Teddy bears, rainbows and spoons are all symbols of hope and connection which have been used universally during covid19 lockdown. In this phase of isolation, “Spoonville” cutlery villages are scattered around neighbourhoods to encourage kids and adults alike. I believe that ‘spoons’ can also be a measure of self-care – the importance of which, is underestimated.

We seem to forgo so many luxuries right now with covid19 restrictions. But why deprive ourselves or another of the nurturing jewels that arewithin our reach? No virus can rob us of those!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the nasty virus has intentions to dominate all aspects of our lives. But whether we choose to let that happen is up to us! We still can engage in this self-care, just need to adapt to how that may roll out in this current environment.

When engulfed in a difficult time or watching another navigate one, it’s easy to neglect our own needs. Many of us justify putting our self- care needs aside until things “quieten down”.  We don’t seem to make time to adapt our regimes. We say, “When things go back to normal and calm down, when the salons are finally open I’ll get my hair done or that pedicure“. The ironic thing is that it’s ‘now’ that we need to be kind to ourselves.

We often perceive any means of self-care as ‘selfish’ or ‘indulgent’. We’re made to feel guilty for taking time-out for ourselves and even contemplating any ‘me time’. When in fact, it’s when you seek that time out or nurture yourself that you feel revived, refuelled and are actually replenished. Surely, you are then in a better position to care for another.

Taking care of ourselves is common sense. Right? But despite this, we tend to roll our eyes at the mention or thought of it and proceed to lug our tired depleted bodies around. In fact, it’s often not until we are forced to rest, struck down by an illness or injury that we stop. The thought of incorporating a daily self-care act seems ludicrous. We jealously observe others engaging in pampering sessions, sitting in silence or going for that night walk and merely say, “I wish” or “maybe one day”.

I know acquiring a disability, when my body seemed so infested with pain and ugliness, nurturing it seemed completely insane. Why reward it when all it creates is difficulty? But I soon learnt that painting my toenails, treating myself to a nice brunch or outfit was necessary to bring ‘life’ to the surface. Nurturing myself was showing my stroke infested body that I was more than my disability.

It also displayed to others that, despite my devastating spot, I hadn’t given up. I remember my first voluntary speaking event where I put immense effort into making my disabled body appear professional. In fact, I bought a new suit, had my hair redone and applied make-up. My colleagues in their hospital scrubs took note of my attire stating,“You don’t need to dress up for us, Em,” But dressing up in a suit and caring about what I looked like hugely improved my confidence.

It seems that the more distant self-care is from our lives, the more effortful it is. It’s at these times when salons or shops or cafes are closed we need to initiate self-care. For me, since acquiring my disability it has become even more vital. In a way, managing my pain means regularly engaging in self-care activities is now easier to do. I have difficulty doing so many tasks but have cleaners and support workers to help. I can justify this indulgence.

Early in my recovery I was encouraged to consider the “spoon theory” to help adapt and better manage my emotional and physically wellbeing. Basically,‘spoons’ are a visual representation used to measure how much energy an individual has throughout their day. Each activity requires a certain number of spoons, which can only be replaced as the person “recharges” through self-care activities. I learnt quickly (and still am) that as soon as I run out of spoons I have really no choice but to rest until my spoons arerefilled. Replenishing these with self-care activities was (and is) the quickest and most effective means of doing this.

Many of my disabilities were invisible and I’m sure the high levels of fatigue or pain or visual energy were often hidden. Subsequently, they meant that I (or others) would struggle to validate these, often perceiving as me being lazy or having poor time management skills.

I write in my book, “I needed to be aware of my own needs if I was to perform at my best. Eye infections, medical appointments, pain management, waves of fatigue, sleepless nights and the emotional toll had to be factored in. I had to control them rather than let them control me. These new strategies provided a level of awareness and led to clarity and a sense of calmness and control over my life”. (Reinventing Emma, p 212)

Since acquiring my disability and during covid19 lockdown, I have experienced the HUGE impact sacrificing these selfcare activities has had not only my life but also those around me. I confess to at times needing others (who reap the benefits), to nudge me into doing that stretch session or jump on my exercise bike. They know that if I don’t keep up this self-care regime, they will cop it!

Similarly, I have no doubt that even if you yourself choose to not engage in this self-care, you’ve seen the big difference it makes to those that do. Perhaps, we need to provide opportunities to in some way enforce this selfcare. A voucher, a take-away meal or simply encourage a friend to go for that walk or have that bath.

So, try to routinely prioritise something just for youinto your day. It’ll not only boost your own mood and actions but also all those surrounding you. It’s a tough time for most people so I’m sure nudging another person will be greatly appreciated. We need to be kind to ourselves more than ever right now. Why wait for sickness to stop us? Create your own spoonville village in your neighbourhood! Choose to keep filling your spoons and nurture yourself!