What I learned from The Repair Shop about our wellbeing
Last year I became a HUGE fan of The Repair Shop – a TV programme (you can catch it on BBC iPlayer) where master craftspeople take beloved (aka broken and threadbare) items belonging to members of the general public and restore them back to be cherished for many more years to come.
It was such comfort television during lockdowns and uncertainty because while the world seemed to be turning upside down and inside out I could watch these incredibly skilled people breathe love and life back into everyday objects (often with extraordinary stories).
Having watched many, many episodes there are a few things I've picked up on, steps or procedures that are often taken in the restoration process. A word you often hear used when they're talking about how they're going to start work on an item is 'stabilise' – they need to stabilise the material the item is made of before they do anything else.
Without stabilising the material, whatever it is, they can't repair the item or bring out its beauty or breathe new life into it. It's the first step, the foundation from which the item can be restored and renewed.
It occurred to me that this applies to us as human beings too.
Before we can make changes or ask something of ourselves, before we can live to our full potential, we need to stabilise ourselves too.
Which means we need to take care of our own needs. They can be pretty basic needs which you've been neglecting because you're too busy, other people need you, it feels indulgent to spend time or energy on yourself, or you simply don't think you're a priority.
But if we aren't in a stable condition, if we're feeling worn thin, frayed round the edges and bruised by life, how can we expect ourselves to manage when the unexpected happens? Or to do our best, most creative work? Or to be the patient, compassionate, fun, relaxed person we want to be? Or to live a life that feels fulfilling and joyful?
We can be quick to minimise the importance of good quality sleep, nourishing food and drink, moving the body, spending time in nature and the fresh air, and with people whose company we enjoy.
Essentials or nice-to-haves?
They're ordinary, unexciting actions that we can so easily push to one side but without them everything else in life can feel so much harder.
These are not nice-to-haves. They're the foundation from which we can flourish. When we don't get enough quality sleep, when we grab food on the go, spend hours hunched over a computer, run from home to the car to work to the supermarket, and don't spend time with people who make us smile, we're surviving more than thriving.
Which makes it much harder to feel the calm, peace, ease and joy you want to feel. To be the person you want to be, who you know you are deep down but has been buried by the stuff of life. To live a life that's in line with your values and true to you.
And it's so easy to push this basic stuff aside! You'll get to it later, when life's calmed down, when you've finished this thing, when you know you won't be called upon…
But what if taking care of your needs actually helped you to take care of others, to do good work, as well as feeling good yourself?
It's worth a go, right?
Try an experiment
So how about you try an experiment? Pick a timeframe (at least a week to give yourself a fighting chance) and see how 'stabilising' yourself goes.
Make a bedtime routine and focus on getting quality shuteye.
Or plan meals ahead and batch cook or order a healthy meal delivery box.
Or go for lunchtime walks in the local park.
Or join an exercise class.
Or call or meet up with your favourite people.
Treat yourself like someone (or some thing) you dearly love, give yourself some TLC and see what impact breathing some love into your life has. Imagine you're Jay, Susie, Will, Lucia, Steve or Dom from The Repair Shop if it helps!
You might also find episode 65 of Pressing Pause podcast where I talk about self-conservation useful too. You can listen here or on any podcast app.
Photo: Tasha Jolley/Unsplash
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