It's ironic that I pride myself on writing a blog on self care and authenticity and today I sat at home in the middle of the day. Not through choice but through exhaustion from not looking after myself or listening to my intuition.
It's so easily done, it's no wonder so many of us suffer from prolonged stress, burnout and nervous exhaustion.
It's more than just a bit sleepy or tired, or general malaise. It's to the bone tired, as in if there was a fire, I'm not sure I'd have the energy to move from the sofa. And with it comes a frustration at how your body wont work and a sense of powerlessness as there is no quick fix.
After a while, days, weeks, it's hard to distinguish whether you are still exhausted or have just lost motivation in life. A combination of guilt at not being productive, and overwhelm from the chores that are piling up everyday adds to the overall stress.
Being too busy or even feeling non productive at work, lack of time for yourself and basic self care, working long hours, feeling undervalued or unappreciated, anything that your inner self is screaming for and you ignore day by day? That's going to lead to burnout eventually.
When you wake up, do you hit the ground running or do you take five minutes to wake and have 5 minutes to breath, and think about what you hope to achieve?
When you are at work, do you get regular breaks? Do you take time away from your desk and is it possible to get fresh air over lunch? Do you use the time to catch up on emails and return calls whilst wolfing your lunch and rushing back to your desk?
Do you believe in what you do, or are you going against your core values? Working for a meat factory when you are vegetarian, or debt collecting when you want to work for a money education charity for example.
When you get home is it a sanctuary or does the chaos continue, is your evening punctuated by bleeping texts, ringing phones, pinging emails, blaring television?
Are you over committed, socially or responsibility wise? Are you burning the candle at both ends or do you regularly schedule "me time"?
That is not an exhaustive list but can you see how easy it is NOT to take care of yourself?
If you are reading this, chances are you are feeling overwhelmed and the last thing you need is another great to do list. So here are the main points:
It is much better to stop rest and recover than to plough on half-heartedly. Not only will you feel worse for longer but you probably won't do a very good job either. So whether its leaving the dishes until tomorrow, taking a days leave from work, or drawing the curtains and watching Disney movies all day (a personal favorite of mine)take some time out.
Rest. Do nothing or read or paint or walk or sleep or take a bath, but do something you find relaxing , something with no timescale or time limit, something that feels effortless, and give your body and mind downtime.
Prioritize. Is it really imperative that you organise your bank statements, or do all the filing today? Whats the worst thing that can happen if you don't hoover the stairs? At work, are there any tasks you can delegate or things that can wait? Do you need to do a big household shop or could you get basics from the local shop and rest for longer?
Simplify. Take a look at your stressors. What could help make things easier. Could you pay bills by direct debit on a date that suits rather than making time to do it manually? Could you delegate tasks at work or even skip or streamline processes. Would a dishwasher free up some time at home? (Revolutionized my life.) Could you up with another parent and take turns with the school run or activity run? Could you have a couple of quick meals in the fridge for days that are hectic? What commitments could you drop to give yourself more time to relax and take a brether? Do you hate the hassle of the Saturday morning shop? Is it quieter on a Wednesday eve?
Recognize. Give yourself a pat on the back! Look at how well you have done and how far you have come! Start to keep a diary or journal, it's amazing how even looking back over a week can show you how much you have done and also a useful tool to see where you are spending the majority of your time.
Restore. Sleep. Sleep as much as you need and as much as your body will allow. Eventually it will balance out, your eyes will ping open! Then, take bath or shower, with aromatic products, the best you can afford. This is a treat. Wash your hair and remove any nail polish, imagine that you are stripping off the old tired you, to reveal the vibrant, happy healthy you.
Put on nice, but comfortable clothes. You want to look good for you, but it's important you feel good. Skinny high waisted jeans you can't sit down in may not be the best right now, how about yoga pants or leggings or a nice comfy but flattering jersey dress?
Nourish yourself. Drink lots of water or fruit tea. Eat fruit and vegetables, nourishing comforting soups, be kind to yourself. Avoid caffeine and sugary foods, for a while. Imagine you were looking after a sick relative, how would you treat them, with kindness, patience and love? Now do the same for yourself.
Moving forward. So now you have had rest, you have prioritized and hopefully cut back on commitments and chores, you have recognized how much you do and have achieved and you have nursed your body and mind back to health.
So now it's about maintenance. Continue to rest well; take time out whenever you can, even if it means listening to music on the walk to work instead of catching up on texts. have an evening where the TV isn't switched on, and practice saying NO, to others; its admirable to be there for others but would your rather say yes to every request and turn up bedraggled and half hearted or say yes to yourself a bit more, get some rest and then when you do show up be full of energy and enthusiasm?
You cant give what you have not got. You have to fill your own tank with petrol before you can go and drive others around .
Eat fresh food wherever possible and drink plenty of water so that your body can run as efficiently as possible.
Accept and ask for help. Don't be so strong that you cant accept help. Chances are people want to help but don't know how, when someone says can I help with the dishes, say 'actually we have a new dishwasher but if you could take the rubbish out that would be great' or at work, if someone offers to help with something and you are neck high in paperwork, say 'im ok thanks but if you could handle my calls for half an hour while I get this done, id really appreciate it.' If you are anything like me, this may be a stumbling block, but believe me, people genuinely want to help.
There is nothing that can't wait, honestly, and as Sydney J Harris put it, "the time to relax is when you don't have time for it."