Self-care Interview with Alia Thomas
"I think sometimes self-care is seen as a hippydippy notion that has just become a trend now. Yes, we have seen a lot more talk about it over the past year and a half, but for good reason - we've all been going through a pandemic and mental health crisis."
Alia runs a blog, called Living In The Rain - a mental health and wellbeing blog that she started last year in the midst of the pandemic whilst on furlough. She started her blog as a form of therapy for herself, and a way to be more open about her experiences with mental health struggles, primarily anxiety and grief, in the hope to also help others.
Since starting her blog and Instagram Alia has become part of a wonderful community of like-minded people that has opened her eyes to how many others feel similarly to herself, and that in itself has helped Alia with her healing journey, and feeling less alone on it. She has learnt so much about herself over the last year and half, and self-care is a big part of her life now, when it didn't always used to be.
What does self-care mean to you?
Self-care is an opportunity to focus purely on yourself. A time to take as little as a few minutes, to half an hour or an hour, perhaps even a day or weekend, to just focus on you; on something that makes you feel good, or at the very least, better. It's a hugely important part of life, to keep our mental and physical health in order.
Has your perception of self-care changed, particularly with the events of last year?
It has! I have to admit, before this year, the notion of self-care as I now see it wasn't a major thing for me. I saw a lot about it on social media but didn't really get sold into it. However, I think we can all agree that this year has changed our ways of thinking and living, even if just by a little bit. Well, I've essentially done a 180 on it.
Over the past year I've got heavily into the practice of daily gratitude, and this has also made me realise that little things that give me a bit of joy. For example, going for walks, listening to podcasts, painting my nails, enjoying a good soak in the bath! Yoga has been something that I've got into in the last couple of years, but I've practiced it a lot more regularly since the pandemic hit. I was on furlough for 2 months last year, and that was a massive game changer for me. It made me realise truly what made me happy and feel good.
What are some of the misconceptions around self-care?
I think sometimes self-care is seen as a hippydippy notion that has just become a trend now. Yes, we have seen a lot more talk about it over the past year and a half, but for good reason - we've all been going through a pandemic and mental health crisis. Self-care doesn't have to be anything major. It can be as small as painting your nails or cuddling your pet, to as large as spending money on a spa day or taking yourself away for a week or the weekend.
I think self-care is also seen mainly as something for women, but that is 100% wrong. Men will have their own self-care activities that they may not call self-care, but essentially they are.
For example, my boyfriend loves playing the guitar and he often spends time at the weekend playing on his own, learning a song or just making up his own tunes. That's his time for himself or with a friend, but even that can be self-care - there's no reason why you have to be alone to care for yourself. Same for him working out during the week. Everyone has something that will be their go-to thing to make themselves feel better, or take them into their own little world.
I suppose self-care can been seen as selfish also, as you're taking time specifically for yourself. However, I don't think that could be further from the truth. They say to help other people, you have to help yourself first, so why would it be selfish to do this? Self-care helps you be the person you like being - happy, content, energised, etc... It also helps you be the person that your friend needs in their time of need.
What are some of your favourite self-caring activities/self-care routine or affirmations?
I have a few... I love a bit of yoga. It's a major part of my self-care routine, although, I can't say I'm brilliant at sticking to it daily, but I do my best. The breathwork that goes with it is something I love too. Deep breathing in general can be so cleansing.
Another of my favourite activities at the weekend is to have a good soak in the bath. Having that hour to myself, just relaxing in the warm water, perhaps listening to a podcast or music, is incredibly soothing and a way to re-energise but relax at the same time, if that makes sense? A few other self-care activities that I enjoy are going for walks, cooking myself some good food, and indulging in a bit of skincare - a facemask does nicely once in a while.
One of my favourite affirmations, that I actually shared this week on my Instagram, is "I will give myself permission to do what's right for me", which actually is quite fitting for this I feel.
How do you make sure you’re regularly prioritising self-care?
I have to admit I'm still working on this, but I've recently started to try and ensure I make more time for myself. One easy way for me to do this is to use the time that my boyfriend is out, to make time for myself, so every Wednesday he's out for the evening and I will enjoy an evening at home to myself.
I don't necessarily force myself to do something overtly to do with self-care. I more so go with the flow, but this is time that I can essentially do what I want for myself. Most of the time it's watching a film or series of my choice that I know he won't like, and cooking myself something nice for dinner. Other times, it could be doing a bit of blogging, or relaxing with a facemask.
At the weekend I like to try and go for a walk or two, and treat myself to a good long soak in the bath. During the week I get up first for work. I get up earlier than I have to in order to try and fit in either a bit of yoga or meditation before breakfast. I always find that this is a great way to start the day, and it could be as little as 5 mins, and maximum 15, so this is something that can be easy to fit into your day when you don't have a lot of time.
Why is it so important to keep going even when you’re feeling better in yourself?
I have recently felt the effects of not keeping up proper self-care, and I'm trying to get back into it in order to help myself again. It's SO important to keep going with these things even when you're feeling better in yourself, because they make you feel good!
Last year I did brilliantly at doing yoga on an almost daily basis - at least every weekday morning - but in the last couple of months I've really slacked on that, and I can feel it... Not only that but I've not been going for so many walks, not been listening to so many podcasts, not been reading so much, not baking, and generally not making the time for myself to enjoy doing the things that make me feel good, that I enjoy.
The problem is then, I feel unmotivated to do them. I tell myself that I don't have enough time or that other things should take priority or that it's too much effort, but really I know that my happiness and mental health should take priority and the effort really isn't very big at all. So why do we stop doing the things we enjoy? It's a weird one.
All I can say is that even when you're feeling better, keep doing those things that helped make you feel better, because they will essentially be the small things that make you happy, that you can always fall back on. They will give you the precious time to yourself that is necessary for you to re-energise, to think, to be you.