We've all seen the aesthetic Instagram feeds promoting 'self-care'. Rituals that consist of a bubble bath and Netflix. A night on the sofa and a face mask. An expensive green juice on a morning walk.

And, while these things can be deemed self-care - there is so much more to the practice of looking after yourself than a few luxury skincare products. Self-care can look like treating yourself to a spa day or setting aside time to finally do that personal admin you've been putting off.

What's key here, is that it's different for everyone. And, according to podcast host and broadcaster Fearne Cotton, suggesting anything otherwise is problematic. "I don't think anyone should prescribe what 'self-care' is. That's where it gets problematic when people or social media try to tell you, because it will be so different for everyone."

The broadcaster-turned-wellness guru took a step back from her radio career in 2015 to look after her own wellbeing, before launching The Happy Place in 2017 - now a podcast and app championing our differences and encouraging us to connect with ourselves and others.

While Fearne might resist the term wellness guru, it's her realistic approach to wellness, self-care and the messy reality of personal development that makes her and the Happy Place brand more admirable than any curated social media feed.

Ahead of the announcement of The Happy Place Festival line-up - her biggest festival to date - Red sat down with Fearne to find out what self-care rituals she actually practices. Plus, how she finds time to fill up her own cup while looking after others.

What does self-care mean to you?

FC: "For me, it's about going easy on myself. I have the propensity to be horrible to myself and push myself into discomfort. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be brilliant for growth, learning and resilience. But, I go one step further and push myself into territory where I'm close to burnout or just so overwhelmed. Then I'm not a very nice person.

"Self-care for me is about giving myself a break and honouring who I am. I have to honour that I’m naturally an introvert, I need time in solitude – its an absolute non-negotiable for me. I can’t handle some of the stuff that I used to – some of the craziness from the industry. Rather than push myself and think ‘oh well blah blah is doing this’ or ‘this website’s told me I need to do that’, I have to honour what I need."

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As a parent, how do you make time for your own self-care?

FC: "As a parent, I don't often make time for myself. Which is why I talk about this so much, because it feels impossible at times. You’ve got to get clear on what makes you feel good in terms of rest, stimulation and pushing yourself. Self-care is is parenting yourself. When we’re adults, we don’t get parented. We might not even have been parented when we were kids. It’s really important that we parent ourselves and treat ourselves like we would a small child. We need to learn to put ourselves to bed, to encourage ourselves to have fun, to know when we need to push ourselves. It’s really tuning into that and it will be different for everyone, determined by what your nature is."

Why do you think we find it so hard to fill up our own cups first?

FC: "Part of it is we, as women, are still trying to break the mould and work out how we navigate everything - from our jobs and careers to being part of a family. We’re navigating all the options that we’ve got, and the toxic messaging that we can do it all. But, we can’t do it all. I’ve decided to put my everything into my family life and work, which means my social life has taken a ginormous slide into the abyss. That will change, when my kids are older or if my career changes again. But, at the moment, I don’t have the energy to do more than those two things and do them as well as I can. Not perfectly. But, I can’t even attempt to do those things if I’m trying to squeeze more into my life. Finding time out is quite hard.

How do you find balance in your life?

FC: "I've learnt that when we’re time-poor and we’re all rushing around, it’s all about little and often. If you’ve got two 10-minute breaks in the day, where you don’t use your phone and you're just present in whatever capacity you can be – that is game changing.

"It doesn’t sound like it’s going to do much, but it will. You might have 10 minutes off and just waste it scrolling on your phone. That’s not going to benefit anyone. And, I say that to myself, because I do it all the time, too. I have to remind myself to spend those 10 minutes stretching my body, breathing, practicing a short meditation, I benefit from that greatly.

"The one thing I am most consistent with is walking. If I can get a half-hour walk in at lunchtime or when I finish work, I feel I’ve had a bit of time to myself. On brilliant days, I’ve managed to do yoga in the morning after the school run, or if I’ve sat in bed and read a book on my own – those are real bonus days. All my time out is spent doing very simple things. I’m not going on spa days. I’m going for a walk and that is enough to balance me out. It’s really hard as a parent to find that time, and I wouldn’t want to profess any different. Because, then for other mums or carers they might think, ‘oh well, it’s alright for you’, or ‘why am I failing?’"

What self-care techniques do you swear by?

FC: "I love Vinyasa yoga, I like that it’s very fluid. I used to be a dancer and I really miss it. I get that same expression from doing those beautiful, fluid movements in Vinyasa. It feels like bliss and I zone out of any my worries and I’m just in it.

“I love yoga nidra meditation. It doesn’t involve any body movement, although the word yoga is in there. It’s a very deep state of relaxation. We’ve got amazing practices on the Happy Place app led by Rob da Bank. They’re so relaxing, it’s like having a nap. You come out the other side, feeling much lighter and sometimes floaty but in the best possible way. You feel rested. I discovered it when I was pregnant with my son 11 years ago, I was exhausted and these practices would get me through the day and is something I’ve carried on ever since."

Do you journal as part of your self-care routine?

FC: "Journalling is another big one for me. It feels very sacred. We share so much with friends or on social media, and that can benefit us hugely because we can connect. But, those moments that are just for us can feel very sacred. Not every morning, but maybe one or two a week, I journal.

“I always get up before everyone else, so I get time on my own. I feed Simon the cat and I make myself a coffee. Right now, throughout the winter, it’s dark outside and it feels very peaceful. I have a little journal that sits in the kitchen and I either write down things that I’m working through or are frustrating me. Or, sometimes I write things I’m really buzzed about, and sometimes I write a sort of manifestation script. I just let it all pour out of me and that feels lovely, because it’s only for me. It’s a nice, short moment and something we can all do.

"When we’re stressed out, writing freely is a dream… Go for it. Don’t hold back. It’s better to be on the page than in your mind. We’re thinking those thoughts anyway, so get them on paper and either keep them there or get rid of it."

What are you most excited about at The Happy Place Festival this year?

FC: "What I’m looking forward to more than anything is the atmosphere. Last year, I loved walking around and seeing the lovely Happy Place community that we’re building. People who turned up alone and made friends, people trying new things, many people sharing their stories with me which was moving and harrowing at times. Hearing what people had gone through and what brought them to the festival. People turn up not just to have a nice weekend, but to heal or wanting to feel something new or different. It feels powerful."


Tickets for The Happy Place Festival are now on sale at The Happy Place website. This year's line-up includes Vex King, Sophie Morgan, Nicole Crentsil, Aaron Roach Bridgeman, Jonny Wilkinson, Nick Grimshaw, Tom Grennan, Adele Roberts and Kate Holderness, as well as Giovanna and Tom Fletcher.