tool for this – if you really can’t meditate, try active relaxation.
From Self-Care for the Real World by Nadia Narain and Katia Narain-Phillips, £16.99, hutchinson