Book review: Self-care for the real world

Posted on Jan 24 2018 - 9:43am by Claire Herbaux
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Dear Reader,

Welcome to my lunch break. Please don’t feel like you have been squeezed into my day, typing with one hand and eating with the other. Oh no, take it as a compliment as I have taken a lunch break for you. I can count on one hand the number of lunch breaks I have taken since I started this job almost a year ago, so this is my one step towards self care. I am leaving the office for a quick break when I can. Not every day, but when I can. And here we are on the topic of self care.

My one sentence review of the book is: Great ideas and a good reminder for life, but I certainly can only implement small things myself.

If you want to follow my journey through the book, do read on. And if you want to know why I am desperate to buy rice paper, read till the end.

I read it in three sittings. The first to get acclimated and see what all the fuss was about. Would it change my life?

I read about love (and food!). And I started realising this book was full of solid advice. No wonder people like it, because life seems wonderful when you follow it. But I did wonder how to implement it? It all seemed as though it was aimed at someone with flexible working hours. My days for the past six months have been about work and I could only squeeze in these changes with difficulty. I go to work at 8 (sometimes earlier depending on the commute), skip my lunch break (see above) finish half an hour late at least at 5.30, head to the gym where I enjoy swimming or classes because I love the people and it is also my social life, pop to the shop, make dinner and a packed lunch (I do insist on home made lunches) and then I am physically tired and do very little before bed and it all starts again.

Self care for social media

Where do I fit anything into this schedule, which doesn’t include trips away, extra hours, larger shopping trips, occasional meetings…

Onto part 2, which I read ill in bed (I hadn’t made it to the chapter “when you are ill”).

I was starting to feel good about myself, because I felt I knew a lot of this. Or at least I knew the theory, but we all need reminders. And there can never be too many reminders to work on our own happiness.

I was starting to imagine people like all of you reading (who will hopefully be joining us in the discussion on Friday!) having the same book next to your bed or on your coffee table as a little happiness bible.

And I was pleased to see I wasn’t told to quit my Netflix account. I had preservations about the book, thinking it would tell me to quit Netflix, stop watching my favourite French TV and other things I found unimaginable. But more on that later.

After a good rest and some more sleep, I sat down and read the rest of the book. I started understanding I may not have to do it ALL. Some small changes may be enough. I started looking, not at the things I couldn’t change (my current dream is a juicer to start my day right every morning, but my current living situation makes it quite impractical, so I keep buying fruit and packing it with my lunch), but at the things I could change.

And I did something else: Rather than just reading, I tried things out there and then. I didn’t sit down for yoga. My body was still aching from my illness and I was wrapped up in blankets. Instead I did every self-check as I reached the page.

That was the key to me understanding the message in the book (or at least the lesson I took from it) so I suggest you do the same.

Here is what I learnt: In my job, I will never be able to take time for walks during the day. I will also not become a yoga person, I have tried and tried again and while I can do the poses, I simply cannot get my mind to follow, but I found other ways.

But I did learn about my priorities, and about what actually relaxes me, what makes me happy, and what I feel I need in life. Some of it I knew, but I may not have been aware of it.

So I will keep Netflix and my French TV, because they make me happy and get my singing (and sometimes dancing) around the house and they help my morally because I feel the connection to being home and hearing French around me.

I will also keep working past my hours, because the satisfaction of a job well done will make me proud and happy with myself. It boosts my confidence, and we all need that.

But I also know when I am happiest and what truly makes me feel good and love life and I will do more of that and actually schedule it in more often.

And once in a while, I will take an actual lunch break, go home, and do the prep I would usually do in the evening, giving me at least one evening off a week.

Speaking of food, there was the story about rice paper!

Self care image

If you want a metaphor for the book, it’s the summer rolls. Recipes are dispersed randomly in the book. One caught my eye. One actually made me want to eat, to cook, to enjoy food and savour every bite: The summer rolls. They are very simple (I may even add more vegetables to mix it up) and I have certainly made similar rice paper rolls before, but just looking at them made my mouth water. I may even have had a dream about them while I was napping during my illness.

They represent my idea of the book: The idea is simple, and yet we don’t do it enough. We don’t do it, because we don’t remember and we don’t often have the time to make pretty little snacks. And after reading it I still won’t have a two course meal in my lunch box. But I will take the time to buy the ingredients (I am waiting to find a ripe avocado at the moment), prep everything and take my time making the rolls. And then I will savour every bite.

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