Say hello to the lovely Jennifer Cockcroft for this week’s installment of my #SelfCareDiaries blog series. I just love Jennifer’s Instagram feed, it’s where I first discovered her. It’s a vibrant and positive space and I always love her colourful photos, plus her captions are so raw, open and full of insightful wisdom that often resonates with me.
Creativity is a form of self care and a way to express yourself to the world. I admire Jennifer’s passion to discover and define what creativity means to others through her coaching and guidance. She also has a fab Etsy shop where she sells her beautiful and colourful designs, so go take a look!
Take it away Jennifer…
What does self care mean to you?
I would say that it means everything involved in looking after myself, from exercise, nutrition, sleep, play, getting outdoors, skin care, to things to support myself on an emotional and spiritual level as well as my mental wellbeing.
Do you have any self care rituals/practices that really anchor your day?
Yes, absolutely, I have a few things in my morning routine that help me start the day in the right frame of body and mind, and I’ll try to be conscious throughout the day of taking breaks from work and screens, doing a few stretches to ease out any aches and pains, eating regular meals, and then winding down before bed by writing in my journal and reading a few pages of a book. I’d also include things like going swimming once a week and the regular rehearsals I attend with the choir I’m a member of in my self-care routine, as they get me out of the house, mixing with other people, challenging body and mind, and having fun!
What does your morning routine look like?
Well, firstly I try to get as close to eight hours sleep as I can manage every night, although I still need an alarm to wake me up in the mornings! I’m fortunate to work from home, so I don’t have to rush out to a stressful commute and can take my time to get going. I usually check in with Instagram while I lie in bed for a while – I know a lot of people say it’s a bad habit, but I mostly find it inspiring to see what my online friends have been up to and to share the beginning of a new day of possibilities with them. Then I’ll roll out my yoga mat on the floor and do anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes of movement to work out the kinks. Sometimes I’ll follow a yoga video from YouTube (Yoga with Adriene is my favourite) or make up a free routine myself depending on how I feel and where I ache the most! I carry a lot of tension and chronic pain in my neck and upper back, so getting these areas loosened up always helps. I’m working on building in a meditation habit to my mornings and find that after yoga is a good time to sit for maybe ten minutes or so and listen to a guided meditation or visualisation – I have a few favourites I use regularly, and the Insight Timer app is a great free resource. Then I’ll sit down at the table to eat breakfast, usually while reading a few pages of a magazine (I’m a subscriber to Psychologies, Breathe, and The Simple Things), before brushing my teeth and jumping in the shower, using a lovely body lotion all over, plus cleansing and moisturising my face, choosing a comfortable and colourful outfit to wear that makes me feel good, and then it’s down to work.
How do you make time for self care?
In terms of my morning routine, it was really just making a commitment to allowing myself that time to do what I need to do to feel good. I’ve never been the kind of person who can jump out of bed and run out the door in a few minutes, I know that I need space and time to settle into my body and get my brain in gear to face the day. Other than that, again, I think it’s about committing to looking after myself and being aware of what’s going on in my mind and body.
If I’m feeling frustrated or can’t concentrate, I know there’s no point trying to power through, but that a brisk walk around the block will probably clear the cobwebs. Weekly choir rehearsals and swimming sessions involve a financial commitment, which is always a useful motivator, and knowing my body’s limits in terms of physical exertion and learning to pace myself and rest when I need to. Building in easy habits, like having a glass of water on my desk and getting up to refill it regularly gives me a couple of minutes screen break, and remembering to stretch and move, and sit up straight helps me avoid ending up in too much pain by the end of the day.
During a challenging point in your life what key things got you through?
I’ve suffered from a couple of periods of depression during the last decade or so, compounded by a whole raft of circumstances and situations all happening at once, but I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with a wonderful counsellor who gave me the space to talk through a lot of the issues that were stressing me out, to come to terms with the things I couldn’t control, to understand myself better, and to cry bucketloads without judgement when I just needed to get it all out of my system. There’s a lot to be said for having a really good cry sometimes, even when you can’t really put into words what you’re feeling.
