I’ve been pretty stressed recently. I started a new job and have been trying to absorb lots of information in a short space of time. I feel completely out of my comfort zone – and whilst I definitely wanted to shake everything up a bit – it’s been challenging too.
I’m also adjusting to a new working pattern and reinforcing how I can no longer be chief cook, grocery shopper, washer woman has meant some rather fraught conversations have taken place at home.
[Side note… how did we get to 2019 and the domestic load is still a thing…?]
Now, none of these things are insurmountable. I’m assuming at some point I will get up to speed at work and things will become easier. Likewise, we all need to get used to the fact I’m around less at home.
However, whilst everything’s bedding down, I need to make sure I’m looking after myself too – particularly as I can feel stress oozing out of every pore.
I need self-care.
What is self-care?
Self-care is the art of looking after yourself properly so you can manage everything else in life.
It’s about understanding that we need to put ourselves first sometimes in order to be able to do things for others.
It has its detractors who mock self-care as just being about face masks, candles and bubble baths as though it’s some sort of commodified product that only idiots fall for. Personally, I think anything that brings you joy and peace is worth it; I bladdy love a good candle.
However, I do agree self-care is about much more than ‘me time’. It’s about recognising where you need help, being able to be open and vulnerable enough to ask for support. It’s about putting boundaries in place so you reinforce your needs, as well as learning how to let go of situations and people who no longer serve you.
And that’s literally the tip of the iceberg.
Why is self-care so hard to do?
There’s an irony in the fact we need self-care more than ever when we’re busy and stressed but we don’t have the time or energy for it.
It falls down to the bottom of a list and in my case, another stick to beat myself with. I feel disappointed that I’m not looking after myself properly.
So how can we prioritise self-care and make sure we get what we need?
Creating a self-care tool belt
One of the best ways to ensure you can look after yourself better when life is stressful is to create a self-care tool belt. It involves planning ahead so when you’re busy and overwhelmed, you can think about what you have in your armoury without needing to expend too much brainpower.
Now in terms of self-care, all our needs are different because we all have our own challenges and priorities in life. For example, a busy stay at home mum is going to have very different needs from someone who travels a lot for work, even though both of them probably feel their time isn’t their own. This is why it’s important to reflect on what will support you.
Try to think about actions you can take to try and ease the pressure on yourself. They may be things you can do yourself – or ways you feel you can ask for help. That way you can dip into your self-care tool belt as and when you need it.
Simple self-care suggestions
- Ask for support. It can be really hard to ask for help, particularly in a work capacity because you don’t want to look like you can’t cope. However, it’s worth raising the issue so that people are aware. I think overall employers have got better at recognising they need to at least be seen to support employees and some are absolutely brilliant at it.
- Drop what doesn’t serve you. I remember years ago not going to a party because I wasn’t in a great headspace and I thought it’d make me feel rubbish. I’m still glad to this day I made that decision. I’m not suggesting you ditch all social occasions in favour of box sets because getting out can make us feel better. But if you really don’t want to do something, don’t do it.
- Remember done is better than perfect. There are occasions when there’s just not the time to pour over something and analyse it. Try to be happy with the fact its done.
- Get some fresh air. I try to make sure I go outside every lunchtime, even if it’s just a 5 minute walk around the block. It helps clear your mind and reset.
- Take a break from social media. It’s not relaxing and most of the time, it’s not especially productive. Switch it off.
- Think about what you’re eating. Our bodies crave sweet foods when we’re stressed because it thinks it’ll need the energy (flight or fight mode). However, don’t beat yourself up either if you’re getting a takeaway, especially if it’s going to save you time. It’s about balance and sometimes needs must.
- Do carve out time for yourself. Run a bath, light a candle, watch Great British Bake Off. Do something just for you – you deserve it.