On Self-Care and Kindness: A Conversation with @h.e.l.e.n.m.a.r.i.e

On Self-Care and Kindness: A Conversation with @h.e.l.e.n.m.a.r.i.e

“…how we love ourselves, shows others how to love us.”

In this Q & A, I am fortunate to be able to connect with Helen Sandle, the figure behind the inspiring Instagram account @h.e.l.e.n.m.a.r.i.e, to explore ideas and tips on self-love and kindness (emphases are from me).

Monika: Helen, thank you so much for connecting with me, and for taking the time to engage in this conversation about self-love and kindness. I have been following you on Instagram for quite some time, and I am constantly impressed by how inspiring and relatable your posts are. For our readers who haven’t gotten a chance to know you yet, would you mind sharing a little bit about yourself?

Helen: Thank you, Monika, so much for the opportunity to have this conversation and for your kind words. I’m based just outside of London and am just completing the final stages of my psychotherapy training. In addition to my studies I am married and a mother to 3 grown up children who have truly been the inspiration behind my current change of career. I used to be an Infectious Disease Specialist but after taking a career break with the children, I decided to retrain as a therapist. I also have three dogs and a wonderful pink car called Florence (you may see her appear on my Instagram stories from time to time). And one more thing I’d like to add, I was once asked by a lecturer on my course, what brings me joy and my answer was ‘moments.’ Moments mean a lot to me.


M: When we hear the phrase self-love, or self-care, we might think it’s something that involves spa or retail therapy, but I assume it’s a little more than that. How would you define these terms?

H: Ah, yes. This is a question I get asked a lot. Of course self-care can take the form of bubble baths and self-pampering and that’s great but it runs a little deeper than that within the therapeutic realm. I like to consider self-care as self-responsibility where it enables you to live your most authentic life and not one where you live a life of others’ choosing. By this, I mean living a life that makes sense to you and the best way to do this is to notice what comes up for you day to day and what bothers you and then put plans in place to reduce those issues becoming a regular occurrence. For example noticing where your energy goes and who drains you. If someone repeatedly has a negative effect on you then you may want to choose to spend less time with them. This is called setting a boundary. These boundaries can be applied to people as well as other elements of your life such as sleep routine, exercise, whole foods, hydration and social media. These self-boundaries are equally as important.

M: Many of us - depending on where you are living - are facing a time of uncertainty, which can affect our level of anxiety and mental well-being. Do you have favorite self-care tips to share with us, that you find helpful in getting through a period of uncertainty?

H: This is so relevant right now and a great question to cover. I see it repeatedly with my clients and like to encourage them to build a mental well-being toolkit. In this can be breathing exercises. A personal favourite, taught to me by a wonderful psychologist friend, is the candle breath where you breathe in through your nose for 5 and then blow out through your mouth as if blowing a candle out. This helps regulate the nervous system and can be very calming. It can be great to do this through periods of stress when you feel the need to react to someone/something but by doing a couple of candle breaths enables you to take that much needed pause before responding. Notice how this affects your response! Another self-care tip I recommend is taking time to go and look out of the window, or step out of the door, and look up at the sky for a few moments. It can be very grounding and help put things into perspective. These are two quick self-care tips but if you have a little more time then I would recommend a walk in nature, a yoga session, meditation or journaling. All of these are very effective at moving your thoughts forward and away from the stuck-ness of the stressful situation.

M: I’ve been reading more and more articles about kindness, and how it can actually be a form of self-love, because it relates to one’s happiness and well-being. What are your thoughts on this point of view?

H: Yes, this is very true. I do a lot of body-work with clients and it’s the tapping into how the body feels when we do certain things. Noticing how we feel when we are kind to someone else floods our own body with feelings of contentment, which in turn calms our own parasympathetic nervous system. There’s so much wisdom within our bodies if we just take the time to listen inwards. Being kind to others most certainly contributes to our own happiness and I would also add here that being kind to yourself does the same, yet we can find this so hard to do.

M: And lastly, we all know Valentine’s Day is approaching. Any thoughts on how we can celebrate this month of love - regardless whether or not you are in a relationship?

H: What a beautiful question. Maybe this should be a prompt to those reading to take a close look at the relationship they have with themselves. It’s the most important one we have. We are present with ourselves at every moment. How we love ourselves can be a tricky one to deconstruct due to so many different inner scripts that we have internalized but one thing I feel is worth mentioning here is that how we love ourselves, shows others how to love us. If we come back to the notion of body-work, sit for a few moments and notice how your body feels when you encourage it and talk kindly versus when you’re unkind to yourself. The body literally feels everything the mind says and behaves accordingly. I think when we consider that it helps us to love ourselves just a little bit more. Maybe consider your body as your inner child who needs your love. Loving ourselves shows outwardly, shows that we respect ourselves, which, in turn, affects how others interact with us.

M: Thank you so much for your time, Helen. We hope we can continue having these conversations - perhaps exploring other topics and different platforms.

If you enjoy reading Helen’s insights, you can follow her on Instagram as @h.e.l.e.n.m.a.r.i.e 🤍

If you have any self-care topics you would like us to discuss next time, please leave them in comments below.



Photography by Daria Solonska via Pexels

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