Work commitments and professional ambitions, responsibilities at home with children, housework (and if you’re a woman, statistically, the lion’s share of it), potentially caring for ageing parents, even preparing for fun things like big, family festivals and holidays like Christmas – these are everyday realities for so many of us.
And in the face of juggling all these responsibilities, neglecting ourselves is easy. Making self care (relaxation, exercise, and other things which recharge our batteries and improve our health and wellbeing) a priority is hard.
Most of our outward responsibilities come from other people relying on us – our workplaces, our homes, our families and partners, all of these rely on our time and labour to function, to flourish. It’s a lot harder to let others down, than it is to let ourselves down. Self care is always the first thing to get shoved right back to the end of the queue.
But the only person who can stop you running yourself into the ground trying to be and do everything? You.
You are the only one who can set those boundaries.
Your work will let you work yourself to death. Your family will let you run around picking up after them. Your friends will let you frazzle your brain trying to organise social gatherings all by yourself. And none of this is malicious, it’s not that your friends, or family, or colleagues want you to be unhappy, stressed, exhausted and drained. It’s just that they can’t ever fully understand what it’s like to be you – they don’t know exactly how many things you have on your plate at any one time, they don’t know exactly how much mental or physical energy a particular task takes for you. Only you do. And only you can say “No, the cost of doing this particular favour or committing to this responsibility is too high right now.”
According to UK government statistics in 2014/15 stress accounted for 35% of all work-related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.
When we don’t look after ourselves, we get stressed, burned out, and if neglect goes on for a long time, it can easily lead to common mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
We also tend to get into habits of ‘relaxation’ which might not necessarily be the most effective in the long term. Decompressing with some wine and mind-numbing TV can be good once in a while, but we often don’t get a very ‘high intensity’ pleasure from it, and it certainly doesn’t help energise us for the next day or coming week.
Making self care a priority can be a difficult process, but it’s absolutely worth it – you are worth it! Your health, happiness and wellbeing are worth it.
Here are some simple tips to start looking after yourself more effectively:
1. Schedule in Self Care Time as if it was an appointment.
And stick to it. You could start by setting aside one block of time each week, dedicated to something which helps you look after your body or mind, makes you feel good, keeps you healthy or gives you energy. From there you’ll be able to see how it works in your schedule, if you actually need to tweak the schedule or give yourself more time.
2. Leave the house to attend an exercise class.
Exercising at a class instead of at home has many benefits – no interruptions, no disturbances, it forces you to commit to the entire workout, and you get advice and guidance to ensure you get the best workout for you. The extra fresh air can’t hurt either.
3. Examine your responsibilities and see what you can outsource.
While you may not be able to outsource any work items, you could perhaps do so at home. Maybe there’s an aspect of your home that’s always a source of stress and conflict – nobody wants to clean the bathroom, or do the laundry. Hiring a cleaner or using a laundry service, or outsourcing some other kind of household work or ‘life admin’ could give you that much needed headspace and relief, even if you only do so once a week, once a month, or every couple of months.
4. Set communication boundaries.
A lot of us love digital technology because it helps us keep in touch with friends and family we might otherwise not see or talk to – but we can easily get sucked into social media, or struggle to completely ‘switch off’ from work, especially if you get emails from the office after you’ve left for the day!
Set polite but firm boundaries, such as setting up an auto-responder on work email saying you’ve left for the day so that expectations are successfully managed.
Do you have any tips or insights to share on how we can better take care of ourselves?
Thank you so much for stopping by today!