A Duty of Self Care

There was a time in my life when I was a fat, sick and unhappy girl.  Depressed and demoralised, I couldn’t see a way to turn things around.  When I look back on the point at which the wheels began to come off my wagon, there is a direct correlation between my weight increasing and the time I had to spend on myself decreasing.

At that point in my life, I was working full time, commuting and studying accountancy at night.  Time consuming as this was, I really didn’t help myself by still trying to be the best partner, daughter, sister and friend I could be.  This only ended up with me being over-committed and stressed.  How did I combat this?  By eating crap, because I had no time to cook, and not exercising, because there definitely wasn’t time for that!

Looking at this from the other side I have a clearer perspective on just how stupid this was.  Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be alone in this.  When life is busy and stressful, it seems that basic self care is all too often the first casualty.  The irony of this is that when you are under pressure and have a lot of demands being made of you, this is the time when you need to be investing more time and energy in looking after yourself.  The truth of it is, the less you feel like it, the more you need it.

Food is a good starting point to help me to explain this.  Healthy, nourishing food gives you energy to tackle whatever life is throwing at you.  It restores your immunity, which is important because lets face it, the last thing you need is to be sick.  A fully fed body is less likely to suffer mood swings and hormonal roller coaster rides.  All good news, right?  The problem is, that when life is hectic and out of control, we tend to reach for the easy options, fast food and processed rubbish.  These options may seem easier, but they will not fuel you or fortify you.

Sleep is next up on the list of victims.  We are all familiar with the cycle.  Busy schedules make it all to easy to justify staying up later than you should folding laundry, or getting up an hour early to get to the gym.  Before you know it, you’re struggling to fit in a solid 4 hours, and you’re wondering why your 3 o’clock slumps seem more vicious than before.  Sleep is a really hard thing to prioritize, but it is a must.  Not getting enough sleep will leave you tired, irritable and if you are anything like me, hungry.  Try setting a bed time alarm on your phone for about 30 minutes before you would ideally like to be going to bed.  When it goes off, finish up whatever you’re doing and start making your way to bed. Yes, that means you have to turn off Netflix!

Exercise is something that even at the best of times can be difficult to fit in.  The benefits are innumerable and well known.  I am not telling you that you need to join Crossfit or engage a personal trainer, but the benefits of even gentle exercise cannot be ignored.  not only does it have a profound impact on your health, but it makes such a huge difference to your head.  Even just getting out for a ten minute walk at lunch time can help clear your mind and make you better able to deal with whatever else is going on in your world.

Be more social.  Yes, I know this sounds counter intuitive!  Stress can be extremely isolating, and it’s important to try to maintain links to other people during these times.  It will remind you that you are not alone.  Again, it doesn’t have to be anything momentous.  Calling an old friend, or taking a coffee break with a colleague can be all it takes to lift your mood and give you some perspective.

We have all heard the old adage “you can’t pour from an empty vessel,” it may sound trite, but it is true.  When life takes you down a dark path, whether through illness, bereavement, work pressure etc. you may feel like it is going to take all your reserves to get you through it.  These are the times when you need to practice self care more than ever.

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