Experiments,  Miscellany

Priming the pump

I remember the first couple of weeks after we were told to leave the office and work from home for the foreseeable future. There were days when I stayed in my pyjamas. There were weeks on end when I wore nothing but gym clothes or frumpy tracksuits that I wouldn’t be caught dead in outside the house. I even hesitated to walk up to the mail box some days. I didn’t put on a scrap of make up and mostly threw my hair up in a messy bun. I contemplated shaving it off completely at one stage. I wasn’t wearing earrings, and started to wonder if the piercings were going to close up. It was a good thing the delivery people were switching to unattended deliveries, because I was not opening the door for anyone!

In my previous post I wrote about how habits and consistency were helping me cope with the pandemic. But I didn’t mention this habit. This baaaaad habit. After a month and a half or so of working from home I was starting to feel horrible and down on myself. I didn’t understand why … I was loving working from home! I was in hermit heaven! I could wear whatever I wanted, I didn’t have to bother about making myself look presentable. It was fabulous. Until it wasn’t. And I wasn’t.

I didn’t twig to what was happening until I read this article about someone who was tracking their well being in a new tool that we have in common, and noticed patterns of behaviour that were impacting his mental health, and started to wonder if how I was (not) looking after myself was contributing to how I felt. Was getting around the house like a slob affecting my mental health? I decided to do a 30-day experiment to find out. I was skeptical. Thirty days, full hair, make up and decent clothes (not work clothes, I wasn’t that crazy) on work days and when I needed to venture out of the house.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Here a few of my notes from the month:

Day 2

  • Hair and makeup done and fully clothed in normal clothes before work. Will have to change into my workout gear at lunchtime, and then back into normal clothes. As the French say…. workout clothes are only for working out. Ha! It seems inefficient to switch between the two, and even to wear makeup when no-one will see me. Do I think I am not worth taking the effort for? Interesting. Something to explore.
  • I actually do feel better in myself after getting myself done up. I had slept through the alarm and was feeling very discombobulated through the first part of my morning routine, and got myself sorted after coffee but before starting work for the day. It feels like setting an intention for the day ahead.
  • I had a thought too, that this will pretty much guarantee that I do a full cleanse and skincare routine at night, since I cannot go to bed with my makeup on.
  • Made myself get back into smart casual clothes after my workout.

Day 3

  • Normally I would reserve the right to be a slob over the weekend, but I need to go to the shops, so a little makeup, and clothes that have buttons and zips are in order! My hair is a mess and needs a wash, but a couple of clips will sort that out.

Day 6

  • Feeling pretty spiffy this morning with my hair and makeup done! My skin is clear and I am trying new quick and simple makeup looks that will work in the office when I return. I have definitely been more productive these past few days. I am not sure if that’s natural swings and roundabouts or a result of making myself presentable. We shall see.

Day 10

  • Nothing exciting today. I put make up on and did my hair to go to the grocery store…and work in the garden, I hope the sparrows approved.

Day 12

  • I didn’t sleep well and am in an utterly black mood. Not sure makeup and a pair of jeans will help, but we shall see.
  • Feeling marginally more human, but putting lipstick on this is not going to make it less of a pig. Also… I screwed up my liquid eyeliner and it annoys me every time I look in the mirror.
  • Feeling a lot more human after workout, hair and makeup still intact!
Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash

Day 16

  • Still feeling very low. Just wanted to stay in my pyjamas, but compromised.I have done my hair and makeup, but am wearing sweats … and no bra. Rebel.

Day 18

  • Feeling blue this morning … will be interesting to see if making myself presentable makes a dent.
  • Have gone the French route with makeup today … minimal eyes and bright red lips, and it has cheered me up immensely. My makeup brushes are still drying after I washed them yesterday (damn winter) so I reverted to my teen self and used my fingers to apply product. Jeans and jumper for clothes and I am still cold… will add thick socks shortly!

Day 22

  • Day 2 of living in tracksuit and no makeup and I am feeling slothful. I have a rash on my face, so need to let it breathe… that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Also…it has been a busy and stressful week and I am feeling the need for comfort…which is where the soft tracksuit comes in.

Day 25

  • Back to work today … makeup … on a whim I decided to use slightly brighter colours than usual. I cannot tell if I like it or if I look like a clown. The jury is out.

Day 26

  • Feeling a bit off colour, had hoped putting makeup on and getting dressed would help. It hasn’t yet. Well … I lie … it did a little, just not as much as I had hoped.

Day 28

  • It’s Friday, and I am feeling grumbly and contrary … I don’t want to get dressed and I don’t want to put on makeup … I don’t even want to meditate. The question is … do I give in? I have been consistent all week.
  • I started putting on makeup and couldn’t stop, so I have a full face of makeup, and I do feel better.

Reading back over all that, I seem to have had a rough month. I didn’t really, it’s more that I am not a morning person and the words that fall out of my head before sufficient caffeination are somewhat grumpy!

I noticed some patterns as the month progressed and learned that on the whole, caring about my appearance and taking the time to make myself presentable is not as frivolous as I had believed it was. There is a link between how I look and how I feel, and approach the day. I was more consistently productive and perky when I took the time to play with my makeup and hair. Perhaps there’s a link to my creative side and creating something each morning too?

I found that getting ready for work or action became a self-fulfilling prophecy; it was like priming the pump. Setting up the environment for the habits that I wanted to reinforce was a powerful motivator, and something that I use in other ways for other habits I am working on. I did not expect to find the link in something so simple as getting dressed and putting on my face.

And it was fun! I like make up, I don’t care about clothes so much, but it’s too cold to streak around the house, and besides I’d scare the kids and delivery people! I will admit that some mornings I got a little carried away and ended up with a full face of glam makeup on just because I wanted to try something out.

In essence I have decided that being consistently frumpy and slovenly is not how I want to live. Being relaxed is one thing, being a slob is quite another, and a sloppy self leads to sloppy habits. I still give myself days off from time to time, but if I want to be productive and even, then I need to make sure I get dressed in something with buttons and zips and a little make up.

This was a fun experiment. My next one has to do with walking more as a way to heal my troublesome ankle and to spark creative thought. I’m starting slow, and will let you know how I get on.

Do you do experiments on yourself?

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