Acts of Radical Self-Care

Ah, Gentle Readers. Welcome back. 2022 looks a bit grim, doesn’t it?

January has flown past, and despite having had several post ideas, all of them are currently languishing in Drafts. My apologies. But also not my apologies – I challenge you to find a single person who produced something funny or inspiring during a January.

I am now back to the Day Job, and the days of lolling about, enjoying the finest offerings of Netflix, iPlayer and Disney+ are now over. [weeps in working girl] We are once again working from home, whilst we wait for Omicron to calm its tits and stop being all infectious.

Several people have said to me recently, in confessional tones as though it’s a terrible secret, “I really am fed up of this pandemic now.” No kidding. It’s been two years of exhausting terror, being led around by a porkpie filling disguised as a Prime Minister, and not knowing whether we’re allowed to meet indoors, outdoors, at work, with cheese, without cheese, with masks, without masks or whether I will remain 2 metres away from other people for the rest of my life.

It’s been horribly horribly stressful since March 2020 when we heard about this little virus that might be a bit virulent, and could we all go home from work for a couple of weeks, to stem the spread? TWO YEARS LATER and we’re still working from home more often than not, still masking up, still spraying people with hand sanitizer the moment they walk through the door, still bleaching everything and still refusing to sit in a room with a closed window and any other people.

Which is why, when I heard someone challenge the idea of self-care the other day, I baulked a little bit.

Self-care is all that has helped us through this blasted global pancetta! The moments for me, amidst all the other chaos and horrors, the moments when I’ve indulged myself and taken care to paint my nails, or do a face mask, or snuggle under a warm blanket (I’ve actually taken to wearing one round the house, like a cape), they have been sweet little spots of bliss in an otherwise hostile world.

But the challenge to the concept of self-care stayed with me.

The argument was that “self-care” – the bubble baths, the ‘me time’, the glass of wine, the indulgent treats – wasn’t “self-care” so much as “self-soothing”. It wasn’t designed to make me more resilient, just to make me put up with the nonsense for longer. It was designed to quiet me down, and make me compliant, and keep me from personal growth. It was the dummies and rusks and snuggles of childhood writ large into adult versions.

REAL self-care, this person argued, should include concepts like “tackling your debt problem”, and “setting yourself boundaries” and [gulp] “taking proper care of your health”.

And this concept has stayed with me. I keep thinking about it – I come back to it as I make my tea and toast at breakfast time. When I make my seventh cup of tea in the afternoon, I’m still thinking about it. What if, what if, she has a point? What if, I’m just soothing myself, and not growing?

Three years ago, I completed a debt management plan, and now I have a credit card again that needs paying off. I’m doing better with my money, of course, but I’m still not getting it right. And when I’m not getting it right, I’m getting it wrong, and that causes a perfectionist anxiety-ridden freak like me to…well, anxiety freak. And now I can’t stop wondering if self-care shouldn’t be so soft. So fluffy. So gentle.

This concept of radical, challenging “self-care” stayed with me through January, and although I don’t “do” resolutions, I determined to find at least one new thing to do that scared me, but would improve my life. And by the time I’d finished the list…ooooh boy. There were a few to tackle.

The first thing, Gentle Readers, is savings. I struggle with saving money so badly. I struggle with the concept and the execution. I struggle with the lack of imminent reward. (There is a reason for that – look to the next post for an explanation!)

I follow @My Frugal Year on Instagram, and if you don’t, you should. Like me, she struggled with debt, and like me, worked hard to pay it off (she did it alone, and it was much, much more than mine). So when she promoted Chip savings in early January, I was suspicious but curious.

Chip is an AI savings app on your phone, that accesses your bank, skims your transactions and works out how much you can save every four days or so. It takes account of upcoming payments, historical spend and other bank-related things before offering you the option to save as much or as little as you like. Once you’ve said YES, Chip whips the money out of your current account and into a savings account with a small interest rate, where, and this is the gamechanger for me, you can assign the money to a specific goal.

And here’s where Chip has made saving appealing to me. Within the app, you create the goal, and put a picture on it, and the app calculates how long it will take you to reach that goal. So when I put a picture of a new dress for my friend’s wedding, estimated the prices, and set myself a deadline (for a month before the event), the app worked it out and told me, “If you stick with this rate of saving, you’ll reach that goal on 13th July 2022.” Which is actually two whole months before the event. DOUBLE WIN.

Anyway, all this to say that somehow, in a month, I’ve managed to save £109, and since I can’t figure out how to get the money back out of the app, that’s £109 of actual savings I’ve made. Which is a VAST IMPROVEMENT from last January, when I had £25 in a savings account and I had to take it out to buy food. SO. All I’m saying is Chip might be magic.

If anyone wants to try it, by the way, I have a referral code, and if you sign up, deposit £1 minimum and leave it there for a month, we both get £10. FREE MONEY. #mykindasavings

Anyway, my radical self-care this month has been fiscal responsibility, which means I’ve been bloody childish in some other areas of my life. Look out for fiscal irresponsibility next month, when I go mental and purchase a yacht in the return swing of this blast of adulting.

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