“You? Writing an article on pampering?”, my husband ask me with eyebrows raised. I smile and shrug my shoulders. It is a curious scenario. Ten years ago you would’ve found me as a mother in my early 30s with five kids under the age of six, thankful to God that I lived in the country where full-time house help was an available option, but still struggling to make it through each day. I’m not sure if I even thought about pampering at that stage in life. Surviving yes.
About five years later, in my late 30s, I was facing the scenario of burn out and a diagnosis of major depressive disorder. Since then, by adding counseling, medication, better self-care, and yes the joys of pampering, my perspective on what it looks like to be a healthy mom, wife, woman has changed. Growing up in a ‘work-hard, suffer-long, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps’ type culture, pampering itself didn’t seem quite to fit. And perhaps it doesn’t matter much that I come from North American heritage, because this type of value can be found in many ethnic backgrounds.
Self-care: a necessity
But in these days, with a pandemic stretching out longer than any of us imagined here in Malaysia, I am a firm believer that the small things we can do to equip us for this long journey of life are not only excess and frivolous, but necessary. As I polled over 100 women on what they do to pamper themselves or de-stress, here are some of the common responses:
- Hair wash and style
- Walks, hikes, runs in nature
- Trip to a nearby beach, swim in the sea
- Enjoying the plants on balcony – pruning, arranging, sitting and enjoying them
- Good coffee
- Retail therapy
- Play with legos (more than one mom listed this!)
- Wake up early ‘before the chaos’ and enjoy the quiet
- Talking with a good friend
Away from the kids or family time?
The ways we recharge, refuel, ‘get spoiled’ may differ depending on our ‘normal’ routine and scenario. For example, I noted that women who are at home with their kids as homeschoolers often relate that their recharge time was spent ‘alone with a book, or out in nature by myself, away from the kids’. Other parents though, who are working in full time employment away from their kids included things such as ‘cuddling with my kids’, and ‘a lazy breakfast at home with the family’.
Here’s what our readers say
It is interesting to note that there are many common practices that transcend cultures, and some perspectives that are unique to various cultures. Here are a few voices:
“Malay culture has mandi lulur, but I’m terrible when it comes to pampering. So I’ve never really had one. For myself, I get more self care from running away from my kids and exercising and having a coffee with cake. I guess I need to to both to balance out. Before Covid, I’d go do aikido and peacefully vent aggression. And if I fell, I’d get ‘salah urat‘ and have need for another Malay pampering, traditional urut (massage).” -Surya
“Like the Brits love their tea, this Dutch Lady thinks there is nothing that a good cup of coffee can’t solve. I think it’s stepping out of the stress and making time to just sit and reflect, while enjoying that God given dose of happiness.” – Neel
“Nothing specific or regular but look for opportunities that arise… always open to interesting things happening like art house movie screenings, a concert, a picnic at the beach. I also need to work in a foot massage more regularly for sure! It’s just taking the initiative to do things outside of the mundane routine and not to get sucked into routine, although it’s a necessary evil!” – Kat Chua
“Crafting is my stress reliever. Hair salon and quiet time in a cafe with tea and cake is my pampering. Making sure I eat good food and delegate tasks would be my self-care. I think I would add spending time with friends in the self-care section, but not sure if I would have considered it so pre-covid.” – Jo
Step out of your routine
My personal favourites include a 90-minute aromatherapy oil massage (just experienced recently how much greater relaxation one can reach when increasing the massage time by 30 minutes!), as well as quiet walks in nature. A new experience that stimulates my mind can also prove refreshing, such as watching a private screening of a new independent film. Let’s take the important step this month of getting out of our normal routine and adding an activity that brings life and renewal and some pampering back into our schedules. I’m confident we will reap the rewards.
So what are your thoughts on taking care of yourself? How do you practise self-care? Please do share with us, we’d love to hear from you!