By Beate Trück.
Paradoxically when things get stressful most people skip the things that nourish them and forget to take care of themselves. But how come that in moments when we most need to invest time into self-care, we forget about it or think it’s optional?
I think it has to do with the strong pull of what we call the doing mode. We think there is so much to do that we cannot “waste” one minute on ourselves. When we are very busy our vision narrows down to a tunnel vision and conseqently we only see the things right in front of us and not the whole picture. Our mind makes us believe that we can postpone self-care until later when things are calmer. That everything which is urgent is much more important. We do not see any longer that if we only “withdraw from our energy bank account” it will be empty at a certain moment.
This postponing can easily lead to a downwards spiral. The more exhausted we are, the less we take good care of ourselves. And the more exhausted we get. Often, this leads to increased worrying and negative thinking. Negative thoughts and emotions reinforce each other and provoke physical tensions and sometimes inexplicable pain. Tensions in the body can reinforce negative thoughts and emotions and before we know it, we feel depressed and exhausted.
Switching to the being mode
How would it be if you would simply pause in moments when you start to feel overwhelmed? Simply step out of the busy doing for a moment and switch to being.
Maybe you could notice some of your stress symptoms such as bad sleep or tensions or increased worrying. in oour mindfulness courses we ask people to make a list of their stress symptoms and share them with a person who is close to them so they can alert them when they start seeing the symptoms. We do this because very often when we are stressed we do not notice or ignore those symptoms ourselves.
Consequently, you could ask yourself: what do I need right now?
You could also question your thoughts which are trying so hard to convince you that there is no time for yourself. Is it really true that I have no minute for myself? And is it helpful to think this thought? What would I be without this thought?
It is also important to remember that only when you are taking care of yourself, you can be there for others. You cannot give on running empty. In the airplane they always say that you need to put your oxygen mask for yoruself first before you put it on others. It is the same for wellbeing: when we are in red we cannot take care of anyone else in a good way.
Some examples for self-care
So how can you take good care of yourself and stop feeling exhausted?
Can you remember what activities help you to refill your energy bank account and nourish you?
Here are some of the things that help me when I am stressed.
- Walking in nature helps me to reduce obsessive thinking and tune in to my senses. After a long walk I feel refreshed.
- Eating nourishing and energising food is important in order to keep good health. I sometimes check in with myself how the food I just ate has influenced my energy level and, if needed, I adapt next time.
- Massages, spa and physical exercise are another important factor on my wellbeing list. Especially when things are very busy, I try to move enough to decrease the stress hormones.
- Daily meditation is a nourishing moment for me. Since I have changed my attitude towards meditation as not something on my to do list, but as a moment for myself, I have never skipped a meditation session.
- Meeting with friends is another very nourishing activity for me. Going out for dinner with people I love always boosts my mood. Talking to my friends about things that worry me generally makes those worries decrease or even disappear.
- Investing time in hobbies is an important factor that contributes to our wellbeing. For me it is playing an instrument or reading. What are yours?
Whatever it is – make it a time for being where you step out of the doing and fully emerge in the activity that you have chosen. If you do those activities mindfully, you will be enjoying them even more and they will nourish you.
It is important to plan those activities in your agenda and take them as seriously as an appointment at work. Because self-care is not optional, it is vital for our wellbeing!
Sometimes it is important to do those activities even when you don't feel like doing them because you are too exhausted or down. It is in these moments that you need them most. Like the French say, "l'appetit vient en mangeant". So trust that after a while you will start enjoying them- just like when you do sports the endorphines will kick in after 10 minutes. This is why it can be useful to have a list of nourishing activities that you can turn to when the going gets tough and that can remind you what used to give you energy. You will then see that if you give yourself a little push it will be nourishing for you to step out of the busy doing and to engage in something you like.
So why not start right now in this busy period to treat yourself as if you really mattered?