As I drove away, some months ago, from my old life and a house we had bought only a year before, I was certain of only one thing. I was going to look after myself. I was going to self-care the hell out of myself. In an Ikea bag in the back of my car I had – as well as the essentials – a pile of comfy clothes, my cosiest pajamas, a stack of Lush bath bombs and all my nicest skincare. I took anything from the house that brought me joy and comfort. These items were more important to me than anything else.
That approach (as well as time, friends, family and medication) has helped me out of the darkness and into the light. I have moved (mostly) from waking every morning feeling as if a dark cloud is hovering above me and a weight is pressing heavily on my chest, and into awakening with purpose, smiling at the sound of birdsong, and breathing in a sense of peace. I’ve been reading an amazing book called Living Your Yoga (all about finding the spiritual in the ‘every day’), and in the book Judith explains a section of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. She says: “When carving stone, the sculptor removes everything that is not the statue. She does not add anything to create it, except the willingness to do the work. The art of revealing beauty lies in removing what conceals it. So too Patanjali tells us that wholeness exists within us. Our work is to chisel away at everything that is not essence, not Self.”
I have been focussing on this concept over the last few months – making space and looking inwardly to find the true Rosie. Instead of trying to create happiness and change myself into someone new, I have instead tried to let go of anything that wasn’t helping, and get really in touch with what brings me joy and what doesn’t. Having time off work and time to myself has really cleared my head and helped me get clearer on what I want from my day-to-day (and more long-term) life. I fill in my gratitude journal every morning and evening and take time to note the things I’m really grateful for that make me happy – and make more time for these. I’ve noticed that it’s the simple things that bring me joy – a long chat with my Mum, listening to the blackbirds outside my window, the first cup of green tea, a drive home at dusk through beautiful countryside, a few yoga stretches, a restful sleep. I’ve realised that these things are not difficult to make space for however busy I am or however many pennies I do or don’t have.
Recently as part of my morning pages exercise I wrote the words ‘When I do ….. I feel good’ and then wrote down as many things as I could think of that filled in the blank. I really thought about the things that made me feel fulfilled, comfortable and happy.
- Going to the gym (personal training)
- Eating nourishing, good food
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Writing and blogging
- Learning new things
- Sleeping well
- Staying organised and on top of things
- Pampering – having a long bath or a face mask etc.
- Washing my face with my facial brush
- Being in nature
- Getting fresh air
- Being around animals (especially Bodhi dog)
- Being at home (in comfy clothes)
- Drinking green tea
- Filling in my gratitude journal
- Writing my morning pages or filling in a journal
- Reading a good book
- Having an afternoon nap
You might not believe this but a few months ago I couldn’t have written this list. I was totally out of touch with who I was and what I liked. I couldn’t make even simple decisions about things I wanted to do or how I wanted to spend my time. I felt overwhelmed and confused, constantly trying to keep busy and fill my diary, chasing fulfilment and contentment – but sadly leaving myself with almost no time to do the things on the list. The morning green tea would be rushed, I never had time for my gratitude journal, I had no time for running or yoga and I would scroll through my phone at the expense of a good book or a mindfulness practice. I was prioritising things that didn’t bring me fulfilment (shopping, going for drinks, eating rubbish food, going to events I didn’t really want to go to) over the things that did, and then wondering why I felt fried and frustrated.
img credit: elle luna
To help myself climb out of those feelings of hopelessness and depression I knew I had to focus on myself. It made me feel selfish at times but my boss coined a term – ‘Rosie first’. This meant cancelling weekends away, rearranging seeing friends or dipping out of events that I knew I wasn’t in the right headspace for, and instead doing the things on the list. Just walking along the beach with Bodhi, with my headphones off and taking time to listen to the waves was restorative in a way I couldn’t have imagined. I made sure I really soaked up this feeling and stayed present to the sounds, feelings, smells and sights around me. I wallowed in every bath, diffused aromatherapy oils, kept my favourite pajamas washed and pressed, allowed myself entire days of reading in bed and let go of any feelings of guilt about things that brought me happiness (that bath bomb is too expensive, I’ve slept for too long, that notebook is too nice to use, etc.). Even now that I feel much better than I did, I’m still trying to cultivate these feelings and prioritise my own wellbeing. Although clearly I try not to let friends down and I don’t put myself above others in a negative way, I do make sure that I don’t inhibit my ability to do the things I need to – and sometimes this is as simple as keeping a couple of nights a week free to do nothing.
I hope this doesn’t sound somehow boastful or self-righteous. I simply wanted to share the turning point that I’ve made in terms of my own wellbeing. From a very dark place I have found light and brightness – excitement for the future, motivation, creativity. I feel excited for the future and everything it may bring (and hey, as long as it has green tea and Bodhi dog I know it will be great).