When your body says no: A reminder for self care.
“How have you been?” The question is often asked and too regularly my answer is the same “Ah..busy.. but good!”. I tend to run on high a lot, and admittedly I have chosen to do a lot in 2018 because I found 2016-2017 to be kind of boring. I mean I did lots of fun things, gained new skills and explored a lot of new places but in all honesty I had no idea what I really wanted. Then last year I had an epiphany, I did know what I wanted but I was too scared to put everything into it to get there. I decided if I really wanted it, it was time to go back to university and get a bit closer to where I wanted to be. The thing is though, everything else started to ramp up at the same time. My beautiful partner of 8 years proposed, work got really busy and that along with trying to remember how to study, it has been a busy start to the year. Between working full time, studying and trying to plan a wedding, I kind of haven’t really switched off lately. I have had a lot of physical signs that probably should have alerted me to slow down but I ignored them and pushed through. I told myself “just get through until after your first exam”, but then there was the next thing, just another thing to take all of my attention and energy.
Generally I tend to pride myself on taking time out for myself, but recently I’ve let other priorities get in the way. So after running on high for a while my body was starting to take a toll this week and I was encouraged to go to the GP. Me being stubborn said “They will just tell me to rest up”… and do you know what, that is exactly what the GP did. I was told I needed to take a few days off to rest. My response was “Can I work from home?” and “Can I go to the gym?” The answer I got to both was a firm “NO!”. Thinking about it now though, I am really glad because I often want to do everything and that isn’t always possible. Admittedly it has been a struggle to stay in and relax but it has also been so nice. So why did I need to be told I had a virus and a temperature before I allowed myself to take a break? I am guessing I am not the only one in this boat.
So this was my reminder, and now this can be a reminder to you, to look after yourself. A reminder that tasks are always going to be there and most likely, the more efficient you are, the more work there will be. Sometimes things will be busy and you just need to push through but there comes a point where the culture of busy becomes normal and that is not okay. It is important to identify how it can impact your health and relationships. Only you can be the one to decide what that threshold is and only you can pull back from it.
Easier said than done however, pulling back from stressors and prioritising yourself can be a difficult task. Some tips that may be helpful are to:
- Create boundaries: This will depend on your style of work but it may be helpful to make a rule to leave work on time and not check work emails until you’re at work the next day, or maybe it could be studying within certain times (I used to study externally and had a “no study after 6pm” rule), or if you work at home it may be that work only takes place in one room of your house. Having certain boundaries like this can be really useful in creating a clear distinction between home and personal life.
- Distinguish between perceived and real obligations: Do you really need to do all of the tasks you've set for yourself or are you simply setting the bar too high? Write a list of the things you need to do and the things you would like to achieve. Dependant on how big the task, set one or two you'd like to accomplish and make those a priority.
- Schedule it in: Put personal tasks in your calendar and honour them as if they were a work meeting. I find it useful to make plans after work (whether appointments or catching up with friends) to ensure I leave work on time.
- Prioritise you: It can be easy to put time for yourself on the back-burner, especially when you have work to do or a family to tend to. It is important to remember that if you are running on empty fuel, it is most likely impacting other areas in your life. You can’t keep giving to those you love if you haven’t been looking after yourself and being tired and stressed is more than likely to impact your relationships within your life. So take time for you!
“You can’t pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first”