I’m going through a fairly stressful period in my life. Theres lots of change and sometimes I feel like I barely have time to sit and smell the flowers. I was talking to a friend about how I felt and she asked - "are you looking after yourself?" I replied “well, as much as I can. I’m eating ok, I'm drinking enough water…” “No, I mean are you actually taking any time for yourself?” I don’t really do “downtime”.
Oh, but I used to! I thought back to when I was in my late teens - at a time when both my physical and mental health were a bit of a mess. But I did actually take time to look after myself. Feed my soul a bit, properly relax, take time away from the things that made me want to scream. So what was so different then that meant I could do stuff then, and don’t feel I can now? Ok, I had a lot less demands on my time. I didn’t have a little one running around. I didn’t have a partner to care about. But, I did have a good circle of friends that, unfortunately I’m somewhat lacking now. The big issue I found was my disability. Back then I was fairly fit, I used to carry my shopping home over several miles. I had no issues with mobility and I could go wherever I wanted.
After that talk with my friend, I started looking at lists of self care ideas. Go walking in a forest - nope, can’t do that on my own. Next! Cook healthy food...I can’t reach my sink let alone cook a meal...and on went these lists. They’re all aimed at people without chronic health issues or disabilities and focus on big tasks that I wouldn’t be able to manage. Self care doesn’t really work when you have to have someone else involved - unless socialising is the point of your self care activity. A lot of them focused on being active and were all physical health-orientated, rather than being more about mental well-being. So I thought about making my own list and my own plan. You know me, I love a plan!
Your Self care needs to cover a few different areas.
Most of these areas interlink, some are more important to some people than others, but there needs to be balance. You may feel that volunteering is part of your self care. But if it tires you out so much you end up not eating well, its actually caused more harm than good.
Those areas are:
Physical - anything that looks after you physically. Whether thats eating properly, taking care of your appearance, going to physical health appointments, taking medication as required
Mental - anything that mentally stimulates you. This could be a starting a challenging personal project, doing some sudoku or other challenging puzzles, taking time to relax as well as stretching your mental muscles!
Relationships - This isn’t just about romantic relationships. Friendships and family relationships are all really important.
Work/volunteering - Even if you can’t work a paid job, or go out and do “physical” volunteering, there are lots of other opportunities to do activities which make you feel validated.
Psyche - things that enrich the spirit/soul/psyche or whatever you want to call it. Even if you don’t believe in such a thing as a soul, its important to take time to do thing which make you feel good about yourself.
Emotional - this is what a lot of self care is about. Making sure you’re able to do things to keep you feeling good.
So why is self care such a big thing right now?
Us millennials (yes i’m 27!) get a bad rap. But to be perfectly honest, we’re having to learn on our own how to take care of ourselves in ways that people didn’t have to before. Social media didn’t exist, Smart phones didn’t exist. No one expected to be able to contact you 24/7. Very few people were expected to work 50-60 hrs a week in unpaid internships before. People weren’t having to live on a shoestring, in a shoebox, with 5 other people and be expected to have all their shit together in every area of their life. So self care is the only way millennials are being able to keep themselves vaguely together under incredible pressure from every direction. So, change that up a bit to working 24/7 battling against your health conditions, sleeping poorly, going to various medical appointments (I now see 9 different medical professionals!), doing your physio everyday, and all the normal day-to-day stuff but with severe flu...you need to look after yourself. All of yourself!
So, I need to take self care seriously because...
- LIFE IS HARD
- Burn out can quickly become chronic fatigue or enduring mental heath issues
- Getting stuff done with chronic illness and disability is hard enough, make it a little easier by making sure you look after yourself
- Maintaining relationships can be hard, illness can strain them further. Make sure you give them the time they deserve.
- I deserve better health than I currently have, but I have to work for it!
- I don’t want to get worse, and that could happen anyway. So try and reduce the likelihood!
- There are things I want to change in my life, and looking after myself is the only way I am going to be able to do that is by looking after myself.
I hope this encourages you to take it seriously too!