When I think back now to how I was in my late teens and 20s, I cringe. Like many others at that age, I didn’t look after myself. I drank far too much, far too frequently. I rarely worked out. And I lived off a diet of pasta and sauce – exclusively (and okay, maybe that one was just me).
At that time, my mind was all over the shop – why would I want to spend a night at home alone with it? Plus, what if not being out meant I missed out on something?
But then, of course, it started catching up to me. My hangovers lasted for days. The anxious thoughts running around in my head picked up their pace and starting sprinting. I was tired of living for the weekends. Also, friends around me were settling down and it began to rub off on me.
It was then that I started doing the occasional self-care ritual and discovered how much I loved it. Eventually, the rituals became more and more a part of my routine, which brings us up to today. I don’t want to brag, but I’m somewhat of a self-care queen. Even writing this now, I’m surprised at just how far I’ve come.
Me now, fresh as a daisy on a weekend morning:
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And while I do believe everything happens for a reason, I still wish I’d gotten into looking after myself sooner. Because once I got a taste of it, I was hooked.
So, for that very reason, I’ve decided to share some of the rituals I adopted and now regularly practice here in the hope that someone else who’s yet to try them might also give them a whirl. And who knows, they just might discover the sheer joy they get from them too.
Cooking a nice meal
Before I get into this ritual, I want to mention that some of these may seem obvious. You never took time to cook for yourself? I can hear you asking, judgement dripping from your words. Well, no, I hadn’t. And for that very reason, I’m guessing others might not have either and so wouldn’t ever know the pleasure that comes with it.
Because damn, does it bring me a lot. Scrolling through recipes on Instagram or flipping through cookbooks, deciding what to cook. Buying the ingredients for a meal at the supermarket – or, even better, finding a recipe that makes do with what I’ve already got. Making the dish with jazz music playing on my Spotify. (Life hack: jazz music with any activity makes it 110% better.)
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I even got into hosting dinner parties (see above), which in a way was another form of self-care.
Going for a long walk
This was actually an activity I only picked up during COVID lockdown. Out of work and, at one point, only allowed to leave the house for limited reasons including exercise, I began walking the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. At first, just to Bronte and back. But then by the end of lockdown, I was walking the length of it, daily.
A podcast or music playing in my ear, wind whipping through my hair and, depending on its mood, a calm or crashing sea next to me – I couldn’t believe how happy something as simple as a walk made me. Every time. Even writing this now, not having done the walk in a few days, I’m desperately craving it.
Doing a workout class
Similarly, exercise has also become a staple on my self-care ritual roster.
While I had tried gym memberships or the odd yoga class, it was only when I was in Bali and had to use up workout class credits before I left that I realised how great I felt going to classes. I had a fair few credits to use and so went regularly – sometimes twice a day.
The high I got afterwards, not to mention the definition in my legs, arms and stomach – I was addicted and, just like the coastal walks, I’m yearning for a class just thinking about them.
Today, back in Sydney, I use ClassPass, which I’ll forever rave about. It’s an app that lets you buy credits, which you can use for workout classes at local gyms. Even if I’m doing nothing else that day, if I’ve done a ClassPass class – including the walk to it and back – I feel accomplished, and like I’ve looked after myself.
Choosing who I spend time with
This was an interesting learning. But I do believe it’s a form of self-care. While you can’t choose your family or your workmates, you can choose who you spend time with outside of work. And the saying, “you are the company you keep” was made for a reason.
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In my experience in my teens and 20s, I definitely found it be true. After spending time with a friend who was constantly pessimistic or badmouthed others, I felt mentally drained and just plain unhappy. On the flip side, I started noticing how buzzy and feel-good I felt after a good deep and meaningful conversation.
And so, in the last few years, I’ve decided to be more conscious with my friendships and adopt a less is more approach. These days, I try to spend more time with people I connect with on many levels and less with people with whom the only topic we can bond over is a complaint or someone we both know.
And finally, journalling – something I’d always tried (I’m a writer so you’d hope so), but given up on. After some serious bouts of anxiety, I got back into it a couple years ago and now do it regularly.
There’s something so therapeutic about laying on my bed with a fresh page of my notebook open and a pen in my hand, taking the time to check-in with myself. Plus, it’s been amazing to have past journal entries to read back on. Every now and again, I’ll flip to one and read over how I felt about certain situations back then. Fascinating reads considering I now know how it all ended up playing out.
So, there you have it, a few of my self-care rituals, shared as ideas for you to practice too. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes about self-care: “Remember to fill up your own cup because you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Now go forth and fill up that cup of yours.