The Self Care Project Book Review

Why Self-Care?

My own awareness of self-care started during my counsellor training. I had some counselling, during which my Counsellor asked me about what my needs were. I couldn’t answer her question, because I had no idea. Thus started my own journey of working that out and exploring how to look after myself and meet my needs. Due to some experiences during adolescence I had learnt to protect myself by pretending I didn’t have needs. If I didn’t have needs then I wouldn’t need to experience the pain of noticing that they weren’t being met. Fast forward ten years and I’m a big advocate of self-care. I’m still learning and still could be better at it, but I’m aware of the impact it has. I’ve seen it in my own life, in those around me and in countless clients I’ve worked with.

The Book

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I had seen positive reviews about The Self Care Project, so was keen to read it. I’m so glad I did. From the outset author Jayne Hardy writes about nine ways she’s sucked at self-care, and the impact it has had on her life. She writes with engaging honesty about her own experiences in an accessible and conversational style. I felt empathy towards her, felt connected to her and it connected me with the parts of myself I’ve neglected.

I wanted to keep reading. And I wanted to do the things she was talking about. I even put it down and stopped reading it for two weeks because I didn’t want to finish it and wanted it to last a bit longer.

I found myself booking yoga classes because I’d been meaning to for ages but hadn’t wanted to spend that much money. I decided that I’m worth it and when I started, I remembered how much I enjoy it. I bought myself some new underwear to replace the ones I had with holes in. I tried paddle boarding because I like fun and adventure and hadn’t tried anything new for a while. Self-care can mean so many different things.

Overview

The Self Care Project breaks self-care down into manageable chunks and expresses it in a clear and understandable way. I love the concept of micro steps to trick our mind into letting us make changes. It is practical, but it is more than that. It looks at why we might not be very good at self-care, why it is important, alarms we don’t notice, barriers to self-care, burnout, emergency self-care and every day self-care. It meets you where you are and encourages you to take little steps forward. It is surprisingly thorough and offers worksheets to reflect upon what you’ve read about.

‘We are enough. As we are. It’s the truest of all truths. We don’t need to be fixed – we’re not broken. Lost, unsure, confused, hiding away, recovering, struggling, hurting, damaged, scarred, messy and scared, perhaps, but not broken’ page 72.

I really like how vulnerable and real the author is and the honest stories and examples she shares. The Blurt Foundation (who the author is Founder and CEO of) is aimed at people with depression so the book is mindful of people lacking energy and motivation, but the content is relevant for everyone.  It inspires you to get more in touch with who you are. It is about making self-care work for you in your own life and making it your own.

My only criticism is that I don’t want to write in my book and I don’t want to bend the spine trying to scan pages to print the worksheets out. Downloadable printouts would be good! * Update – there are downloadable printouts 🙂 *

Conclusion

I’ve already bought three copies of this book and will probably buy more. I’ve recommended it to colleagues, students I teach, and I’ll probably buy it for some of my clients too. I think it is a brilliant book and I’m full of admiration for the work Jayne Hardy and the Blurt Foundation are doing.

If you want to find out more check out http://www.blurtitout.org

‘We’re looking for those micro pockets of time where we check in with ourselves, ponder how we’re feeling, consider our energy levels, and act accordingly. Self-care is as much about the ‘being’ as the ‘doing’. When we have the space to be, we can see more clearly what we might need to do to feel better’ page 117.

Self Care

“The time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time” Bertrand Russell.

When life is at its hardest, for whatever reason, sometimes the very things that can help us feel better can feel like such massive hurdles to accomplish. I might know that spending time with others really helps me feel like I’ve had a good day, but the times when I need that most are the times when it is much easier to isolate myself and to not get in contact with anyone.

Sometimes self care is about reaching out to others when I’d rather hibernate. Maybe it’s choosing to relax and be late instead of being on time and totally stressed out. Or taking the time to have a shower and start my day as I’d like to. Motivating myself to go for a run, knowing that I’ll feel good afterwards, even if I don’t want to do it right now. Sometimes we only have the energy to focus on tiny steps forward and anything else feels too much and too overwhelming. Sometimes these little decisions can feel big, but they make us feel like we matter and that we’re taking care of ourselves. Like we have a purpose and are heading towards something better. So why does doing things for ourselves feel selfish? Or like it is time wasted that could be better spent.

If your car is running out of petrol or your phone is running out of battery, you know what to do. We usually don’t wait for them to totally run out before we buy petrol, or we plug the phone in to charge. Also, a car uses more fuel when it is heavily laden and a phone uses battery more quickly when lots of apps are running. And the energy we have is the same, even when it doesn’t feel quite as simple. If we don’t look after ourselves, we burn out. Self care is really about living and building a life we don’t need time out from. As we look after ourselves we connect with our authentic self and can experience a sense of peace and calm.

When life isn’t hard, these things barely need a consideration, but when life is hard sometimes we overlook our needs and it feels impossible to do the very things that help us. Maybe the needs of those who depend on us take up what feels like all of our energy and we feel like we have nothing left for ourselves. Sometimes self care is about adjusting expectations about what can be achieved in a day or putting things off for another day. At a time in my life when I was experiencing severe sleep deprivation, my expectations of what I could achieve had to be drastically culled.

Sleep is so fundamental to our wellbeing – to our health, our happiness and quite simply, our functioning. I would advise that you don’t google ‘can I die of sleep deprivation?’ because it is pretty depressing reading that lack of sleep can cause quite a lot of things that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. There’s a good reason that it is used as a form of torture. And so many articles that I read when I was in the haze of sleep deprivation talked about it as if it was a choice and that it is just a case of not working too hard, needing to spend a bit more time relaxing and going to bed earlier to prioritise sleep a bit more. If only…

But what about if you have insomnia? Chronic pain? Young children? You are racked with grief? Or in my case, I had a son with such severe sleep apnoea that my husband and I took it in turns to hold him in a position where he could breathe. All night long some nights. When there isn’t enough sleep available to function on, and there hasn’t been for years, then no amount of bubble baths or relaxing before bed can help. Life becomes about pure survival, and all the things that supposedly help feel trite. It feels impossible to find time for yourself, and you don’t have the energy to make the effort anyway.  It feels as though no one understands how hard life is and how overwhelming simple tasks like unloading the dishwasher or cooking a meal can feel. Things that you normally enjoy feel like a whole lot of effort.

Self care is a choice, but is one that feels monumentally hard at the times we need it the most. But there’s no point waiting for the future or for when things change to get the life you want. Whether or not life is hard currently, how can you give yourself a break today? What you might feel like you need is 2 weeks in the Maldives but if you had an hour to yourself today and could do whatever you want to (no work or chores allowed), then what would you choose? If you don’t have an hour, how could you get some of that in 5 minutes that you know you’d appreciate? What can you start today that your future self will thank you for? How can you make little steps towards living the life you would love to be living even if life feels hard at the moment? Because time you enjoy wasting, isn’t wasted time.