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Empowerment Insights

Transform your thinking and change your life with Empowerment Insights by Jenny Jarvis
Life Change Articles from Jenny Jarvis Coaching

Dry January - Self-Care?

It's not just about drinking.

I haven’t had an alcoholic drink since New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t a conscious decision to do Dry January, as lots of people do. It was just something we casually decided and when we were ill the first week anyway, we just kept going through the month.

I didn’t get to 31st January and have my drinks lined up; in fact, on the 1st February we had friends over who brought wine we didn’t even open.

For me, drinking isn’t a big deal. I maybe have a glass of something in the week, and probably not every week. If it’s a special occasion I might have a few more but often I will stick to 2 glasses of wine even then. When my daughters saw me drinking the odd glass on my own during lockdown 1 they came very concerned "mum, are you becoming an alcoholic?". They were so used to not seeing me drink, especially at home on my own. The fact that the bottle had lasted over a week didn't obviously feature for them, it just felt unusual.

I can honestly say, I feel absolutely no difference at all between “normal” and not having a drink.

But for many, Dry January is a time of self-care. It’s a month where people who drink perhaps more than they would like, put a stake in the ground and decide to spend 31 days completely free of alcohol. I have heard many say how great they felt, but the alcohol was all lined up for the first drink of the year as soon as it turned midnight.

Thinking about the self-care element of Dry January, I was also struck by the self-soothing element of drinking. We don’t hear so much about self-soothing, we hear about self-care all the time. It’s written about in so many wellbeing articles and we know we should practice self-care. But do you know about self-soothing and how the 2 are different?

What is Self-care?

Self-care is the thing we do to enhance ourselves for the long term. It’s the care we take to ensure we are the best we can be in body, mind and spirituality.

Self-care includes exercise, hobbies that help your soul, a balanced diet, drinking less alcohol (sometimes coffee, energy drinks and other addictive drinks), education and anything you can do on a day-to-day basis to maintain the happy, healthiest lifestyle you can.

During lockdown my main form of self-care was exercise (walking, pilates and Qigong), listening to podcasts and continuing my coaching diploma.

All of these things are going to help make my body strong and my mind stronger.

Self-care is easier to do when life is going well. It can be very hard to maintain when life is a bit wobbly. That’s when self-soothing comes in.

What is Self-soothing?

Self-soothing is the thing we do in the moment when life is falling around us to keep us safe and comfortable.

Self-soothing includes things like watching TV series, eating chocolate, having the glass of wine at the end of a bad day, having a duvet day, crying. These might sound all negative but when used in a limited way, they can be necessary for us to calm ourselves and bring back balance. The problem happens when we self-sooth constantly.

There are some great positive ways to self-sooth that include EFT (tapping), going for a run/walk, having a bath, meditating, reading.

This distinction has been important for me this last year, I know I have gone into self-sooth overdrive.

When life is a bit tricky, doing the self-care stuff can feel impossible. For me, I stopped going to all my classes because I decided I would walk instead; then I stopped walking.

I decided to have the biscuits I didn’t usually eat, just as a treat to feel better; then I was having 2 a day.

I allowed myself to sit and watch a tv program instead of listening to a podcast; that turned into a series.

I did a lot of deep breathing and giving myself a break; this was important.

I arranged coffee mornings with friends; this kept me balanced.

Many of these strategies were things I felt I needed in the moment to keep me sane, and I won’t beat myself up for the less healthy ones because in many ways they have been necessary. Now I have the choice whether I continue with self-soothing, or move to self-care.

Self-soothing Guilt

When we practice self-soothing, it often comes with heaps of guilt. We feel we should be doing something different. How many times have you sat on the couch beating yourself up for taking an hour off? Or spent the day reading and felt guilty for that?

Perhaps you have taken the afternoon off to have coffee with friends but have the nagging feeling you should have been cleaning the house, doing something for the kids or getting more work done?

When self-soothing comes with guilt, it is no longer beneficial. And often that guilt stops you taking the time out you need.

When you consciously self-sooth, the benefits are great. When you make a decision to sit and watch your favourite program for a while because you feel awful, or your kids have been driving you nuts so you get out for a walk; that's important!

The issues are when self-soothing takes over from self-care. How do we then get those good habits back?

Taking the first step to self-care

A few weeks ago, I went back to my pilates class after almost 6 months. I was terrified so I told my instructor that I was really worried about coming back. She gave me the kick up the arse I needed (as I expected), and I thoroughly enjoyed my session. I wasn’t as out of shape as I thought I was. Part of my self-care was telling someone who I knew would give me the extra push and support I needed to get to the class.

Quite often I have conflict on my pilates morning where something comes up. 2 weeks ago it was the fact my daughter missed the bus. The self-soothing part of me wanted to rescue her and drive her in, I knew this would mean I couldn’t practice self-care.

The reason this was self-soothing was because, in that moment, it would reduce my stress of worrying if she would be late and I would feel like I had rescued the situation. Long term though, I would miss out on my class, and she would continue to think she didn’t have to get to the bus on time and I would be there to make things better.

So, I gritted my teeth and went to pilates and let her sort herself out. I felt so much better for it.

The following week I had another conflict. Pilates or a coffee morning for parent mental health at school. Here I had 2 self-care options. I chose the coffee morning. It was a 1 off and I knew meeting other parents who may be struggling would benefit me long term. I was right.

How to help myself.

So when you are doing the things you do in your day, whether it’s exercise, learning, or sitting watching Netflix; ask yourself:

Am I self-soothing or self-caring?

Which is more appropriate for the situation?

Have I been self-soothing unconsciously for too long?

What could I do that would be positive, conscious self-soothing?

What self-care am I missing out on?

What are the benefits of my self-care?

If you have chosen to complete Dry January as an act of self-care, how can you ensure that continues, and you don’t go back to the self-soothing habits?

For me it was easy not to drink, but I’ve discovered it’s not so easy for me to continue my daily walking care routine. That’s where I need to put my focus.

Where do you want to put your focus?

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Jenny Jarvis is a practicing, certified, UK Life Change Coach and NLP Practitioner who has empowered numerous people to live a life of their dreams, unleash their relationship with money and start and grow brands and businesses to great success. A truly inspirational individual, Jenny is also the mum to two amazing teens, a Reiki Master and motivational speaker. She inspires all to harness their greatness through energised coaching sessions, workshops and courses.

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