14 February 2018 · posted in self-care
Start with yourself
Every year when Valentine's Day is coming up, wherever you go, red and pink heart decorations are thrown in your face. On the day itself, men are expected to buy roses or jewellery for their ladies, dinner reservations are all sold out (at least the ones where you don't sit only 20cm away from the next table) and all grandparents have a random Kuschelrock vinyl on repeat. But since the saying goes "You can't love anyone truly until you love yourself" I really wanted to focus on me this Valentine's Day to kickstart some healthy self-love and self-care traditions and rituals. Although I'm well into my twenties - only a few more years before I turn 30! - I still haven't gotten into a solid self-care routine and it's usually also the first thing that goes when I'm under pressure. Lately, I've realised though that exactly at those times when self-care is easily forgotten about, it's the one thing that makes me feel much better in my skin so today I've rounded up the ways I am making self-love and self-care a priority for myself. Interested? Let's kickstart our self-love and self-care routine together!
I am guilty of many years of not taking off my makeup before I went to sleep and I know that in skin care world that is one of the worst possible crimes. I'm also guilty of never properly washing my face. Or using a scrub. Or day cream. I put on makeup in the morning and I quickly removed leftover mascara in the morning before putting on new makeup. For years. Maybe an occasional face wash in the shower. So a change in skin care has been long overdue.
These last few months, on top of the usual winter dryness, I've been struggling with keeping my skin clear. Especially my forehead has been fighting a losing battle with some of the worst acne I've had in my life. Although emotionally, getting acne in your late twenties is different from getting acne in your teens (it doesn't feel like the end of the world or the reason you will never be loved), it's still pretty upsetting to see bumps and zits all over when looking in the mirror because it just isn't that attractive (and did I mention painful?).
While I'm hoping my hormones and skin will regulate themselves in the near future, I've started looking after my skin much better than I did before. I've been using natural oils to remove my makeup, a gentle face wash for sensitive skin, and Freeman's Charcoal + Black Sugar Polishing Scrub Mask and Freeman's Anti-Stress Clay Mask a few times a week for cleaner and clearer skin. It smells amazingly relaxing, it's very calming for my skin and it makes me feel really soft, smooth and fresh. I've recently ordered Tea Tree Essential Oil, Witch Hazel and Activated Charcoal Powder to help clear up my skin naturally and I'm really excited about it. I'm also looking into more natural, chemical-free moisturizers so if you have any must-have skin care product recommendations, please share in the comments below.
For now, even though my acne hasn't improved a whole lot since starting my skin-care routines, I'm trying to steer clear of any anti-acne systems as I know the chemicals in them are very hard on your overall skin and (hopefully) this acne struggle is just a temporary thing.
After many years of being unkind to my body, I think it's about time to give my body credit for all the amazing things it does for me. It might not look exactly the way I want it, it might not be completely healthy at times and it might not be as fit and strong as it could be, but my body has made it possible for me to do all the amazing thing I've done in my life so far. Hiking in Austria, skiing in Austria, France and since this week Switzerland (photos coming soon, promise!), swimming with turtles in Curaçao, bungee jumping in Croatia, ... All of these experiences wouldn't be possible without my wonderful body.
So as a part of these new self-love and self-care routines, I'm focusing on treating my body with more respect. Trying to eat healthier. Trying to exercise a bit more. But also listening to the signals it sends me when it's hurting or tired. Or when it has had enough food or when it is thirsty. I'm trying to find a balance between changing my body for the better, when I know my body is capable of it, and accepting and loving my body exactly the way it is. So far, it hasn't been easy, flipping the switch, after so many years of shaming my body for doing what it's designed to do when it was me who had lost track of how to be healthy but slowly I can feel my focus shifting to being healthy and feeling good rather than just wanting to look good. Step by step, I'm teaching myself to accept to process and see beauty in every step of the way.
We all have those days that we're too busy, too hurried and too stressed that we start living on autopilot. When on autopilot, feeling pressured for time, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one to skip showering in the morning in favour of a quick washcloth scrub at the sink, every day of the week. I'm also pretty sure I'm not the only one to put on the same clothes for one too many days despite their questionable maybe-needs-washing? smell because I just can't deal with finding another outfit. Nothing an extra spritz of deodorant won't fix.
Or so I thought. Lately, I've noticed that after a few too many days of living on autopilot, that unclean feeling drags me down even more than the original stress that caused me to go into autopilot mode so I'm really trying to make cleanliness a priority. Feeling (un)clean is not just something that affects my stress level, it's also a big part of my confidence and let's just admit: feeling unclean is one thing but actually being unclean is just disgusting. But since we're all human, I know we've all been there, done that and wore the same shirt for a week.
So I'm working on taking baths more often, especially when I'm feeling stressed and pressured for time. I'm also working on laying out clean and fitting outfits to wear to work the day before. I'm working on getting and keeping on top of laundry and ironing (baby steps ...). I'm also planning a thorough wardrobe clean-out soon, so it will be much easier to navigate what I can and want to wear.
I've always had quite thin and not a lot of hair but six or seven months ago it started falling out even more than usual. It got to a point where I couldn't hide my thinning hair and my visible scalp even when I put my hair up in a bun. Even when using Batiste Dark & Deep Brown Brunette dry shampoo, I felt really exposed and unattractive so I went looking for a solution. After a bit of research and discovering there wasn't really a lot I could do, I made the decision to start wearing hair. Just a little extra on the top, a clip in hair piece and the first few months it really made me feel so much better. For the first time, I didn't have to worry about people noticing my thinning spots and my visible scalp and I could suddenly pull off up-do's I was never able to do before. Many people noticed a difference somehow and complimented me on my hair - did I get it coloured? I felt good, but at the same time, I was terrified my friends or colleagues would notice I was wearing hair as it really wasn't something I wanted to share.
