The importance of self care and switching off
I'm a grade A perfectionist, your classic over achiever. My whole life I have strived to be top of the class or pushed myself for a new promotion or tried to excel at a new hobby (I'm an absolute NERD at heart). At one point I was juggling two jobs, an internship and the final year of my challenging Economics degree, while still trying to commit to the all important midweek uni nights out (complete with homemade fancy dress of course). Burning the candle at both ends and wearing myself out completely is kind of my speciality, and even though I know I need to slow down a little bit, I always find myself with a jam-packed schedule, staying up late to finish blog posts and tip-toeing around my horribly messy house that I don't have time to tidy.
The past couple of weeks I have been quite poorly. I've had the worst flare up of symptoms that I've had since I was diagnosed with IBS 4 years ago, and I haven't been able to put my finger on why. Usually my symptoms are caused by eating certain trigger foods, or when I'm particularly nervous about something - a big presentation or a job interview perhaps. But this time around I haven't been able to identify any of the usual causes and I was feeling puzzled.
It was only when I was talking to my Mum and she mentioned how busy I've been recently that I realised how much pressure I'd been putting on myself. I've hardly had a minute to myself recently, but I think because all of the things I've been busy with have been super fun and rewarding that I was completely detached from how tired I am and how run down my body has been as a result.
In the last 8 or 9 weeks since my flare up began I have been on two holidays - both were fab, exciting trips that I'll remember forever (especially you, New York), but neither of them were the relaxing type of holiday where you can really recharge your batteries. I've been up and down to London for work around once a week - again, I LOVE my job and get a real buzz from spending time in our head office, but the travelling and the hecticness of it all wears me out. And we've had so much fun socialising and celebrating our good news with friends since coming home, but it's meant that we haven't had a single evening at home together, chilling out and catching up on house admin.
Putting all of these things together, it's easy to see why my body has been having a bit of a meltdown. I've had what has been one of THE BEST months of my life, but in all of the excitement I haven't really taken any time to look after myself. I haven't been getting enough sleep, I've been eating out all the time and I've been letting things like washing and life admin pile up, which I know makes me anxious.
So last Sunday Sam and I spent the whole day together in our lovely house for the first time since we moved in back in July. We didn't step foot over the door once, and instead spent the day sorting and cooking a lovely dinner together and just relaxing. It was perfect, and for the first time in ages I went to sleep on Sunday evening feeling calm and content and back in control. Just taking a few hours to get on top of things really helped to clear my mind, and taking some guilt free time to read my book and paint my nails and catch up on our favourite TV shows helped me feel so much more relaxed than I have been recently.
It made me remember that even when everything is going swimmingly, we still need to make time for self care. We don't only need the downtime when we're stressed or upset or totally burnt out. We need it to keep us healthy when life is moving at 100mph, even when it's moving in the direction you've always wanted.
From now on, I'm going to make sure that I keep at least one evening a week free just for me. Not to blog, or to catch up with friends, or to work late, or to do housework, just to sit and read a book or have a Netflix binge or a pamper session. I think it will be difficult for me to turn opportunities or social occasions down, but I know it will be better for both my physical and mental health in the long run.
Have any of you had a similar problem? What are your favourite ways to switch off?