Kate Livingstone: Paper and pen beat smelly old candles

Kate's got Halloween on the brain this week
Kate's got Halloween on the brain this week

I used to think self-care was buying scented candles (which I’m not a huge fan of) and lighting them round the bath (which would send my anxiety levels shooting through the roof rather than relax me).

I’ve always hated the phrase ‘me time’, which I consider one of those smug, trite phrases that are a code for spending money you don’t need to spend. (Or drinking, which comes to the same thing really, when you think about it.)

But I like to think that when I’m wrong I’m prepared to admit it – and I’m learning that there’s an awful lot more to self-care than overpowering candles and bath bombs.

I also liked to think of myself as someone who doesn’t do stress – now I know it doesn’t quite work like that.

I do remember last year when I thought I was going mad I had so many dates and things to remember whirling round my head that I bought myself a good, old-fashioned diary.

Now, bear with me.

While this might seem like a ridiculously obvious thing to do, I should point out that it wasn’t that I didn’t have a diary as such.

I was using my phone’s online calendar, which I regarded as a lifeline and a kitchen calendar to scribble on quickly.

But what I wanted was to physically write on paper exactly what I had to do and when. I needed a diary.

I couldn’t explain, I just knew that I felt a lot better and more in control.

So I was interested to read an article recently explaining how the act of handwriting has huge benefits – helping us remember and process what we’re doing.

I am aware that most people function perfectly well without this – but self-care is about deciding what’s important to you when it comes to your health and wellbeing.

The other thing that’s important is to not to dismiss your need for self-care by comparing yourself to others.

Yes, there are some people who have it harder but they’re not your responsibility.

A good analogy is putting your own oxygen mask on the plane before adjusting anyone else’s.

If you’re like me, you’re looking at a busy few weeks ahead, so recharge your batteries while you can. But do it your way – no-one else’s!

So if you like scented candles, get them lit.

Me? I’ll choose a good book and a cup of coffee ... I’ll even pencil some time in my diary.