After the first few months, I started noticing my own hair being pulled out by the clips of the hairpiece, leaving me with balding spots, and I knew I had to stop wearing the hairpiece. I also realised that emotionally, trying to hide the status of my hair from everyone was starting to take a toll on me. Because it was always hidden underneath the clip in hair piece and up in a bun, and never really cared for anymore, my natural hair was starting to look more and more like straw. I knew I needed a drastic change in hairstyle to save my natural hair and to be able to transition to not wearing the hairpiece without questions so last week I decided to finally get the much-feared chop.
So right now, my hair is the shortest it's ever been in my life (kind of pixie style in the back, mixed with a medium bob in the front), and although it's not a style I'd choose myself, I know it's the best thing I've done for my hair in a long time and it feels good. Since then, I've been using Aveda's Invati system for thinning hair and so far I've been loving it. Especially the Scalp Revitalizer spray feels amazing. It has a fresh, minty smell and it creates a pleasant tingly feeling on my scalp like I can feel it activating my hair to grow. I did notice it dries out my hair quite a bit so I might rotate with moisturizing and softening products in the future - Redken All Soft? I have also recently bought Witch Hazel to try and soothe scalp irritations and help my hair get it's natural moisture back. Thinning hair sadly runs in the family and my mum is a big fan of the Nioxin system for thinning hair so maybe in a few months, I'll give that go as well.
On most days, now that my hair is short(er) and back to it's natural thinning state, I'm still using Batiste Dark & Deep Brown Brunette dry shampoo as I was before to cover up my (again visible) scalp, but I'm hoping to try (and if I like it switch to) Super Million Hair soon. I think that hair fibres that stick to my own hair will give me a more natural full look than spraying my scalp brown and I hope it will give my scalp some much-needed rest from irritations so the Invati system can do its work. I also have an appointment for an actual hair analysis (including microscopes and all that) soon, so I'm hoping to get more answers to my questions of how to improve the condition of my hair.
It took quite a bit of courage sharing this on here but I felt that now that I've decided to try and make the best of what I have, I needed to get it all off my chest somehow, and what better way to hide it inside a big self-love post, focusing on the positive side. Maybe once I'm brave enough, either on the other side of hair loss or on the other side of accepting my hair as it is, I'll share it more openly so I can help or inspire others that are struggling with hair too with more details on what worked and what didn't. If you know me in real life, please know that me being open in writing on here doesn't mean I'm ready to talk about it with you. This heightened vulnerability and somehow lost femininity is something I have to deal with on my own.
Let me just start by saying: I don't sleep enough, so I'm trying to start some bedtime routines that will hopefully help me to sleep more and better but it's been one of the tougher ones so far. My Fitbit Alta HR has the option to set a bedtime notification so I've set up mine to give me a soft buzz reminder at 9.30pm to start winding down for bed. That way I know it's time to put away all my screens, start my skincare routine and hopefully be ready for bed by 10pm. So far though, I've ignored it more often than I'd like to admit and putting away all screens at least half an hour before is much more difficult than I thought it would be. (Quick 5min-turned-into-1hour scroll through Twitter before hitting the pillow?) I'm also working on washing our bedsheets more often as there really is nothing better than the feeling of a fresh clean bed. I'm looking for some sleep improving essential oils or sprays to put on your pillow for an extra luxurious night sleep and a more holistic way to wake up for work (maybe a light alarm?) so I can actually leave my phone in the living room, far away from my pillow, at night. If you have any recommendations for sleep scents or more natural ways to wake up, please let me know in the comments!
I think all personal struggles start and end with self-criticism. Although it is something that can, in some cases, be useful to make personal changes and become a better person, more often than not self-criticism is unnecessary, unrealistic and just plain mean. You're too fat. Your calves and thighs are too big. You're not a good enough blogger. You will never be able to start your own business. These are just a few of the unkind thoughts I hear myself thinking quite often lately. And quite frankly, I'm sick of being my own worst enemy. So I started wondering. What would happen if I started treating myself as if I would my daughter? I don't have children, but if I had a daughter I would tell her she's beautiful no matter what, I'd tell her she could do anything she puts her mind to, I'd tell her she's unique and valuable and loved. So, what would happen if I told myself all of those things instead of being a bully in my mind? At first, nothing. I didn't quite believe myself (yet). But after a little while, thinking kind thoughts came more natural and I started to believe in them a bit more. That little devil bully is still there on some days, but I'm really starting to notice myself becoming calmer and more relaxed and accepting of who I am because of the kindness I'm showing myself. I'm curious to see how this one simple way of thinking will change my outlook on myself and life.
To all my beautiful readers, I want to wish you an amazing Valentine's Day. I am beyond thankful for your encouraging comments and your everlasting kindness, especially on the more open and vulnerable posts. Sometimes it's really hard to open up, but time and time again you all show me that this space is safe for me (and you) to share painful struggles as well as happy inspirational moments and that this space is safe to connect with, help and inspire each other. So all I can say is thank you for always being there with kind words when I need it most.
Let's continue keeping it real.