Do you often find yourself stressed out or overwhelmed? Learn to take time for yourself. We often make excuses about why we cannot get a full night’s rest, or take vacation, or dedicate an entire day to ourselves. There are realities and limitations that make it difficult to do this on a moment’s notice. However, when you don’t take care of your body, your mental, physical, and emotional health suffers. There is less of you to give, to yourself or others.
Take time each day to check in with yourself and understand your needs. If you are like me, you may need a little practice. I am usually so focused on what is going on around me and in the world that it is hard to hear my own needs. By the time my inner voice has become loud enough to get my attention, stress has already taken a heavy toll on me. I am learning to practice mindfulness and check in with myself more regularly. I usually go through the following questions in my mind:
1) What am I feeling right now? (Frustrated, exhausted, overwhelmed, tired)
2) What do I need?
3) Do I need to take a break from what I am doing for a moment?
4) How much more energy can I give to this task today without burning out? Can I switch tasks for a bit?
5) What can I do to destress? (Muscle relaxation exercise, reflection, take a quick walk, pray)
In the beginning, I aimed to do this once per day. With practice, I am able to do it more often and self-correct in response to my needs.
Self-care Is Not Selfish
You aren’t doing others a favor by not taking care of yourself. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t want it to interfere with my job. I even stopped taking pain medications within days of a major health event so that I could think clearly and get back to work. I refused to take leave initially, but later my health declined and I had no choice. I ended up being off of work for two months, unable to even use my computer.
Moving forward, I had to learn to be mindful of my needs and more proactive in addressing them. I learned how to communicate with my doctors and co-workers. I prioritized medical appointments that would help me maintain my health. I spent more money weekly on co-pays than my friends did on martinis, but it was vital to achieve and stay in remission.
You Need Social Support
You can’t always be the rock. You will burn out. Don’t be afraid to ask for the support that you need. Keep in mind that those we give support to are not always the ones who are able to support us when we are going through difficult times. It can hurt when those close to you aren’t able to be there for you, but to fixate on this only leads to a long pity party. Even in times of difficulty, be present in the moment and grateful to those who are able to support you (including service providers).
I hope these tips are helpful to you. Remember, above all, to be compassionate with yourself. Others may not always understand or acknowledge your needs. Take time to address them, and start to build a life that is more inclusive of self-care. You are worth it!