No matter who you are, what you do in life or where you live, we all need some “me-time” every now and then. As a carer I feel that especially strongly at times. It’s so easy to get caught up in our everyday lives that self-care becomes something we put on the back burner. I’ve put together some ideas that I like to use in those times I need to decompress from life.
The first step is to change your perspective
Cut yourself some slack; you’re allowed to be tired, sore or frustrated. These are natural feelings for humans, what isn’t natural is ignoring them or pushing them to one side. Use your observation skills to understand the source and use the human ability we have for creative problem solving to ease your pains.
Read/write or focus on something literary
We all have good and bad days, sometimes our own lives seem to fight us constantly, not to mention the people in them. On my truly terrible days I find it helps to sit in front of the laptop or grab a pen and paper and just “word vomit” everything you’re feeling. Mostly it’s disconnected and doesn’t make much sense upon reflection, but that isn’t the point of the exercise. Lose yourself in the words, the process will either switch your attention to something other than your current issue or get the issue out of your system, (like a private rant).
Failing that pick up a book or magazine, read a few articles online. Even taking a five-minute break can provide a distraction (and possible future clarity) from your current situation. Any story can spark a detailed inner monologue or provide some quiet reflection.
Schedule some time for a nap
Sometimes our lives are often scheduled down to the hour (or some days even the minute). Some weeks are busier than others and sometimes you can look at the week ahead and realise you are going to be exhausted by the end of it. Instead of feeling the dread, sighing and getting on with the inevitable, plan to your advantage. Look through the list of things you must do, factor in travel times or when people will be around, (my house is usually a circus of helpful nurses, unhelpful family members or just an interruption of delivery people) and book some time off.
Add places in your day for small times of rest, but also an hour just to lie down. We don’t always get our eight hours a day, and for some of us the night shift is more normal than the day. A week is composed of 168 hours. Sparing one hour in a particularly challenging week to recharge is not too much to ask for; some might even say you deserve it. Close the blinds, put on some calming music and just close your eyes. If you worried about your lack of control set an alarm for when you need to get back to it but remember you do deserve this.
Find an inspirational quote
This may sound corny, but it’s such an effective way to reinvigorate yourself. Find a quote you really love or that makes you feel strong and empowered, write it on a post-it or print it on some patterned paper and display it. Attach it to the mirror you look at in the morning, or the back of your bedroom door so when you step into your role for the day you can take a moment to appreciate what you do; a moment to acknowledge yourself. You are strong, accomplished and so important and if you can’t tell yourself that, who will?
Spend a few moments outside
Seems self-explanatory. Fresh air and sunshine for a few minutes never made anyone feel worse that’s for sure. Walk down the street or around the garden if you have access to one. Sit undercover and listen to music or read a book. Set some time aside to enjoy the sun, breeze or even rain. According to the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association exposure to sunlight is thought to increase serotonin levels, associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. What an easy (and accessible) way to feel happy.
Take a moment to breath
This seems like a condescending platitude, but there’s more to it than just that everyday function our brains don’t consciously consider. Mindfulness seems like a ridiculous notion on its face, but the benefit it does have is that is forces you to stop whatever you’re doing. Add a gorgeous and calming scent and you’re practically a seasoned meditator already. Burn some incense or buy a bunch of flowers, place them in a main and take a few seconds to inhale and de-stress before moving on.
Or pick a room to be the relaxing room, make it a nice temperature and set the mood with lighting and a lavender candle (my favourite). Feel yourself starting to stress or wear and go stand in the room, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. A small action like this can revive you for the next few hours and it’s so simple and easy you can come back multiple times a day if necessary.
Treat yo’ self
Everybody likes spending money, right? It could be as simple as picking out a bar of chocolate just for you when you go shopping, buy that comfy pair of socks you’ve had your eye on (mine have cute sharks on them – I love sharks), or grab that proper made cappuccino we all wish we could afford every day. The act of buying something that is specifically for you to consume or enjoy will make you feel special and then you have the added bonus of actually enjoying the item as you use it. You need to convince yourself you deserve that bowl of ice-cream (and more importantly the break in time that it represents), because you really do. You are definitely allowed to enjoy a treat and the few minutes peace that comes with it.
Take care of yourself
Yes, this whole article is about taking care of yourself, but I’m talking some basic physical needs that get overlooked. Sometimes I need to set an alarm to remind myself to eat lunch. Things that seem really basic tend to slip your mind when you’re busy running around keeping a household (or workplace) running (or at least stopping it from falling apart). Wash your face, brush your hair, trim your nails, stretch out some knots. Sometimes it’s not about spoiling yourself, it can just be about keeping your body running.
Do a puzzle/play a game/start a hobby
Sometimes what we need isn’t a calm down but a wind up. A little bit of forced fun or excitement might be the answer. It seems logically silly to have to force yourself into enjoyment for a while, but when we are scraping for time to shower or eat it can be your only option. I bought a 500-piece puzzle once, my special person and I spent an hour or so each day for about two weeks assembling it. It got me to focus on our combined mental needs rather than the obvious physical ones.
This is such a hard one, but boundaries are important and so are you. Helping my special lady has made me such a central part of our (quite large) extended family and as nice as it is to be wanted and needed by lots of people, it gets tiring pretty quickly. When people begin to whine or complain, be compassionate and ask them what they plan on doing to fix the issues around them. Families are especially hard because you’re all supposed to help each other, but when people start to take advantage or ask things of you that they can easily do themselves don’t pick that weight up.
So, don’t make feeble excuses. Don’t think you aren’t worth it. Don’t try to convince yourself there are more important things to do.
You are important. Don’t forget that.