When I feel myself struggling now, I still prefer to talk things through with someone rather than let myself ruminate. I actually find it far more helpful than journaling as I have a tendency to just write myself round in circles and not get anywhere, whereas having someone to listen to me and gently guide me out of the mess is amazingly helpful, and I’m always so appreciative of their empathy and the sense of connection with another human being and our human experiences.
What’s in your self care toolkit? Which items bring you most comfort?
Many of the things I’ve already mentioned, like yoga, meditation, swimming, walking, singing, reading, sleep, talking to a friend. Plus things Iike choosing skin and body care products that I love and feel good, and often smell good too. Having fresh flowers in the house as often as possible, or spending a few minutes in the garden – getting out on the grass with bare feet is a beautifully simple but nourishing thing to do. Opening doors and windows for fresh air, drying clothes outdoors for that fresh scent and feel, and clean sheets on the bed. Drinking plenty of water, eating lots of fresh vegetables – home-grown ones during the summer are an absolute treat – and not denying myself sweet treats if I feel like having them (Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate is essential!). Doing something creative like knitting is one of my favourites too, I find it so therapeutic to sit and knit a few rows, feeling the softness of the yarn, and listening to the rhythmic click of the needles, and eventually creating something beautiful and wearable. Relaxing music, a good book, candles, and crystals, cuddles, self-massage, or when I can I book a lovely long massage at a spa for some totally luxurious self-care time. I’m sure there are loads more things I could add if I thought about it longer too!
What quote really resonates with you and why?
I’m not sure whether it’s an attributed quote or just an Instagram hashtag, but ‘self-care isn’t selfish’ is a really powerful one for me.
As a life-long people pleaser, I have definitely been guilty at times of neglecting myself in favour of looking after and doing everything for other people first. But it’s that cliché of putting your own oxygen mask on before you help your neighbour with theirs – unless you take care of your own needs first, you won’t have anything left to give others. Learning to feel more comfortable about saying no to things that will drain you is so important in my book, and letting go of the guilt too. It’s taken me a long time and lots of work and patience to get to a point where I don’t worry so much about not being available for things other people want me to do if it comes at the expense of my own time to fill up, or my health.
What are you currently working on? Anything that you would like to share?
I’m always working on a few things at once – blog posts, email newsletters, Instagram posts, making for commissions and preparing for craft fairs where I sell my handmade products, plus developing new ways for people to work with me for coaching and mentoring. I’m passionate about this being a really intuitive process to work in whatever way will help each client best and draws on my own creativity and curiosity to listen and ask questions that will guide people to the answers they need.
I’ve also been working on designing a new guided journal – it’s a system that I’ve been using myself now for a few months and I absolutely love it! I’ve struggled with journaling in the past and wanted something that was in between simply writing down what I did each day, and stream-of-consciousness journaling that had a tendency to draw me into a rumination on the negatives. So I’ve come up with a process that compiles evidence of different kinds of moments throughout the day, to bring mindful awareness to the things we want to feel and experience more of. I track moments that I’m proud of, moments when I feel at my most creative, moments that I’m grateful for, moments of enchantment and magic – and self-care moments! I’m developing this into a journal that I hope to get professionally printed and bound so that people can try it out for themselves, and also adapt it and make it their own.
It’s become something of a passion project, having been inspired by the work of a number of other people, and a variety of influences, but it’s made such a difference to how I look at and feel about my life, to how present I am in each moment, and to my general sense of wellbeing, that I’m excited to get it out there and have other people make the most of their Moments too! I’ll be sharing more about this on my Instagram account and blog as the project develops.
Thanks so much, Jennifer! I hope you enjoyed this weeks #SelfCareDiaries post, you can check out last week’s edition with Suzy Reading here.