Taking care of yourself is the single most important thing you’ll ever do, because how can you function if you aren’t ok yourself? We seem to spend our lives trying to fit into a number of different roles every single day whilst putting pressure on ourselves to be on top form in everything we do; we want to be the best parent, the best partner, the best friend, and the best in our careers too. We juggle the many areas of our lives and manage them so efficiently, but something always has to give, and that something is usually the way we look after ourselves.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from the hardest time in my life was how to take care of myself in a way I had never done before. By this, I don’t mean that I found a seamless way to fit health foods and workouts into my life because taking care of yourself comes down to so much more than that. Self-care means more than filling your room with candles, practicing daily yoga, or a glass of wine partnered with a nice long bath on a Friday evening – even if they do make you feel lovely.
Now I’m all for candles, health foods, and yoga but in my experience, these are a small aspect of what we need in our lives to feel good. Candles are comforting, health foods make us glow from within, and yoga helps us to find some peace but if you’ve ever suffered the overpowering dread that comes with anxiety then you’ll know these are merely extras we can add to our lives and they aren’t the key components when it comes to self-care. These are what I’ve learnt since suffering from anxiety, some of them I learnt from therapy, some from my family and some from just learning to live again after the most challenging period of my life.
It’s about learning to make sacrifices so that you don’t burn out. We are all guilty of wanting to lead exciting lives, where we are getting out doing stuff, going places, and seeing people. I don’t put myself under pressure to live that life anymore. You don’t have anything to prove and you don’t need to live a show-off life either. I know I’ll often come across as boring and I even jokingly get called a granny at times, but you know what I’m fine with my life. Admittedly I need to make a few more plans but I’ve learnt that taking on too much on in my free time means I get less time to rest or prepare for the week ahead and this can feel overwhelming, so I try at all costs to allow myself some downtime after busy weeks.
It’s about setting some boundaries so that others don’t set them for you. Because you should know that what you want matters too. I think that way too often we try so hard to please other people and we forget that our own feelings are important. People will take advantage if you choose to let them and, so I’ve learnt to let go of anyone who makes me feel like any less of the person I know I am. If you don’t mutually respect one another’s boundaries then that’s not a healthy relationship and it’s not good for you, be brave enough to want more for yourself; because for every person who doesn’t know how to treat you right, there are going to be plenty more who do. But also remember that it’s about quality and not quantity, you’re far better off surrounding yourself with people who genuinely care, and you certainly don’t need to keep anyone in your life for the sake of it.
It’s knowing when you need a break and when to cut yourself some slack but also when to give yourself a gentle nudge too. This is something I’m still trying to learn, I know I’m super critical of myself and I’ll work ridiculous hours sometimes because I’m naturally a perfectionist when it comes to anything I work on, but I found out recently that our concentration peaks after we take a break and dips if we work too long without having some time out. Something I am getting a little better at though is thinking positively when I have days where I feel like I’m getting nowhere, I’m learning to be kinder to myself and not be critical of what I haven’t done but instead I’ll count my little accomplishments, and this seems to be all I need to get going again.
It’s making sure you get enough sleep, I can’t stress enough how important this is. When we’re not getting the right amount of sleep we can’t function properly, and this leads to feelings such as anxiety. Then we’ll ply ourselves with caffeine in the hope that it’ll get the job done but it only makes things worse, so the best advice is just to get to bed earlier. I’m most productive in the evening and would happily go to bed after midnight but this has in the past totally messed up my body clock and it can take days to catch up again on those lost hours sleep. There are a number of little routines I have now to help me get a good night’s sleep, these are just a few: I get organised earlier in the evening preparing all that I need for the following day, I rarely look at my phone when I get into bed and I do love a good night cream!
Be kind to yourself, it’s ok to be all the things that you want to be, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you need yourself before anyone else needs you. Take care of you first.