This year has been hard, sad, glorious, weird. After my dear infuriating, delightful bright burning light of a Dad died in January, the world changed.

I didn’t notice at first; that glorious cacoon of ‘denial’ kept me safe. I organised the funeral and gardened, created (with the help of my awesome architect husband) the massage studio of my dreams and started my business as a Holistic Massage Therapist. I worked with lovely clients, undertook advanced training, went on holiday, partied, worked, ferried kids around, walked the dog, cooked dinners, cleared and redecorated his flat, drove up and down to London. I was busy achieving my dreams and I was curiously fine with the odd moment of collapse.

But then things started to go wrong. My tummy was permanently bloated, my skin was GREY, my hair was greasy and frizzy and dry and I was TIRED. I started feeling afraid but I didn’t know what I was afraid of.

But on and on I went, more trips away, cleaning and cooking and working and planning and doing it over and over and over and over.

Until suddenly I found myself CRAVING to be looked after. Yearning for it.

I wanted to go to bed for a week and not get up. I wanted an earth mother to light fires and candles and plump my cushions and cook me nourishing familiar foods that I received silently and ate greedily before returning to bed without washing my dishes. I wanted to look out of the window and see the misty tangerine-hued winter sun diffused through bruises of clouds and the skeletal fingers of twigs clack clacking in the wind and not go out to bathe in it but instead pull the covers over my head and listen to the afternoon play.

I started to look for this wonderful place. And found it. I found a cosy country house hotel which accepted dogs. It wasn’t mind blowingly expensive. A christmas present! It could be done! And as I salivated over the pictures of clean empty bedrooms a voice in my head told me that if I really wanted to be looked after the way I needed to be looked after I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO DO IT MYSELF.

So I did. I took the advice I give to all my clients, friends, family and took my own medicine. I ‘curated’ all the things I know do me good and make my heart sing into a veritable masterpiece of self care. And it’s worked. I’m happier, more productive, more creative and motivated. I’ve gained energy, soothed my skin, banished paranoia, resolved my bloat… I cant actually believe how easy it was.

Here’s my recipe. Yours will be different because you are a different person.

Probiotics: Oh. YAWN. I know. But I’ve been interested in the microbiome ever since I read Giulia Enders book ‘Gut’ and found out that it is our second brain, responsible for so much we don’t even know about; our weight, energy, mental health, intelligence. Add in a bloated tummy and I’m basically obsessed. I want to make sure my gut is full of wonderful positive life enhancing bacteria. The trouble is, I just can’t help feeling sceptical about pills and powders. But then I started getting all these ads on my facebook feed about a place, just up the road called The Chuckling Goat that makes traditional Russian fresh goats milk kefir that is packed to the gunnels with live probiotic bacteria. I’d ignored it for ages but when I started curating my self care I bit the bullet and ordered a repeat subscription. Just looking at this thick, bubbling glass of something so manifestly ALIVE that sits between milk, yogurt and cheese makes me feel better. Its not even 7.30am and I’ve already done something amazing for myself.

Food: Yes. The best bit. The last few years I’ve been vegan, wholefoody, veggie. I’ve done some fasting, I’ve done some diets. I’ve given up diets only to realise that having been on one most of my life I’m addicted to them. I got into healthy eating but it was kind of like a diet. All the energy was going OUT. So I decided to channel that Mrs Tiggywinkle earth mother I’d seen in my fantasy rest cure. What does my soul long for? And the answer was MEALS. I want big, hot, yummy sit down dinners; shepherds pie with apple crumble and custard and a glass of red wine. I want to get hungry between these delicious fresh healthy traditional dinners with lots of fermented stuff (sourdough bread, cheese, pickles, yogurt, WINE, nothing too crazy). No snacking on goji berries or eating half a packet of corn cakes. No snacks. Just lovely lovely meals. My soul sings.

Smellies:  I raided my stores of gorgeous Neals Yard Organic products I sell to others and use in my facials and gave them to ME. Every morning I clean my face with calendula, apply orange blossom face oil and overlay it with rose moisturiser. I slather on honey and mandarin lotion and use a peppermint and lime deodorant. I leave the bathroom every morning feeling blissfully goddessy, glossy with gorgeous essential oils.

Exercise: No, not THAT…I walk the dog. No exercise dvd’s or downloads or running. They just aren’t me at the moment. I pootle about with the dog for one hour every day instead. Sometimes my body feels full of vim so I walk fast and find hills. Sometimes I’m sluggish and slow so I slump along, breathing and singing and thinking.

Massage: For ME. Once every two weeks. Booked in advance. No questions about whether I need it or not. I KNOW how good it is for you, so why did I stint on it? I couldn’t spare the time, the money the ‘luxury’. And me a massage therapist! But my body is what earns me my living. I need it to work perfectly, be strong and gentle and full of energy. And for that I need massage.

Letting Go of the Domestic Goddess Ideal: This is a hard one. Because as a woman I’ve somehow learned that a great deal of my worth is determined not only by how pretty I am but by how clean and lovely my house is. But as I concentrated on reducing my stress and increasing my joy I realised that constantly battling the dust ball while building a business and looking after kids and looking after ME just makes me a ball of nerves. My husband doesn’t spend his time worrying about how he will fit in cleaning the bath whilst doing a days work, putting the kids to bed and doing his projects. He doesn’t ask me to make myself miserable over it; I just do. But no more!

Sleep: I go to bed early! Proper early. I’m making my hot water bottle at 8.30 and by 9pm I’m in bed with my book and the light out at 10pm. Until recently I was trying to ignore the fact that I was woken at least twice in the night by one child or another and then woken again at 5.30am when the smallest one wants to get up. I was staying up late getting some stressful me-time in the way of social media and telly, going to bed around 10.30, reading for an hour and drifting off sometime around midnight. It suddenly dawned on me that the only way to get more sleep was to go to bed early. I cant actually think of anything that makes me feel as nurtured and self-caring than standing in the kitchen doing my hottie 2 minutes after the kids have gone to bed.

Stretching: ONE (you read it right)… ONE sun salutation every morning, the second I get out of bed, usually with kids climbing on my back, the dog under my feet; in my pajamas. I don’t have time to do a full yoga practice and it’s a choice between doing one sun salutation every day (seven a week!) or no sun salutations and a lot of grumpy guilt. Just this one minute every morning frees up my back and unfuzzes the myofascia that allows me to move freely. Yes.

Reaching Out: Grief makes you want to hide away I’ve learned. I found I was unconsciously avoiding people. I needed space and quiet in a busy world. But I have found I also need friends. A coffee, a lunch. Nothing major, just human contact with people who make me feel good and whom I care about.

Happy Self Care Week!