I’ve been a little MIA the past month or so as I haven’t felt that inspired to write and I become quite focused on myself. It has been great to have a break from obligations, sleeping in late, deep cleaning my flat and topping up my tan on the roof! I’ve been reading across all the corners of the internet, borrowing books from the local library and devouring my magazine subscriptions. The topic of self-care pops up frequently, where the person notes they have just run a bubble bath or done a face mask and thus ticked the box of self-care. This has been jarring me, but it took a while to realise why. Then I realised, this isn’t self-care!
What Is Real Self-Care?
Self-care is packaged to women as spending time on ourselves often to enhance our appearance. It pushes a capitalist agenda which requires consumption of products to look after ourselves! Alongside the external care google’s suggests self-care with meditation, daily walking and eating a meal mindfully! For me real self-care is taking control of my life and preparing myself for the week. When my finances aren’t managed my stress and depression kicks in. An overstretched social calendar, with little time to reflect, and hibernate disrupts my sleep patterns. There is no period of time in a bath that can fix my finances and I just get out more stressed then before! Over the past few months I have made sure I practice the following real self-care habits.
I Monitor My Finances Nearly Every Day.
I’ve finetuned my budget over the past few months and every few days I check my bank accounts against what I’ve spent. This has allowed me to keep up with those little purchases (twirl bars!) and catch out any businesses that have mistakenly withdrawn too much from my account. Someone recently cloned my card and spent £150 on Kenco coffee. Even my bank knows I am a hot chocolate only drinker!
In addition, each payday I am forecasting in my budget the months potential social spend. Allocating money against lunch dates and nights out allows me to understand my true disposable income for unplanned purchases. If I know that this amount is quite small I am prepared and ration myself to ensure I don’t use my credit cards. I will be honest, being so on top of my finances is exhausting and frankly boring and I am looking forward to the day where I don’t have to do that!
I’m also researching and understanding finances better. The information is out there but often women are discouraged to be financially competent. I now know lots of the tricks of improving my credit rating and how for example reducing your credit card balance penalises you. I’m also keen to start investing my money next year, taking this time to study the market and understand a whole new language. I can’t wait to dip my toes into this and locking in my retirement plans.
I Review My Calendar and Social Commitments Every Week.
Each Sunday I review my diary for the week. I plan when I will rest, do tasks around my flat like laundry and set aside time to read, watch shows and write. Being prepared and planning even those small admin tasks into my week reduces my stress. Prior to doing this I would reach the end of the week stressed out and self-critical. Not keeping up with life admin frustrates me but I also feel pressure as I am the only one who can do it. Planning for it makes life a lot breezier!
At one stage my social life was incredibly full, and the lack of balance was making me unhappy. I’d gotten into this habit of saying yes to everything and everyone else but myself. I have a friend who says yes to everything, but I soon realised that it wasn’t for me. Upon reflection I also realised I never really had time with that friend that was mine. They were always thinking about how they were getting to the next event in their diary often booking in three or four catchups/activities each day. Now I review my diary and see what else is happening that week before I say yes. If I already have a couple of catch ups I decline and suggest another date. These two small changes have had the most impact on my real self-care.
I Plan My Food For The Week and Meal Prep.
A year ago, starting my current job, I stopped meal planning and bought lunch every day. It was lots of fun eating sushi one day, a fancy salad the next or my favourite Japanese curry! Health wise I fared ok, which was a surprise being all processed food, but my bank balance took a hit. When I decided to get serious this year about budgeting and sorting my credit card situation food was an area where I could cut back drastically.
I plan all my meals for the week by reviewing what I will eat each Friday. Plans change so I also check within my cupboards to see what is left and if I really need extra breakfast milk or dinner fish etc. This way when I go to the supermarket sometime over the weekend I only purchase what I need. I will prep lunches for the week on Sunday, freezing each one and sometimes even making enough for two weeks! I’ve done the math and I’m spending only a quarter of what I used to one food!
All of this does mean I rarely have lunch out and I do miss that. There has been the occasional moment I forgot my lunch and spent all morning thinking of what I was going to purchase! A decision that required lots of care as it was an unexpected treat! However, having a handle on my food budget and knowing I have money until the end of the month is fantastic self-care for me.
How do you practice real self-care? PF xo