The art of looking after yourself
Despite knowing how important self care is, I've been a bit rubbish at looking after myself recently. I hadn't even noticed how rubbish I had been until I felt the old familiar twang of an IBS cramp and the sort of fragile weepiness that comes with sheer exhaustion and feeling totally overwhelmed by life.
I know myself well enough to know that all of the above things can be avoided or better managed by just taking a bit of time out to relax and switch my brain off
and mindlessly eat carbohydrates. And yet, somehow, I still found myself with a mouth full of ulcers, constantly worrying that I may start weeping at the faintest hint of criticism from a colleague. It took me running myself nearly completely into the ground with endless DIY and ominous work projects and social events aplenty to realise that I haven't quite yet perfected the art of looking after myself.
Don't get me wrong - the last few weeks haven't all been doom and gloom, quite the opposite in fact. I've had lots of overwhelmingly happy moments, ones that make me want to do a little dance because I feel so happy and lucky and grateful that this is my life. But in all that manic excitement and productive urge to go at all areas of my life full steam ahead, I forgot to take some time out just for little ol' me. I went a very long time without so much as a couple of hours that didn't involve emails or stripping wallpaper or getting quotes from tradesmen or writing up a blog post. And I've learnt that however much my type A, uber productive brain might think it can cope with running at 100% at all times, it's wrong.
I realised recently that I do very little in my life just because. All of my hobbies are productive ones. When I'm blogging or writing, I'm always feeding my creative side and learning new things. When I run I do so not because I love it, but because I want to feel healthier and fitter. I like reading because it helps me see life from different perspectives. Heck, I've even started listening to Radio 4 in the car because it makes me feel better informed about the world around me. I get antsy when Sam sits and plays FIFA for an hour - "don't you feel like you're just wasting your life sitting their pressing buttons for an hour with no real outcome?!".
Exercise and getting enough sleep and fuelling your body with healthy foods are all such important elements of self care and they cannot be undermined. But what I've really learnt these past couple of weeks is that even more crucial is to allow yourself some time to do things just for yourself.
Maybe it's reading a really trashy chick lit book that will impart next to no wisdom but will keep you on the edge of your seat for hours as you race to find out the ending. Maybe it's pouring yourself a glass of wine and allowing yourself to stew in the bath for an hour. Maybe it's taking yourself out for a walk, just because it's a lovely sunny day and you want to go and ogle cute puppies and dogs on the canal.
Whatever it is, make time for it. Make that time as non-negotiable as your team meeting or a doctors appointment or paying your electricity bill. Don't be tempted to cancel it when a social invite comes along or you're feeling a bit behind with work. Because ultimately, nothing is as important as looking after yourself. It helps you feel more confident and creative and resilient.
And the things that you put out into the world, whether that's your work or your friendship or your general energy, will be SO much better and more inspired and more credible when you're feeling more authentically you.