8 May 2019

Just beecause: why you don't need a permission slip to practice self-care

 Hello world, it's me again. In truth, my head has been feeling especially foggy these past few days, so I'm writing this with no certainty that it will ever see the light of day! Nevertheless, this morning I decided to open my laptop and here I am still typing. Just because... Just because. 

Full stop. No explanation needed. At first glance, "just because" is a bit of a paradox. When you say, "because", it's a bridge leading on to the rest of a sentence. It's safe to say that the English Literature student within me is having a field day: "okay, what's next? Don't leave me hanging!" Well, let's hope those monkey bars are more strong and stable than our Prime Minister, because that sentence is going to be hanging a lot more from now on. At least that's the intention!

A couple of years ago, I wrote about my longstanding struggle with over-analysis, specifically negative over-analysis (NOA). For as long as I can remember, every decision I make has been given far too much screen time; where one line would do a chapter soon follows. If I say "basically", be prepared to bring out the popcorn and put any immediate plans on hold. Don't get me wrong, I love writing. I love talking and  it's quite possible that 'rambling' has become my USP

Nonetheless, there's a difference between rambling and over-analysis... and  perhaps that's where the  literature student may need to take a back seat (unless bedtime reading is involved, obviously!)
One all the things I learnt from CBT in 2017, "action over analysis" held the most resonance and this wasn't because I was good at it; quite the reverse. I was the girl with a whole Ark of anxieties - not even a mouse could fit in - and NOA was calling all the shots. In the world according to NOA, nothing was ever 'just right'. Imagine you were choosing between 200 varieties of apple in your local supermarket, or picking a paint colour from 51 shades of 'off-white'. Now, apply this to every single decision you make and you have a small glimpse of life with  anxiety.

Just over one year on from CBT, I have become significantly better at challenging over-analysis. The ark is more of a rowing boat and there's thankfully far more room for my animal friends (less time worrying in isolation means more time for doggy cuddles!) Yet there's one thing I still spend far too much time overanalysing: self-care. In the time I've taken contemplating self-care, I could have had a bubble bath with every Lush bath bomb in Bath... and quite possibly Bristol too! 

We often talked about self-care during CBT, as a key challenge for my mental health lies in self-worth (a lot of this is rooted in my diabetes, which I talked about here and may do more in the future). After so long convincing myself that I am less worthy than others, NOA can deliver an oscar-winning speech on "reasons against self-care." From connecting with others in the magical MH community online, I know how common this is (turns out we're not unicorns!) So how do you overcome it? How do you silence over-analysis? 
You act. You practice self-kindness, whenever you can and in whatever little way you can. I spent so many years convinced that I could analyse my way out of over-analysis, but it turns out you can't! The only way, as CBT made unequivocally clear, is "action over analysis." The only way, as I've come to think of it recently, is saying "just because". No justification needed! On that note, I wanted to share some of the self-care steps I've taken this spring; little snapshots that NOA was determined to bury away, but by sharing on here are a way to say "sock it! Self-Care is here to stay." 


I recently discovered the most wonderful Cafe called Cascara in Bath, which I had walked past many times before without a second thought. One day in April, while walking back from volunteering at the Holburne Museum, curiosity got the better of me and I stepped inside. What can I say? I may as well have changed my name to Alice as it is a pure Wonderland!

Not only is it 100% bunny-friendly (vegan), I am officially revising my earlier statement in Silver Linings Sunday #01... Cascara have the "fluffiest soya froth" I ever did see! This wasn't all. If you can spy their menu below, it is out there on the Veg of Glory and I found myself longing to try it all. Right on cue, NOA chips in with "you shouldn't eat this because... *insert  price, unknown nutritional info, being on my own* you get the picture. It's not a pretty picture, yet it all down to "warranting" self-care.

Yet when the barista saw me looking at the menu and asked if I would  like to order... I said yes. In that moment, I didn't to it for a 'recovery win'; I didn't say 'yes' as a reward for swimming the channel, or winning a Nobel Prize! I did it because I wanted to. Just because I can.
Ps: If you're wondering how it went, let's just say I've nearly completed my first stamp card and took my parents last weekend! 

I know for a fact I am not alone with the 'spending money' anxiety! Unless it's buying things for other people, in which case NOA and the Ark go on holiday (probably a cruise) and my Galleons are finally free!  I ran out of my most-beeloved Lush product - "angels on bare skin" - at the start of this year, yet have always found a reason "why not" to restock. Until last month. After finishing work, I popped in to buy a present for a friend and found myself to the skincare section.

There it was, my pot of happy, and before I knew it my hands were full. Two pots; one a present and the other my own personal act of self-care. I was about to call it a "present to myself", yet saying this almost feels like  romanticising it. As if buying something for myself is a rare luxury that needs a reason, yet the reason  here was simple. Can you guess? Just because.
My final snapshots in self-care came from Santoro Londona place that, like I often walk past and finally curiosity got the better of me. I think the rain might also have played a part! Ever since discovering Katnipp  Illustrations, I've become quite beesotted with Kawaii art and Santoro's 'Gorjuss' collection is the bees knees... quite literally, as they now have a bee range, and I instantly fell in love!

The item in particular that caught my eye was a little trinket tin, so as per usual I added it to my mental 'wonder-list' and wandered on by... only, unlike times gone by, I didn't leave empty handed. Confession time: I must have done about four circuits of the shop and the sales assistant probably thought  I was slightly bonkers (disclaimer: all the best people are). I had all the NOA scripts rolling in my head, but my eyes kept going back to those two little words: 'just beecause'.

It wasn't just a penny for my thoughts in that moment, it was the golden ticket for this entire post! So where's the little pot now, you ask? Right here on my desk, holding the finished 'book page badges" that will soon fly free on Bumble and Be Co. Perhaps it was meant to bee? Or maybe, just maybe, it didn't have to have a reason. Like all my other snapshots, I saw a penny for my thoughts and I picked it up. Just because. 

I'm weary of showing self-care example that involve consumerism/impulse spending, as I'm making a conscious effort to be more sustainable and am actually writing a whole post on this topic! Nonetheless, they were all purchases that are (a) plastic-free and (b) much loved. More than this, they were things that spoke to Sophie and also reminded my that 'mindful living' mustn't come at a cost to my own mental health. I want to be as eco-friendly as I can bee, but equally want to avoid overanalysing it! 

Just like the promise I made to myself when I went vegetarian, I cannot save the planet without saving myself too and that involves being more spontaneous. It's about turning away from over-analysis, which  would tie any decision to a novel-long debate. It's reminding myself that possibility doesn't need a permission slip. 

"I dwell in Possibility - 
A fairer House than Prose."
- Emily Dickinson   

As I said at the start, I will always love prose, but possibility is where you set yourself free. The place where you can just be, No ifs, buts, whys or wherefore are thous... and now I'm quoting Shakespare, because the literature student is determined to stick around somehow! That being said, perhaps there's something to learn from our friend Juliet. Asking "wherefore art thou Romeo" is a good example of language getting the upper hand. Of words trying to wrap themselves around us and prevent us from walking; from living. 

Just because. Full stop. No more analysis needed.

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