Take good care of yourself

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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.

taking care of yourself  can't see wood for trees

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.

taking care of yourself beach walk 2

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.

taking care of yourself baby hugs

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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12 Comments

  1. 19th May 2016 / 9:13 PM

    Excellent advice! I have just recently downloaded a meditation/ mindfulness app. Sometimes I need to reset as I try to stay calm with my 3 year old all day by the end of the day I’ve snapped!

    • 20th May 2016 / 5:30 AM

      Me too Ciara. Somehow they know what buttons to press ?

  2. 21st May 2016 / 7:21 PM

    excellent post! I can’t really meditate but what relaxes me is a good book/film:)

    • 22nd May 2016 / 9:02 AM

      Me too. I have not been reading books so much for pleasure lately – good reminder to start again. Thanks Tanja

  3. 23rd May 2016 / 10:07 PM

    Stress is awful, I was a teacher and I have never experienced stress like it, I know some people have much worse situations to deal with but it felt for me so hard to deal with, I think I struggled with the sadness most that a career I had loved had turned out so stressful and all unnecessary, and I found it hard to manage which made me grumpy. Then i decided life is just to short and walked away for it all a scary decision, but the best I ever made, I never feel stressed now and am so much happier as I don’t have that element in my life x

    • 24th May 2016 / 7:30 AM

      Sorry you went through that Sarah. It sounds like you made the right decision. Teachers are not given enough respect or understanding in many western cultures unfortunately. But we need great ones more than ever. Thanks for stopping by

  4. Pen
    30th May 2016 / 4:59 AM

    Good advice Katy. My suggestion: Dance! Put on whatever music trips your trigger and dance like crazy. My motto in life is “there ought to be more dancing”. It’s freeing, it’s fun and if you really get going it can be quite primal. Even if it’s just for one song. Move your body, get the oxygen flowing, immerse yourself in the beat and off you go. If your kids, partner or whoever’s there gets in on the act, then laughter normally follows. It’s a good way to bring yourself into the moment and a fun way to release stress.

    • 30th May 2016 / 4:07 PM

      Yes more dancing please my darling friend. I was only do in my bestest happy dance last night much to everyone’s horror, I mean delight ?

  5. 1st June 2016 / 6:59 AM

    What an excellent article and such good advice. I am just coming out the other side of a tough few months and it has been a relief to slow down, I am allowing myself some time to be less productive than normal just to re-charge.

    Stress can have real physical impacts that manifest themselves in strange ways. About 9 years ago my family went through a pretty awful time with high levels of emotional stress for all of us for a few months. By the end of it my hair had turned grey.

    • 1st June 2016 / 7:24 AM

      I’m so sorry you have been having a rough time. As you say, stress can really take its toll physically. I have a lovely stripe of grey hair right along where I part my hair that I attribute to a particularly difficult few months. Hope you are able to recharge and feel more yourself soon x

  6. 14th May 2017 / 10:03 PM

    I think I am constantly on one step of the stress ladder at all times. Sometimes I’m near the top of the ladder, other times it’s just one step. I too have ridden the waves of stressful life experiences: losing my mum, relationship breakdowns, getting married on the other side of the world, moving countries, going through miscarriages and infertility and IVF, getting made redundant during pregnancy, trying to figure out the right work-life balance, and currently trying to live with s husband who suffers severe PTSD and cannot work because his brain is unable to cope with most situations. It’s hard. I also try to meditate every day, and will be carving out twice a week to go to yoga again. I used to love doing that before I became a mum. Now I have trouble telling myself it’s important and ok to do things like that for myself. Great post, Katy. A very important reminder for us all.

    • 15th May 2017 / 5:17 PM

      Oh Ali, life is never always easy but it certainly can be horribly difficult at times. I know some people say these tough times make you stronger but that’s not terribly helpful is it? Having been on that miscarriage and IVF journey myself I would chalk that up to one of the most awful periods of my life. Fortunately for us the outcome was amazing but as a mum it’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day running of things and forget to look after yourself. I’m so glad you stopped by this post and left your note as I went and reread it and realised I need to change a few things. Sending love xx Katy

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