This is a post I wanted to write a while ago, but I had so many other ideas, I blogged about those instead.
Why am I sharing this blog post now? Well, July 24 is International Self-Care Day, so I thought I would share my thoughts on self-care.
I was at a legal conference at the end of May and a psychologist was speaking to the law clerks section about burnout in the legal community. The ‘1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime’ statistic came up, and we were reminded that we should learn to practice self-care and make time for ourselves.
Self- care is so important. Many of us forget to practice self-care because we “don’t have time”. We don’t have time to relax because we don’t set aside the time. Maybe we feel like we don’t deserve it or we are just too tired to do it or care. I am not just talking about going to the gym or meditation or colouring books. Find something that works for you, and turn it into your “me” time. Maybe a massage here or there, find a cozy coffee shop to read a book in, if you like walking, find a route you really enjoy- personalize it. What works for one person will not necessarily work for someone else.
I have been using the Headspace app for a few months and I have completed their 3 introductory levels, the depression series, started the anxiety series and look forward to trying the other series. They also have individual sessions, including 3 “SOS” ones. One day, I came home from work and felt very anxious, scared and not like myself. So I pressed the SOS button. Believe it or not, the 3 minute mindfulness meditation helped me to slow my heart rate and to breathe normally. I have tried the 2 other SOS meditations because I had a couple other instances where I needed to, and it is amazing how powerful mindfulness can be. I never thought I would be into this, with all of my racing thoughts, too many thoughts at once, and my misconceptions about meditation.
Did you know that the effects of a vacation can last for up to 5 weeks? Do you know that by “recharging” you will become more productive? I learned this from the conference speaker.
It is also important to surround yourself with the right kind of people. Do not spend time with people who make you feel poorly about yourself and put you down. Spend time with people who lift your spirits (or at least try to). And, though you may be a caring person, when you are experiencing burnout, avoid emotional vampires! You know, those people who suck up all your emotional energy with their issues? I know you want to be there for everyone, but at what cost?
As I sat down to write this (in May), I noticed an email in my inbox from an Oprah newsletter, where two of the links that were included in the email were, “9 Signs You’ve Forgotten Yourself: In other words: You’ve fallen off on your own to-do list—without your even realizing” and “Rules for Spring Cleaning Your Life” and I thought, how appropriate!
Life is busy. Time goes by faster than we want it to. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”- and all those other sayings. But I really like “you’ve fallen off your own to do list”. I think that is powerful. Considering the number of to do lists I made (and never complete), and the tasks don’t include “relax”, “take a break”, “go for a walk”, “go for a massage”. Sometimes my “I’m so stressed” solution is food related and that is bad news (chocolate and chips are delicious but don’t help my mental health).
Maybe I can start small, with one purposeful act of self-love and self-care per week.
I want to give my all to anything I do, so why not start giving back to myself? I think I deserve some of my own attention by now.
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!