Are you running on empty?

MARCH 2017 | HEALTH & WELLBEING

How much time do you dedicate to self-care – to showing yourself some love and compassion? Not enough I’m betting.

You’re busy; your to-do list is overflowing; you give your care and attention to others. But your own self-care goes out the window. It’s easily done. When we’re juggling our hectic lives the things that fall by the wayside are often the ones that are good for us. Our wellbeing takes a backseat…we tell ourselves we’ll prioritise it when life is less chaotic. But that day doesn’t always  come.

Until today. Yes, today we’re going to start on a self-care mission!

Let’s get clear on what self-care is… 

There are lots of definitions of self-care. Some overlap with self-love. Some veer more into the realms of medicinal or mental health. In this blog when we say self-care we’re talking about activities that you do, for yourself, to protect and nurture your health and wellbeing. It starts with identifying what’s most important to you and knowing what you need to do to take good care of yourself.

Self-indulgent? Selfish?

The tricky thing with self-care is it’s usually the first thing to slip from the agenda when we’re overwhelmed. Taking time out for ourselves feels like a luxury. We might even feel like we’re slacking? Slacking! Where do those thoughts come from? When did it become so frowned upon – be it by others or our self-imposed rules of life? Why do we feel we can’t look after ourselves without some kind of justification? Why is there usually a guilt attached so our self-care gets shoved to the bottom of the pile.

Is it because we’re living in a society where it’s the norm to be on the go all the time, jumping from one manic moment to the next? We’re busy with our careers; busy trying to be the perfect wife, mother, friend. Desperately trying to do or have it all and keep our sh*t together. Even if that means we’re running on empty most of the time and we’re a shell of a woman come the end of every year. Somewhere along the line we’ve learnt we must keep the stiff upper lip; what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. We don’t want to be seen to be the weak one; the one that can’t cope. So we carry on.

I know from my own experience that when I first started to explore the idea of self-care, it felt indulgent. Selfish even. I felt I was neglecting my responsibilities. It was hard to give myself permission to stop and sometimes put my own needs first.

It’s all wrong; our attitude to self-care needs to change.

Self-care needs to become a priority in our lives

However whimsical it may sound we need to dedicate time to actions and behaviours that support our mind, body and soul. It’s about taking control of our own health and happiness.

Our lives are busy. And they can be stressful; a little bit of stress is fine but a lot of it is not good. There’s masses of evidence to show the negative effects of stress on our body and mind. We can’t ignore it. We need to find ways to reduce that stress. The good news is when we prioritise self-care and better look after ourselves we’re already taking proactive steps to address our stress.

It’s hard to step away when you’re up to your eyeballs in it but a little bit of time out can help you to refocus. When you take a break you’re better able to go back into the storm replenished and ready for action. Investing time in regular self-care will help you avoid getting to that point where you can’t take it anymore; where you scream in frustration or lock yourself in the bathroom to secretly sob. We’ve all had those days – if you haven’t it may well be coming round the next corner. It doesn’t have to be that way.

When we invest in activities of self-care, we begin to understand ourselves more, we have greater compassion for ourselves. Looking after our physical and emotional wellbeing should be the backbone to how we live. The longer we go without caring for ourselves, the more we start to run on empty and it’s not just us that will suffer. You’ll have less to give to others too. It’s a bit like the plane safety instructions, you need to put on your own mask first. If you’re totally depleted, you can’t properly love and care for others.

How to show yourself some care…

Self-care needs to be something you plan, rather than something that just happens. You need to actively make the choice; commit to it, and practice it regularly. Yes, I know, another thing to add to your to-do list. But I urge you to find time to do it. Just one or two from the list below could make all the difference – to you and to the people in your life. [You’ll find hundreds of self-care ideas online. These are just some of the basics to get you started.]

  • Take care of your body. Make time for healthy eating, exercise, relaxation and sleep. Treat yourself to some pampering. Wear clothes that make you feel good. Compliment yourself. Don’t ignore health concerns. Stay up to date with medical checks (when was your last smear test?)
  • Go on a digital detox: social media is one of the biggest culprits for making us feel low when we see posts of people’s ‘perfect lives’. Turn off the television. Put the IPad away. Do something that replenishes or relaxes instead.
  • Practice mindfulness: take time to calm your mind every day; try meditation; learn how to be more in the moment; make the most of every day.
  • Follow a passion, take up a hobby, learn a new skill. Volunteer. Do something from your bucket list.
  • Declutter: clear out the things that don’t bring you joy. Make your home a happy place, a sanctuary.
  • Accept the person you are. Stop the comparisons or trying to be someone you’re not. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes. Forgive yourself. Be kind to yourself. Stop the negative self-talk.
  • Be grateful. Be positive: about you; your achievements, your strengths, your life. Write them down.
  • Surround yourself with the right people: spend less time with people who drain you, are negative, or don’t support you. You need people in your life who are positive influences.
  • Understand how you’re spending your time: what’s using up your emotional, mental, and physical energy? Are you over-committing to things? Spend more time doing activities that bring joy, connection, or creativity to your life. Learn to say no to things that drain you.

Are you ready to commit to a journey of self-care?

Let’s embrace self-care. Give yourself permission to prioritise it. Show yourself some love and care every day. It won’t always be easy. We’re busy women. But let’s try. Small steps or giant leaps. The choice is yours. Let’s just do it. You’ve started today by reading this blog post. Tomorrow, how will you show yourself some self-care?

 

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