As a psychologist, I have seen many women come in to my office feeling depleted, overwhelmed, and fatigued. Upon discussing their history and relationships, a familiar — and unfortunate — pattern emerges. These women balance their jobs, spouses/significant others, children, parents, siblings, and friends and never seem to take any time for themselves. I believe that the root of this pattern comes from an antiquated but pervasive belief that, for many women, to take time for yourself is considered selfish. In other words, women are viewed as nurturers, those who take care of others. But implicit in that view is that women are not supposed to take the time to take care of themselves — and that those who do, risk being considered lazy, indulgent, and/or selfish.
For example, if you are employed, shouldn’t you ensure that your work is exemplary? If you have children, shouldn’t you spend all of your time focused on them? If you are married, shouldn’t you make sure that there is food to eat in the fridge or clean clothes to wear tomorrow? If you have aging or ailing parents, shouldn’t you see to their needs above your own? These questions bring to mind that awful Cadillac advertisement that aired all the time during the 2014 Winter Olympics. It featured an American man dressed in a suit and reinforced the message that Americans are to forego vacations, work hard, skip personal and family time, and that if you do not, then you are like the “other countries” who laze around all summer.
I spent some time last week considering these cultural messages that we have absorbed, telling us to work ourselves until exhausted or be caretakers to others at the expense of ourselves, and found myself wondering if there was another way. Isn’t it possible to work hard, nurture your family and friends, and care for yourself? The question occurred to me: “What Would Kate Do?” How does Kate take time to care for herself, as well as do her official duties and care for her family and friends? How can we incorporate her self-care options into our lives? Kate has the luxury of indulging in beauty treatments, which are a wonderful example of self-care. News articles have been written about her getting her hair done, having facials, manicures and pedicures, and using scented candles in her home. Making time in your busy schedule to be pampered — if only for a brief time — can be relaxing and healing. Such indulgences don’t have to be very expensive or time-consuming, as shown by Kate’s technique of lighting scented candles which uses soothing scents to calm and relax.
Kate has also been vocal about her love for shopping. “Retail therapy” can be an effective mood booster, provided that you spend within your means and avoid the Christmastime shopping crush! Even window shopping — going for a lovely walk down the Kings Road or your local main street to peer in the different shop windows is a relaxing moment of self-care. Please note that grocery shopping in a frantic hurry because you don’t have anything to make for dinner does NOT count here!
Gardening and cooking, both hobbies of the Duchess, are also good ways to relax if these are also activities that you enjoy. Nourishing yourself with home-cooked food or treats can boost your spirits. Studies have shown that certain foods (blueberries, sweet potatoes, dark chocolate, etc) even have additional mood-boosting properties, so you can get a double-dose of self-care from your actions in the kitchen. Gardening can also provide enjoyment — being out in the sun, seeing little plants come to life — can be very satisfying and peaceful.
We also all know of Kate’s enjoyment of sporting activities. We’ve seen her go rowing, play field hockey, cricket and rugby, and saw her notable enjoyment while attending the Olympic Games in London in 2012. She also has been a keen supporter of her husband at polo matches and has often been seen going for leisurely walks with her little boy and with Lupo. Sports — playing them or watching them — can be fun, relaxing, and exciting.
What do you do to relax and take care of yourself? Do you use any of Kate’s techniques, or do you have tried-and-true methods of your own? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section!
Note: I realize that I might be stepping on a minefield with these thoughts. I’m well aware of the controversies and thoughtful discussions that take place questioning the Duchess’s workload, and am not ignoring those concerns at all. Instead, I am simply focusing on what we can learn from the self-care that Kate practices and how we can incorporate small aspects of this into our lives. I much admire our community’s ability to both be interested in and respectful of Kate, as well as ask thought-provoking questions.