Most of us have experienced a period of time when we’ve let our personal grooming slide because we’ve been ill, tired, busy stressed or all of the above. For most people, this can be a short period of time before they bounce back to their normal routine, like after exam periods when all the focus is on one goal and we let everything else go. But it can also frequently happen to people who experience depression, and is usually more intense and difficult to come back from. Sometimes it drags on for a really long time and it’s hard to remember what feeling well groomed and confident feels like. It can feel like a harsh comparison to other people’s lives, especially if we are also bombarded with perfect pictures of glamour as if it’s the norm. We can also get bogged down with thoughts about being vain and frivolous and spending time and money we perhaps don’t have enough of on superficial things, especially if we are aware that other people’s living conditions are worse. Maybe circumstances mean that we spend a lot of time in the house so feel like it’s a waste of time. It can all snowball into a big mass of sad, frustrating, uncomfortable, guilty, shameful ick.
But you can gently ease yourself out of that spiral and into a more self caring place. The first thing to acknowledge, is that grooming as self-care is not the same as vanity or superficiality. At it’s most basic level it’s about keeping our bodies clean and healthy and reduce the chances we might get poorly. Secondly, just because other people are not able to partake in personal grooming, that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to. A more helpful way to think about it might be that everyone deserves a basic level of sanitation so they can keep themselves clean and shiny, including you. Not maintaining your own basic grooming routine doesn’t actually make any difference to those who are unable to. There are absolutely legitimate arguments for people in super privileged countries to reduce our consumption, but that doesn’t include the basics. If you can afford to, choosing ethically sourced products is the best way to go, but if you can’t that’s ok. You have to look after yourself before you can help anyone else.
Now we’ve confirmed you deserve all the self care (yes you do) it can actually more tricky to do the things than acknowledge it’s needed. My way is with the baby steps. To paraphrase Super Sloth ‘I’ll self-care at my own pace’ (see the original from Katie Abbey here ) We all start from different places and we all have different things we find particularly challenging. Whenever I’ve been super poorly but I’m just better enough to want to have a wash, I usually find taking a bath is the most achievable way to do it. There is something inherently rewarding about getting up to do some self care that includes lying back down again, but this time under a warm watery soap duvet that smells amazing, relieves my muscle tension and cleans me at the same time.
However, things can be a different kind of difficult if you are still generally functioning but have let the routine of self care slide. Getting back into that can take a bit more nudging and self-rewarding, and more sustained energy. One of the things I am most likely to skip when I feel generally meh is brushing my teeth before bed. Interestingly brushing your teeth is something a lot of my friends also tell me they really struggle to motivate themselves to do. My theory is, it’s because of the burst of scrubbing energy required with a manual toothbrush to actually make any difference. Enter my favourite self-care grooming purchase; battery powered toothbrush. The wonder of electricity does all the high energy work for me and I still feel squeaky clean after. You can now get them for under £5 for the most basic one, or invest in a fancy rechargeable one and save effort and money on batteries. I found my super pretty turquoise dotty travel one on super sale and it makes me disproportionately happy. Another that keeps me motivated to do it is nice toothpaste, which you can easily get for cheap and it tastes so much better and feels like less work too.
Now I do recognise the flaw in trying to buy your way to good mental health ie. it doesn’t work if you don’t. Plus a lot of us are lacking on the financial side and the last thing you want is to add to your problems by buying a load of crap you don’t need. However you can use small, affordable luxury versions of things you buy anyway to encourage and reward yourself for doing basic self care. Take soap as a great example. New soap is more appealing than those random old bits of soap or the last squeeze of it from a bottle that looks like it’s been run over by a tank. You could buy the cheapest one going, and it will clean you, but it may also dry your skin and smell weird…. Or you can decide to buy one a little more fancy than your usual one to entice you back into a grooming routine that will ultimately make you feel better. And if you want to be thrifty, buying a super gentle moisturising soap you can use on your face and body might let you indulge in something more luxurious without buyers remorse. The same can apply to moisturiser and sunscreen, and you can save money or get a little fancier if you go online to places like fragrance direct.
Another thing I let go when I’m down is washing my hair regularly. A new, better quality shampoo and conditioner is a great idea to encourage you to refresh your hair and give it a bit of TLC if you’ve just been wacking it up in a bobble or using dry shampoo a lot. The best thing is, once you’ve been able to pamper yourself and remember how nice it feels, it gives you that boost to keep it going. Sometimes the small things really do make a difference to your confidence, and one of them for me is make up. It is unnecessary for my general health, but it makes quite a difference to my confidence, and is often the first to go when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I like that I feel ok going out without it, but I know I feel more confident when I’ve used it and that if I have the inclination to wear it, that usually means I’m in an ok place. Occasionally I use it as amour, which is reassuring to have if I need it, but mostly I just like it. Plus, I enjoy the ceremony of painting my nails or putting on mascara and setting aside 10 mins to enjoy doing something fun, frivolous and feminine.
It can be super frustrating if part of the reason you don’t keep up with grooming is because you can’t afford to buy the stuff that works for you. If this is the case, I’ve found that asking for my preferred daily grooming products as gifts can be more valuable to me than something extra, as I get that little bit of joy each day using it. You may be the kind of person who is super basic, or you may prefer full on glamour. The key is to do what makes you feel cared for and confident. And having those positive associations with basic self-care activities can be one of the main things that helps you maintain a routine that effects your overall health for the better.
As always, be kind to yourself