Quite possibly the hardest lesson in life to learn, especially for us women, is that loving yourself is the beginning of love itself. This is never truer than when we become parents dedicating our days to caring and nurturing others’ needs.
I’ve been struggling recently with exhaustion – I feel weary, emotionally and physically. The days feel heavy and long and, come evening, my reserves have been used up. I’m not very good at asking for help – instead choosing to battle on through, perhaps for fear of not being able to ‘do it all’ and yet desperately wanting to. But the reality is, we can’t do it all and when we are stretched and keep on pushing ourselves, we burn out. Burn out can manifest itself in many ways – perhaps we emotionally detach to protect ourselves, or maybe we snap back more at loved ones because our fuses are shorter, perhaps we seek to escape in the wrong places, (naughty foods or one too many glasses of wine in the evening)… Whatever our coping mechanisms, it’s worth thinking about the patterns, trying to tune into our bodies and minds and learn how to recognise when it’s all too much. Only then can we act, give ourselves time, ask for help and speak up about the fact we aren’t coping. By reaching out to others and admitting our own limitations, we can nurture our own sense of self and care for it, just like we do the little people at our ankles.
Here’s my top six tips for showing yourself some love:
- Book a babysitter in the day; take that time out just for you, take a walk, read a book in a cafe, see a friend, watch a movie. Just prioritise some me time and don’t feel guilty about putting yourself first.
- Make plans to see friends; friendships are a huge part of what life is about. Sharing the highs and the lows with the people you trust can help to empty your mind of worry and give you comfort in shared experiences. And even if it’s a frivolous night out – having a giggle with your friends helps to release endorphins and lower stress hormones.
- Buy yourself something just for you; last week I purchased a bunch of blooms that were too pretty to leave behind in the shop. It was an extravagance in one sense but they serve as a gentle reminder to myself that I matter, that I deserve a treat sometimes too. As they sit smiling at me from our tabletop I am reminded again and again that I deserved them, that I am worth it.
- Take some exercise; an autumn walk is good for the soul and helps us to rebalance. Take big lungfuls of air, breathing in calm and breathing out stress and worry.
- Pamper yourself; I don’t mean go and get a luxury spa treatment (although that isn’t a bad idea). But you can do some simple pampering at home that will still feel indulgent. Maybe try a face mask, or rub some oils into your skin and breath in the aroma, soak in a epsom salt bath, or paint your toenails. Whatever you choose to do, spending that little bit of time just making yourself feel good will put a spring in your step for the rest of the day and remind you time out for you is a game changer.
- Ask your partner to step it up a gear; Sometimes we are so busy trying to do it all we forget we have another half who can help shoulder the load. Whenever I am stretched with work and the kids and have little time left for me, I’ll talk to my husband about it so he can step up his input. He’ll try to get home earlier to help more at bedtimes, he’ll cook more of the dinners and help with more household chores when he is around to take some of the pressure off me.
How do you take time out for yourself? Tell me your strategies for looking after yourself when it all gets too much.