Invest in Yourself
If you’re serious about being your best at work, about putting yourself into the best frame of mind to get through the next lockdown and about being a nice person to be around at home, you need to start at the beginning. That’s with YOU.
I’ve had two meetings with clients yesterday about their struggles; feeling stressed and snappy that has negative repercussions on family relationships, affects their ability to sleep well and gets in the way of their sense of wellbeing. These two individuals are people I’ve worked with before. Interestingly, they both admitted that they had previously reached a place where they felt good and so stopped using the techniques that got them there.
Self care isn’t like medicine. It’s not about feeling ‘unwell’ and then nurturing and re-charging before returning to overdrive-inducing-burnout. Think about it… you wouldn’t take a prescribed drug to recover from an illness and then put yourself in a situation to make yourself physically ill again, repeatedly. Yet that’s what so many people do when it comes to their mental health.
So Much Resistance!
We know the benefits of self-care, yet too many of us continue to push it down the day’s agenda or simply dismiss it altogether as something for the ‘delicate’ among us. But neuroscience clearly explains the damage we do to ourselves by inhibiting our ability to think clearly, to be rational, problem solve, have empathy and maintain positive relationships when we are in a place of high emotional arousal. Looking after ourselves is proven to improve performance and productivity; why would you choose to ignore the evidence?
Whether you’re someone who puts your head down and rarely lifts it for a break, or you try to emulate a superhero who can take on the world (well, at least a job, family and home responsibilities), or you think self-care isn’t for you, think again.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you feel at your best now?
- What behaviours and mental abilities do you need in order to fulfil what you need to achieve each day? Are you able to do that well or do you feel things are getting in the way?
- On a scale of 0 – 10, where does your emotional arousal/ stress/ anxiety move to over the day? How does this impact on how you feel and behave?
When you begin to consider the evidence you experience yourself in terms of how your emotional responses affect your ability to thrive, and the impact it has on people around you, you should be able to think a little clearer about the following strategies.
7 steps to give yourself some relief from stress and overwhelm:
- Find what works for you. Some people love a long run, others prefer to meditate, write a journal or read. It doesn’t matter what the activity as long as it is something for you. One of my clients felt a huge sense of relief watching an hour of TV in the evening – it stopped her from running around doing jobs and going to bed feeling burnt out.
- Start small. It’s tempting to make a declaration that you’re going to start doing something different by doing it big! But we know that change is more likely to happen when it feels really achievable. That means short (even 15 minutes makes a difference) and easy (think going for a walk vs scuba diving!).
- Schedule it to make sure that it happens. And don’t be put off by other ‘more important’ activities. There are always numerous potential barriers we can conjure up that provide resistance. Yes it’s raining… so what? A walk, getting wet, with a friend to natter with will still leave you feeling more energised and refreshed.
- Get others involved – make downtime a social and fun activity. Whether that’s with your family, one other person outside or an online exercise session you take part in together, making a commitment to others can increase your motivation. And it increases social interaction, which we all need to find ways to achieve more than ever right now.
- Share responsibilities. It’s surprising how quickly people end up juggling too many balls. It’s often only when they begin dropping that people begin to notice, and then for some it’s only when they land on their head! When you feel your capacity approaching full, sit down with people around you and explore how you can share tasks. My client realised everyone in her family waited for her to return from work before bombarding her with information and requests before she undertook all the jobs that come with having a busy household. Avoid assumptions that people (I’m thinking the grown up types here) know what needs to be done and that they will use their initiative to do it. Experience shows for most of us that this approach leaves us feeling disappointed. Good old simple verbal communication asking for help and pointing out the benefits (i.e. you’ll be a nicer person when you’re less stressed) is often more effective.
- Take stock of your general self-care that comes in the form of what you eat and drink, your sleep habits and your exercise. Some people forget that these activities are part of what makes us who we are; they reflect our mood, emotional and cognitive capacity and our energy levels. It’s easy to slip into bad habits, drinking a little too much, snacking to keep us going, going to bed later to fit more into the day, giving up on exercise with so many other priorities. But these blocks are the foundation on which you build your capacity for the day so strengthen them.
- Notice your EARLY signs that your amygdala is taking over and driving up your stress response while diminishing your intellectual capacity. Then, identify calming strategies to bring your emotional arousal under control. That simply starts with creating mental space with one of your self-care activities such as a walk, hot drink and read of a book or a spot of gardening for 15 minutes. If you choose to ignore your early signs, you’re choosing to ignore the warning from your amygdala that you’re on a downwards trajectory.
Still feeling a little under par? Get in touch to explore your specific challenges and I will help you identify a plan for you to take greater control. Regardless of whether you want any support, let me know which changes make the biggest difference for you.