The Self-Care Project by Jayne Hardy, the Founder and CEO of the Blurt Foundation, describes itself as a book on “how to let go of frazzled and make time for you”. If I’m honest, I’m not sure that I had this mastered by the end of the book. But I think if Hardy was reading this then she would encourage me to be kinder to myself. Why the need for mastery? Why not celebrate taking the time to think about self-care?
This is a strength of The Self-Care Project. It is gentle, realistic and warm in tone. Appropriately named, this is about engaging in a project rather than simply implementing an off-the-shelf plan. I sometimes found myself craving something a bit more systematically instructional. However, as Hardy reminds the reader, self-care doesn’t really work when it is based on a “should” mentality. It is most effective when it develops organically and is tailored specifically to you, your needs and how those needs might be best met given the unique circumstances of your life.
To this end, there are a number of exercises scattered throughout the book. These help the reader think about their own self-care. And in spite of what I have said about sometimes craving more systematic instruction, you will find lots of ideas that you can assimilate into your own self-care routines too. For example, the chapter on Emergency Self-Care includes how to create the ultimate comfort retreat.
If you are already used to thinking about self-care then some of these ideas may feel familiar. But it never harms to be reminded of the basic building blocks that might form the backbone of our self-care routines. And, in amongst that which is known, you will perhaps discover something that is new. I found the chapters on how to break down self-care into smaller steps and forming a self-care squad particularly thought-provoking.
Of course, when we feel at our lowest, the oft-repeated tenets of self-care may feel to fall woefully short of the mark. Life, and ill-health, can be complex. In its simplicity, self-care can seem an inadequate response. Perhaps we crave the care of others over the care of ourselves. Perhaps we feel so sad that we cannot even entertain the hope that things could be different. Sometimes even the simplest form of self-care can feel too difficult to implement when a lack of motivation and hope strikes. We might read the list of things we can do in an emergency and dismiss them. We have done them before perhaps or cannot believe that a blanket could really be an adequate response to the depth of our pain.
I think Hardy knows about this place. My favourite section of the book is the first chapter. This includes a different type of a list. Here Hardy outlines the ways in which she has, at various points throughout her life, been unsuccessful in her self-care. This refreshingly honest account allows the reader to consider, with a similar fearlessness, where their own self-care may be lacking. And it opens up the possibility that even with complex, imperfect lives, we too could begin to foster the unapologetic, uncompromising and hopeful approach to self-care that Hardy promotes. To integrate self-care into our lives as a non-negotiable priority. To begin to feel the trust that Hardy clearly feels in the idea that this self-care stuff can make a difference.
Whilst I cannot attribute any changes in my own self-care routine solely to readingThe Self-Care Project, I am doing some things differently since starting to read it and I am feeling better as a result. And that is what I will take away from this book. That even as self-care sometimes fails us, and we sometimes fail at self-care, it is worth working on this particular project.