Each one of us is juggling many things at any one time – career, home, finances, health, partners, family and being away from our support network. Our day to day existence can be quite overwhelming. Add to that a tragedy or major life change and your ability to function can be seriously compromised. Over the years I have learnt (the hard way) that pushing myself too hard can lead to mental and physical collapse. So today I want to talk about looking after yourself. I think it is probably the most important thing you can do for you, your partner, and your family.
Sometimes you have make your own well being a priority. But it is not always easy.
Feeling out of control
It took me a while to realise people are like ducks gliding along the surface of life with our feet kicking wildly underneath. Some people are just a bit better at gliding and this probably depends on what is going on their life at a particular time.
These days I can recognise the signs of stress a little better than I have in the past. I become stuck and unable to concentrate and make little decisions. I will spend hours going down internet black holes in the name of research but never really get anywhere. I can’t focus on a single task and get distracted easily. I will be disproportionately bothered by mess and untidy spaces. I will buy things I don’t need. I will eat and drink things that don’t nourish me. My sleep is disturbed.
Perhaps the thing that impacts me most is a spiral of repeating and unhelpful thoughts that never seem to be resolved. That feeling when you know you can’t see the wood for the trees.
It’s happening to many (if not all) of us
Over the years I have felt most lost, anxious and run down due to major life changes. Some of the stress triggers I have experienced include job changes and redundancy, relationship breakdowns, infertility, miscarriages, a full term twin pregnancy, and the serious illness and death of loved ones.
Recently I have had several heartbreaking conversations and listened to some friends in extreme distress. I have heard about illnesses, losses and horrible events that will change lives forever. I have watched faces crumple in grief and anxiety. I know their “duck feet” are paddling wildly to keep them staying afloat. I also know to other people they appear to be gliding across the duck pond like swans with each feather neatly in place.
Unsurprisingly life events such as these trigger that out of control feeling for many people but sometimes it is just a build up of everyday demands that can cause the disquiet.
It has taken several decades but what I do know now is that if I don’t look after myself things become quite miserable.
How do you look after yourself?
I think it almost causes more stress to be bombarded with “solutions” to your stress problem. Most of us are aware that diet, sleep and exercise are crucial components in looking after yourself. How you figure out how to make these components work for you and your lifestyle is a completely different matter.
I remember during a particularly tough time I was doing 3 pump classes a week at the gym and constantly feeling wired and tired at the same time. It wasn’t until a complete stranger pointed out I might be over doing it that I realised that form of exercise wasn’t helping at that moment of my life.
So I’ve been trying to build an approach that suits me and my lifestyle. One that I can adapt depending on the circumstances I’m in at the time.
What works for me
- Slowing down – not agreeing to every activity that is suggested and building more quiet time into my day
- Meditation/mindfulness – quieting the mind is a skill I wish I learnt a long time ago – I use this app of guided meditations to help with settling my mind and thoughts, even for a few minutes
- Cuddles with my kids – there is nothing more comforting than cuddles and kisses from my loved up offspring
- A long walk – on the beach, in a park, in the fresh air
- Cooking a new recipe – I love the method and consideration in preparing and building a meal from fresh ingredients. Focusing on the process takes my mind away from the swirling thoughts
- A weekend afternoon nap – when my body says sleep I don’t fight it
- Asking for and accepting help from your partner and others – I learnt this after the birth of our twins and am glad I did. No one can possibly do it all.
- Calling friends – the ones who prop you up, even if you haven’t spoken in a while. I call them my crew
- Try not to compare myself to others – we never have the full picture of someone else’s life – remember the duck feet
When all of the above is not enough to keep that out of control feeling at bay I have learnt the long way round to seek professional help. It can be a difficult step to take but it has never been one I have regretted taking.
What works for you?
I would love to hear what you do to keep gliding along the surface of the duckpond we call life. I’m still learning and adjusting my approaches and am very interested in other people’s strategies.
And as a relatively new mum I’d like to hear your thoughts on how we can build resilience and self care skills in our children so it doesn’t take them decades (like me) to begin to figure it out.
Hope you are taking good care of yourself. x
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