The end of term is always intense for working mums. I was juggling a full client list of women coming for their massages before the holidays, alongside endless assemblies and plays. My son is in his first term of secondary school and needs my attention; there is no time for anything else. I desperately need some quiet time and the wet washing was sitting in its basket for the third day. So guess what I end up prioritising? 

No prizes for guessing that the laundry gets the attention instead of my need for a moment of peace.

Was this kind to myself? No.

Could I have delegated this? Yes.

But I didn’t. 

This anecdote is so normal as to be almost unremarkable. For most of us, the needs of others - work, domestics, children, family etc. - are prioritised over their own. 

We also seem to experience a particular guilt in taking time for ourselves, there’s often talk about feeling bad about resting or doing pleasurable activities that nourish creativity. I hear it from my massage clients when they arrive too; a shadowy feeling that they ‘should’ be doing something for someone else. Naturally they generally leave feeling fantastic and greedy for more time to enjoy for themselves!

And yet if we don’t do the things that nourish us - good food, the right exercise and rest - we end up depleted and resentful, perhaps even ill. What sort of role model is this for our daughters? I don’t want my daughter to take on other peoples’ needs before her own, or to make herself ill from pushing herself beyond her limits.

Part of my work is running workshops for women to learn self-help massage and other skills for their hormonal health, so I know this stuff! Inside out! And yet it is still so hard to practice kindness everyday.

Our workshops are buzzing with ideas about how we can make time for ourselves to be kind. The daily massage we teach has a powerful affect on women’s lives but it truly challenges our beliefs about what we need and deserve.

This might be…

Time to reflect

Time to nourish

Time to heal

Time to breathe

But how do we create this time in our already stretched lives? This is an ongoing conversation I have with myself, my clients and in workshops. Here are the top ideas that come from our conversations with health experts and women who like us, want to honour our wellbeing as well as that of our families and communities.

- Set an intention: every morning, recall the 'why'. What is it that we will gain from meditating/going on a run/doing some yoga?

- Be realistic: setting a small chunk of time aside is likely to be more successful

- Commit to doing it: make a promise to yourself

- Tell others: share your plan with your friends and family – enlisting their support will help you carry through

- Create habits: associating a task with a positive habit, for example focusing on your breathing while the kettle boils, or dropping your shoulders when you check your emails.

- Stop! Pause for a moment climb out of the rat race to listen to your body

- Charting your cycle: noticing the emotions and feelings that repeat every month removes judgment and allows kindness

- Being present with your tasks: even while you’re hanging the laundry (I did eventually get round to it) it feels better when you’re fully present with the task 

- Saying no: this can really set you free. Tasks which do not light your fire can be delegated, re-scheduled or even (horror!) refused. Homeopath Deb Phethean recommends the use of saying no softly with, “On this occasion, I must say no”. Brilliant!

- Just 1%. Finally, remember it’s the small things that lead to big changes. Just 1% is enough.