This week, I’m going to start on a topic that will be ongoing, because it’s one of the subjects that Andrea and I still work on, are learning more about, and will undoubtedly have more to share on later in the blog. Self-care. It’s not a term I had ever heard of before two years ago. It’s not something I even attempted until about a year and a half ago. Self-care often gets tossed to the wayside because we don’t have the time to stop, take a breath, and relax. We have so many other things that have to be done on a deadline that there is no extra time to give up. But if you don’t make time for self-care, you’ll burn on quicker, miss the deadline anyway, and feel worse for it.
Self-care is hard, yet absolutely necessary.
Last night was a prime example of this for me. I’m getting ready to leave on that extended vacation with my family tomorrow. I had planned to spend the weekend finishing up laundry, picking up the house, and packing. Except Friday night, my mother text me saying she and my dad would swing by my house to pick me up after noon on Saturday. I had completely blanked on the fact that I was going on one of those short, out-of-town trips this weekend, even though I made the hotel reservation literally two days before.
There was a softball tournament in town, so the only hotel room I could get was a king with a pull out couch, and that thing was like a torture device. I got about five hours of back-wrenching sleep before giving up and watching Netflix on my iPad. By the time I got back to my house Sunday afternoon, I was exhausted. I had absolutely no energy to do anything related to packing, cleaning, or doing anything but continuing my Netflix marathon. My accomplishment of the day was tossing a single load of laundry in the washing machine and forgetting to put in the dryer.
Even though my leg of the trip starts early (so early) Wednesday morning, I’m spending the night at my parent’s house to give me an extra 35-40 minutes of sleep instead of waking up even earlier to make the drive from my house to pick up my mother. So that means I needed to be packed and loaded by Tuesday morning, since Tuesday nights are my therapy nights and I have a three hour round-trip travel time, leaving me no time to go home and pack after work.
All day Monday, I dreaded going home. I had so much to do, and I had a headache that was edging into migraine territory. I was very light-sensitive and irritable. Andrea encouraged me through texts, giving me ideas of how to stay on task while not feeling completely burned out. And for a while, it worked. Instead of turning on Netflix, I put on a movie that I’ve seen enough that I can quote it and won’t get sucked into, and knocked out a ton of stuff I had to get done. Then, the movie ended, and I sat down on the couch for a “short break” to watch a “single episode” on Netflix.
Everyone knows how that ended.
I was still doing a bit every once in awhile. I had to eat dinner, keep changing out laundry, and half-heartedly throw things into my living floor that I was going to pack. Around 12:30 am, instead of going straight into the next episode, Netflix asked me to confirm that I was still watching. Yes, I’m still watching! The tortured hero of the show just proclaimed his love for the woman who gave him a reason to live when he was feeling lost only to hold her in his arms twenty minutes later as she died taking a bullet for him. I am very much still watching. Except… I couldn’t find the remove to the AppleTv. Which meant I couldn’t confirm I was still watching. Which meant I could either sucker out and look up what happened on iMDB or actually do what I needed to do, and pack.
I chose option number two (and I still have no idea where that stupid remote is). For thirty minutes, I was so angry at myself for wasting time (and losing the remote) that I powered through more packing, more folding laundry, more cleaning, before I decided to take a small break. Being angry wasn’t helping me get more work done. I needed to calm, but with my AppleTv down for the count, I couldn’t watch Netflix or YouTube. I wasn’t getting my laptop out lest I fall into a social media hole for hours.
I was frustrated with myself for not packing early (I’m a procrastinator to a ridiculous degree). I was irritated that I somehow lost that small silver remote and I wanted to know what happened next on the television show. I was angry that I completely forgot I didn’t have a free weekend so I didn’t make hotel reservations in time to get two beds instead of one bed and a horrible pull-out couch. My anxiety was already high from trying to pack everything while simultaneously not forgetting something and this was piling on top of it.
Remember my last post? Having a plan meant I knew what I needed to do to calm down so I could focus. So with a sigh, I pulled up my phone to send Andrea one my infamous “Look at the time, yes I’m still awake, I make horrible choices” emails in lieu of watching things get blown up on my television. Only, when I checked my email, I read the notification that a book I pre-ordered on Amazon Kindle was ready. After grabbing my iPad and downloading the book, I decided to read a chapter and then get back to packing. Reading would help me calm.
I had to make the time for self-care even though every precious second was needed to get my things in order so I could pack, pick up the house, and go to sleep. I do not function well in the mornings, especially since I gave up coffee a few years ago, so I had to get everything done at night. Even though a little voice in my head kept telling me that I shouldn’t waste my time, that I had better things to do, that I should snap myself out of it, I had to block out a time to rejuvenate myself, or else I would be even less productive.
And it helped. I felt calmer. I was able to breathe easier. I forgot about my own frustrations as I read. I told myself that forgetting about the event was an honest mistake, but I’m so glad that I went because I really enjoyed myself, horrible sleeping arrangements aside. This wasn’t the first time I would forgot something and it won’t be the last.
I could have gotten angrier with myself, fallen into the cycle of irritation that led to procrastination that led to anxiety which fed back into irritation. But those self-care plans are absolutely crucial. Even if you don’t have the time, give yourself five minutes. You can spare five minutes to take a few deep breaths, get rid of the negative self-talk, and steady yourself. The risk of damage if you don’t is too high not to.
Self-care is unique to every individual, because every person has different needs for balance in life. It’s something to discover and don’t expect to get it right the first time, every time. I sure didn’t. Learning self-care also doesn’t happen overnight. Expect to forget, but remind yourself that you’re a work in progress. Every time you remember self-care, give yourself a pat on the back and a mental high-five. It’s hard, but you did it.
And in the interest of full disclosure, I want to give you a sneak-peek at next week’s topic, which is what can happen when attempting self-care can actually sabotage self-care.
Like when you start to read a book at one in the morning to calm yourself down before continuing on your tasks, only to get sucked into the book and before you know it, it’s 5:30 in the morning, you haven’t slept, haven’t packed for a trip, and you have to be at work in a few hours.