This picture hangs, framed and prominent, on the wall in my therapy room. We all know that we ‘should’ engage in self-care but how many of us actually do it given the pressures of life – children, partners, family, work, friends, house? Life is busy with lots of demands on our time. But if we constantly give without replenishing ourselves, our cup runs dry and leads to stress, anxiety, depression and general burn out.
It is not selfish to look after and invest in yourself – it’s essential to have anything left to give to others and to your work.
Pre-pandemic, our lives were still busy but we had hobbies, interests, days/nights out, people to socialize with to enable us to cope and achieve some balance or at least, occasional relief. Without necessarily thinking of them as coping strategies, that’s what they were. With many of these taken away during the last 18 months with the added pressures the restrictions imposed, such as home schooling, home working and not interacting with loved ones, stress and anxiety has increased considerably. Working long hours at home became the norm with nothing much else to do or sandwiching it around childcare.
Restrictions may have lifted but, as we have adapted, this in itself may cause increased anxiety as some may not feel safe mixing with others again, or homeworking may have become preferable to suit circumstances which now has to change again. As anxiety is the result of a rewiring of the brain in response to trauma or long term stress and pressure, simply lifting restrictions does not make it go away.
We need to take action to reconfigure our brain processes and that takes time. Pandemic aside as some changes are now here to stay, we need to make time in our busy lives for ourselves. Eat lunch away from our desks, shut the laptop down at the same time that we would have left work, go for a walk after work to compensate for the commute time where we could separate work from home life, spend at least half an hour every day doing something peaceful and relaxing, evaluate what is important and prioritise that, focus on the present and what we can do rather than what we can’t and engage in activities that we feel comfortable doing.
Everyone reacts differently and it’s about knowing our own limits, whether that’s by physical, mental or emotional changes, recognizing when we are running dry and doing
what we can to replenish our resources. Knowing our limits increases productivity, pleasure and wellbeing which benefits not only us but everyone around us.
Take care of yourself first.