I thought I would address today's blog to myself as a little reminder of all of the things I know are hugely beneficial to my health and mental wellbeing but I have neglected recently.
I’ll start with the obvious… if a friend told you they felt tired, stressed out and overwhelmed, what would be the first thing you would advise them to do? Take a break, right? Devote some time to yourself, look after yourself and take a breather, reflect on your achievements... all great self care ideas right? So why is it that when things are a bit tough in our own lives, we often try and push on through?
My diary at the moment is looking pretty bleak in places. Note… ‘in places’, not all the time, but recently I’ve chosen to focus on the fact that I’ve got a million and one things to do and virtually no time to do it all, rather than on the fact that I do have gaps in there and it might be beneficial to me to use those gaps to relax a little. The result of this is that I’m feeling the strain and the first thing I tend to do in this situation is look inward, get my head down and just try to get it done. Can anyone else relate to this?
Do you find it difficult to look after yourself?
For a number of reasons, I’ve been reading a lot about self-care strategies recently, which is great, but none of what I have learnt I have managed to apply to myself. I feel like it’s a constant battle to remind myself to do it and I often feel guilty when I think there are other, more productive, things that I need to do. If you are reading this and thinking, ‘same’, then here are some possible reasons for it which might be worth considering:
Time: Do you feel like you don’t have time for it? Well, you’re not alone, it is common to find it difficult to juggle work with family obligations and sadly it is more often than not the self-care that gets sidelined.
Guilt: some people feel guilty about taking time out for themselves, and this is so me. I feel like 'me time' is unproductive and not helpful to anyone but myself (I guess that’s kind of the point though)
Motivation: sometimes time spent on self-care can feel like a chore, especially if it involves exercise or going out of your way to try something new.
Fear of judgment: again, this is so me. Do you ever worry that others (maybe even family members) will think you are selfish or lazy if you are spending time doing something for yourself instead of others?
Limited resources: sometimes self-care activities can be out of reach due to financial, or other, limitations.
I think the important thing to remember is that self-care can be challenging for a lot of people and it’s like a lot of other things in life, whether they are good for us or bad for us, doing them repeatedly forms a habit and habits take time to develop (especially good ones!).
What Self Care Ideas Work for You?
My personal opinion is that we should be doing things we enjoy, not forcing ourselves to do things that we think are good for us. For example with exercise. Now I have never managed to stick to a gym regime, despite knowing all about the benefits. Yet, when it comes to running, I have no problem (well, OK I have ups and downs, a bit of an on-off relationship with it and it’s not all plain sailing) but compared to gym membership I’ll take it any day. I know it’s because I like being out in the fresh air, I’m largely solitary when it comes to exercise and it gives me a sense of freedom. I know that it would probably benefit me to lift some weights but I figure that some exercise is better than none and I’m much more likely to do something I enjoy, right?
Disrupt Yourself and Take a Break
A couple of times recently I’ve had to force myself away from my workbench when I’ve really wanted to be keeping on top of my workload.
Like, for example, the May Day Bank Holiday. For me, bank holidays I can take or leave. When I was employed they were amazing, but now all of my days roll into one to be honest; in a good way though, I mean I love what I do so weekends are kind of irrelevant. Except when it comes to needing a break.
I had a ton of stuff on my to do list that weekend, culminating in a list as long as my arm on the Monday. I often don’t accept invitations or do fun things because I know I’ll sabotage it by thinking of all the things I need to be sitting at my desk doing. But on Monday I thought, sod it, and Tom and I had a day out in Clevedon, did a little walk and had a stroll along the beach, picked up a couple of bits of glass, had some lunch.
It was heavenly and I came home with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. In fact I got all of my jobs done in the evening so it was like a bonus day out I didn’t know I needed.
Why is Taking a Break so Important?
To finish, here is a list of very obvious reasons why it’s so important to take breaks. You’re probably already really good at doing this but if, like me, you struggle, then this is your gentle reminder:
When you take a break, you give your mind and body a chance to rest and recharge. This can help you to return to your work with renewed focus and energy, which can increase your productivity and efficiency.
Taking a break can help you break out of mental ruts and inspire new ideas. By stepping away from your work, you may be able to approach problems from a fresh perspective and come up with creative solutions.
When you work for long periods without a break, you can become stressed and overwhelmed. Taking a break helps you manage this by allowing you time to relax and do something more enjoyable.
Sitting for long periods can be bad for your physical health. Taking breaks, however short, to move your body can help improve your circulation, reduce muscle tension and raise your overall fitness and strength.
Right Helen, and anyone else who wants to listen, that was your little reminder, now get on and do it!!