The Courage Blog

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How To Look After You When You Have No Time

I know I need a break

Last week I touched on how busy everyone seems to be – and in my vlog I touched on the idea that one reason for this is that we feel obliged to do so much for so many sets of people. We need to be good parents, good employees, good friends, good sons and daughters and so on. We just either can’t or won’t make time for ourselves.

All of us are bombarded daily with posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by our friends and acquaintances living seemingly perfect lives. And even though you know they’re cherry picking the best bits to showcase on social media, it doesn’t stop you feeling like a failure when your life isn’t Pinterest-perfect.

So you do more, you try harder, you push, push, push but somehow it’s never enough and you’re exhausted.

I can’t just “make time”

I can hear you from here. I was exactly the same – I wrote about this last week. How could I possibly stop? People were counting on me.

I thought that if I stopped, my life would collapse around me and then I’d have to spend even more time picking up the pieces of the smashed plate I’d stopped spinning and deal with the shame of everyone seeing that I’d messed up. No thanks.

So I kept spinning until one day I couldn’t. I’d been so busy looking after everyone else and trying to be perfect that I’d depleted all my coping reserves and as my feelings of embarrassment at not living a picture perfect life grew, I’d withdrawn from my friends and family so they couldn’t see the mess I was getting in. I had no one to lean on, not even myself.

The point to this cautionary tale of course is that if you don’t/can’t/won’t look after yourself, you’re going to get sick. It can show up in any number of ways – depression, anxiety, stress, burn out or even physical symptoms like shaking and stomach aches. You know everyone else needs looking after – the same applies to you.

Show yourself the love you so freely give to others

I want to be really clear – this is not another reason to beat yourself. This isn’t about “Oh great, now I’ve got another thing to add to my list that I don’t have time for” and feeling like even more of a failure. This is about kindness and I’m certain you’re good at that. It takes a decent amount of kindness to put others above yourself. Here’s what I want you to know:

You deserve that kindness too. You are entitled to it.

Yep. Entitled. You are entitled to use your time for yourself, to look after yourself, so you can be well. The World Health Organisation said health is a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

I can feel you cringing at the word entitled. You are socialised to be selfless, to put others first. Prioritising your own needs leaves you feeling guilty. So how can you break out of that? Here’s what I think:

  • Acknowledge Where You Are

The first step is to admit to yourself where you are – that you’re doing too much and you need to stop. You can’t change something you won’t accept is happening so you need to look at the reality of what is happening and the impact it is having on you.

This might sound simple but it isn’t always easy. You may well feel like you’re a failure, you might worry what people will think of you and your critical inner voice will crank up the volume to try and keep you doing the same old thing. Now is the time for kindness.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” ― Jack Kornfield, Buddha's Little Instruction Book Click To Tweet
  • Assess the situation

Once you’ve reached the point of being honest with yourself, you can begin to assess the situation that you’ve found yourself in.

What exactly are all the things taking up your time and are they really your responsibility? Really, really your responsibility?

If you’re struggling with this one, I can recommend reading this blog by Carolyn Spring. You know the current situation isn’t sustainable so decide to put a stop taking on too much before it puts a stop to you.

  • Prioritise your time

Imagine you’ve got a cup full of your time and energy. At the moment you share that cup with everyone who asks and there’s rarely a drop left for you.

To live a balanced life, the idea is that you fill your cup with nourishment for yourself until it overflows. It is only then do you share this nourishment with others – not from your cup but from your saucer.

Another way to think of it is that when a plane starts to crash, you’re told to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.

  • Commit to one thing

Making the change to putting yourself above others can be tough so make it easy to start with. Start small.

Pick just one way you can put yourself first. It doesn’t need to be fancy, expensive or time consuming.

Don’t risk jumping in at the deep end – you’ll scare yourself and turn back to what you know. Start tiny if you need – I started with brushing my teeth twice a day, no matter what. As you’re doing it, remind yourself you’re doing this because you matter.

  • Consistency is key

Finally, you need to keep it going every day, no matter what.

Missing brushing your teeth one night out of seven because you’ve done so much you’ve fallen asleep on the sofa isn’t going to matter in the long run. What matters is the message you’re giving yourself.

Every time you do the action you’ve chosen, you reinforce that you matter. You say that you’re entitled to your health and your time, that you are looking after yourself as well as you look after others.

It might be a good idea to find a way to be accountable. Perhaps make tick chart and tick off each day or let a friend know what you’re doing and encourage each other.

Every time you choose to look after yourself, you reinforce the message that you matter. Click To Tweet

With each and every step along the way, remember to be kind to yourself.

Next week I’ll be writing about what do if you’re really feeling hopeless about even being able to do the basics of looking after yourself.

Until then you can find me on Facebook and Twitter or you can book an appointment with me.

Alice Tew

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