I am pretty lousy at self-care. Lousy might actually even be an understatement. I have a thing for not putting myself first, and I think it’s something that so many can relate to. Be it putting your kids, spouse, family, friends or work first, we all fall guilty to it at times. And no, it’s not always a bad thing, as long as there’s a balance.
My blog has been on hold for almost two months, because of, simply put, life. There was just so much going on. And now when I sit and write this, I’m on sick leave due to a hernia operation. Self-care has honestly not been a permanent matter at the top of my to-do list for years, but I’m finally starting to realize I have no other choice than put it there. Some months ago, I decided that I was going to focus on myself. I also placed an emphasis on overcoming my sleep deprivation.
Guess how well those worked out for me?
Sure, I put myself first for a while. Really focused on getting into a good sleep routine. I ate healthy, exercised, took some time for myself. And then alas, along came fall with all its business, and I shoved my self-care somewhere deep into a closet! I don’t have time for prioritizing myself, there are so many other things to tend to first.
Self-care is one of those things that we all know is extremely important, but..
It’s a no-brainer. If you’re exhausted, but don’t change anything, you’ll eventually burn-out. If you’re not happy, and don’t take the time to make some adjustments, you’ll eventually become miserable. And when you’re overwhelmed, well, it’s just a matter of time until you just can’t take it anymore. If you don’t take a breather every now and then, you’ll eventually end up stressed, bitter, unhappy, exhausted and perhaps even clinically depressed. Just because we know how important it is to take care of ourselves, doesn’t however make it necessarily any easier to accomplish.
I’m not very good at resting or taking it easy. I hate that I had to first become fully bed-bound to be able to stop, to take a moment for myself. I am trying hard to make the most of my situation, acknowledging that I have a real, genuine, concrete reason to take a break. An “excuse” to say, “Sorry, I can’t”. But in all honesty, for me it’s a bit of a two-way street. I don’t mind doing things far beyond expectations. On the contrary, I love taking the extra mile. I’m an over-achiever. I’m fully aware that I have physical restrictions at the moment because I just had surgery last week. And it’s infuriating.
I had my staples removed the other day, and was shocked to hear that my wound hadn’t healed completely. Yet another reminder for why putting myself first is incredibly important. The thing is though, why do we always need to be faced with an ultimatum before we take our own well-being seriously? My surgery and prolonged wound healing are concrete matters, which if not taken care of properly, could have relatively severe long-term consequences. The same goes though for becoming overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed out. They’re much easier to take care of as minor issues, then full-blown clinical depression.
When you pay attention, you might learn
I don’t feel I was exhausted or overwhelmed, but I think I could have been heading there. As summer transitioned into fall, it meant I was back to single parenting as my husband left the country again. School was back in, kids at daycare, work, hobbies, everything. The works. Plus some huge life altering changes ahead work and life wise. Oh and my hernia, which suddenly went from mainly annoying, but at times very painful, “monitored-status” to “get-ready-for-an-operation-now“.
I know I can’t do everything, nor am I supposed to be able to. I’ve often spoken about the super powers motherhood provides us with, but they too are limited.
I’ve now had several days of staring at the ceiling to sort of figure out where I stand (lay, hah). As said, I’m not comfortable with just being, I need to do things constantly. I’m always on the run, always doing a bit extra. And then when I have to stop, it feels like the end of the world. Now mind you, I have no academic background in human behavior, but in a way, it feels like something is a bit off if a person is incapable of fully relaxing, of taking a step back.
So I started paying attention. I started to think about myself, my being, my life situation. (Funny what a bit of strong medication will do to a person!) I noticed I don’t like to place people in inconvenient situations. I don’t want to bother others. I’ll easily go out of my way, to make sure someone else won’t have to. In the end, I realized I spend far too much time worrying about the well-being of others, than I do about myself. I also realized that a lot of my stress and factors contributing to my hectic life are created by myself (albeit with some help from external pressure).
It’s always nice with an epiphany, but it’s acting upon it that can be challenging. When I say I need to prioritize self-care, I don’t mean that I will suddenly turn my ship around and place my self, my wants and needs permanently at the center point. I also won’t suddenly go into a frenzy of saying “No” every opportunity I get. And no, self-care doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect with one spa getaway. It’s rather the entity. Right now I have to physically take it easy, forget about the mess and laundry, let someone else take care of it. Accept that I need help, that it’s more than okay to burden others around me these coming weeks. I have to allow my body time to physically heal, which requires in my case a lot of will power.
Self-care is more than just pampering yourself
Self-care is however so much more than a bunch of wonderful pampering moments. Be it a girls night out, hot cocoa under a blanket, 5 minute breather to myself or spa pedicure – they’re all very important. But it’s not just physical activities or mindfulness. Self-care is also that I make my own choices based upon my own needs and wants. It’s about accepting and appreciating myself.
For example, placing my career on hold for a few years so that I can be with my kids has been a long personal battle for me. If you’ve read my posts about appreciating stay-at-home-mothers or the impact of motherhood on working life, you know where I stand on the topic. At the same time however, work is a very difficult topic for me, because I’ve struggled with accepting my own choices. I have constantly wanted both, a workaholic career and full-time motherhood, but I absolutely didn’t want to combine them. Being active in the PTA, throwing extravagant birthday parties for my girls or running my own little charity project are all extra hassle that I could easily avoid if I wanted to. They’re time consuming, stressful and hectic add-ons in my life, but they make me happy. They provide me with fulfillment.
Hence, self-care for me, is accepting myself, being kind to myself, allowing myself to make decisions and act upon them in the way I feel best, without guilt-tripping myself. Yes for sure I’ll try to squeeze in some more me-time into my life etc., but more so, treat my mind well too. Trust me, the world will judge you enough whether you like it or not, so be kind to yourself. Less others and more you. That’s at least what I’ll be doing.