be your own valentineAre you utterly nonplussed by the consumerist slushfest that is Valentine’s Day? Rachel is too. She thinks that mums should secretly reclaim February 14th as an annual reminder to give ourselves some much deserved love and attention. Here she is with a bit of #mumspiration: 10 ways to be your own Valentine…

Do you love yourself? I don’t mean ‘are you full of yourself‘? Rather, I am asking you: ‘do you take care of your own needs, much as you would a lover or a child’s‘? As mums we are very good at looking after others, often putting our own needs, both small and big, to one side. I have a radical idea. Why don’t we treat Valentine’s Day as a date in the diary to not just give our other halves a little romance, but also as an annual reminder to love ourselves a bit more too?

I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. I’m not against the odd outbreak of romantic efforts – steak and chips cooked by the other half, or a homemade card is lovely; heck, I’d weep if I got a bouquet of gorgeous flowers. No, being romantic is fine; I just think most mums probably are crying out for a bit of self-love, that’s all. After all, as Whitney quite rightly said, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all…” Ain’t that the truth.

When we love ourselves, we are better mums, kinder lovers, more caring friends.

Here are 10 ways to love ourselves. Let’s start with chocolate, it’s as good a place as any…

1. Make a REAL hot chocolate for yourself

Chocolate is proven to have mood-lifting properties. It’s a SCIENCE FACT, ladies. A real, proper, homemade hot chocolate is a gift to yourself. And it is so easy, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered to buy the powdered stuff. Take a mugful of milk (ideally whole), warmed in a pan. Grate about 30g of good quality, dark chocolate right into it. (If you are going to do this regularly why not blitz two bars in a food processor so it’s ready when you are?) Whisk until hot but not boiling. Add alcohol if desired (rum is good). I top with mini marshmallows, then squirty cream (a guilty pleasure; I’m pure trash), as well as sprinkles for cheerfulness!

2. Re-engage with an old hobby 

Did you used to love painting, or sing in a choir? Do you consider yourself too busy to have a hobby? Me too. That’s why I have decided to take up an old hobby that was a great creative outlet and also had a meditative effect: knitting! Hey, it’s not just for pregnant ladies! What old hobby could you fall back in love with? Why not think about spending an hour on Saturday doing that hobby, or take a step towards getting back into it?

2. Buy yourself a gift 

Not a functional, prioritise-the-cash-we-have type of thing, but something that you will feel happy about every time you wear, see it, use it. Knickers are a good one. I’m talking about comfortable but beautiful knickers that you love wearing. Recently I discovered Fat Face undies – so pretty! Order flowers, a really pretty bouquet that you might send a best friend. Perfume is an excellent choice of gift to self and will give you lots of instances of joy for the price you pay. Go out on Saturday (or do it online) and treat yourself.

3. Recognise your own beauty and brilliance 

In those reflective moments at the beginning and end of the day, when getting ready in the morning or going to bed, take a mo’ to recognise what you did well that day, or what you like about yourself in that moment. Give yourself some Goddamn credit for those things, OUT LOUD! Actually say it to yourself: “My skin is looking glowy today!”; “It was good of me today to stop and help that old guy on the bus!”; “I really deserve that promotion, I’ve been working so hard!” Yes, your children or partner may think you’ve lost it. But that just adds to the mood lifting effect. It’s so fun acting all bat shit crazy.

4. Make yourself your favourite dinner – or even better, get your favourite takeaway

Either go shopping for all the things required to make your fave dinner. Or get your favourite takeaway menu and choose all the things you love. Do I have to point out that the idea here is that this is to be enjoyed on a night in, alone (not one for Saturday, but the next time he’s away)? It would be a bit odd to do this whilst he sits next to you with a cheese sandwich.

5. Luxuriate in a bath 

I’m a great believer (though I don’t do it often enough) in the restorative powers of a long, hot bath. Just a simple, quiet bath alone can work wonders (there’s no need to splash any cash). Even better, lavish yourself with a facemask, then exfoliate all over, and when you’re out, smother on lashings of body cream. This little ritual of self-love will make you feel great and the very act of doing them will take your mind away from any worries you have, if only for ten minutes. If you feel like a real treat then nip to Boots and spend £20 on a few new bits and bobs. My favourite range is the Champneys one.

6. Book yourself a whole day of me-time

So the idea for this post came to me as I was invited to this retreat, which is actually on Valentine’s Day – how selfish of me! It’s all about mindfulness, relaxation and wholesomeness. Sounds amazing and I cannot wait. Find something like this to book onto – maybe a yoga workshop or a day spa. If that’s not your type of thing, how about a cookery course, or a photography workshop? Either go alone (I am) or with friends. Take time out to really treat yourself. Find something you fancy and get it booked.

7. Stop stressing and smell the roses

We live once. ONCE! It’s not all about achieving / working / striving. (I am SO speaking to myself right now). You know that old lady who told you that these are the best years of your life, just as your youngest decided to meltdown and take a bite out of her brother’s arm? Well, she was right. When you feel like you may lose it, force yourself to take a deep breath, get some perspective and take a step back. A great breathing trick I read about is the 4-7-8. Breathe in for 4 seconds. Hold breath for 7 seconds. Release breath slowly over 8 seconds. I’ve been doing this in bed to unwind and also when I feel anxious or stressed. It’s great, try it.

8. Organise for someone else look after the kids

Could you organise a relative or friend to look after the kids the weekend after next perhaps? Why not try and swap a night with another mum so you can go out with your partner (or, if you’re single, go out with some friends). There IS someone who could take them, if not all of them then one of them? (If you’re single and you’re really struggling why not try and meet other single parents via the charity Gingerbread – they have local networks you could join.) The first step to getting help is asking for it. When you do get a few hours off, go and have a walk, watch a movie, get a little tipsy with a friend – whatever. Just get some no-kids time in your diary.

9. Listen to your body

My mum used to say this to me all the time – and I completely ignored her for years. I forced myself to go out when I was exhausted; I worked too hard when I should of rested; I turned down suggestions to go back to bed whilst someone else took the kids. Not any more. You should listen to your body – when it says sleep, sleep; when it needs cake, give it cake! Put yourself first and you’ll find life a while lot easier. You would never want your child to push themselves to breaking point so don’t do it to yourself.

10. Lighten your load

What could you drop that would free you up a bit more? Nothing? Well, why not ask for help in the areas you feel take up your most precious time? Can you afford a cleaner? Get one! What about asking someone to take some of your workload? Don’t be a perfectionist, delegate more! There are only so many hours in the day. Spend them wisely.

They are just some of my little ideas. Please feel free to suggest some more below. I’d love to hear about the ways you stroke your own soul! Whilst you ponder your own ideas to contribute, why not press play on Whitney below and just take a few minutes to breeeeeathe? Happy Valentine’s everyone!

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