Along with most other busy women I know, self-care is often the thing I neglect more than anything in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I understand its importance, but actually applying it to a life that already feels overloaded is easier said than done. Finding time for self-care can actually just feel like another job to do in a long list of outstanding jobs that spill over into the next day…… and the next – or is it just me?
I believe I’m not alone in this. Whether you have children or not, a modern lifestyle usually demands long working hours both at work and home, and the majority of people I speak to feel the same. If something has to be dropped it’s easier to drop a walk in the fresh air or half an hour down the gym, than it is to cancel an important appointment or meeting.
So how can we tackle this? How do we manage to gain back some healthy perspective and start to try to prioritise our own self-care? Well, first and foremost you could remind yourself of why this is so important, then find ways to keep it at the forefront of your mind. What are you likely to gain or lose if you continue to neglect yourself or if you start to care for yourself better? We often take our health for granted when we are in our 20s but the older you get, the less your body will let you. Perhaps you could make a list of pros and cons then stick it somewhere you will see it to help you keep your self-care as a priority.
One thing we often forget as parents is that we lead by example to our children, and this still applies when they’re adults too. If they see us working long hours and neglecting self-care, they grow up believing this is how life should be lived. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when the busyness of life does shift up a gear and we do get exhausted and neglect ourselves more, but nobody can sustain this long term. Realising the importance of leading by example to our children in this area is one of the first times I truly caught a better perspective. I was so tired from working long days into the night, running a business, attending appointments & meetings, cooking dinner and running a family home whilst managing chronic illness. I was at the edge of collapse, and someone asked me what would I say to my children if they were choosing to live their life this way. It quickly put some perspective on things for me. If it was them, I would be trying to help them to find balance in their lives, yet there I was doing things very differently. So, remember that when you take care of yourself, you are making it okay for those who look up to you to take care of themselves too. Working yourself into an early grave isn’t helping them either – they need you around!
Working towards ensuring you get a good night’s sleep is foundational self-care! I cannot stress enough how important this is and what a difference it can make. Exhaustion can often play a large part in bad decision making too. Unfortunately, more often than not I don’t get anywhere enough sleep and even when I finally dose off, it’s broken and I wake up numerous times a night either in pain, having a hot flush or wrestling with anxious thoughts. The problem is, when I am exhausted from my ongoing poor-quality sleep, instead of using an hour in the day to do something that will benefit me, I’ll find myself just sitting, scrolling on my phone, probably comfort eating whilst I’m at it (unfortunately there’s always time to find the snack cupboard but tackling that is another blog!). Don’t get me wrong, I also believe there is a time and place to allow ourselves to just sit, but it’s about balance.
In contrast, on the days when I manage that walk or take a trip to the gym for half an hour, I also sleep better that night – Fact! The choice I make at any given moment can either lead to an upward spiral or a downward spiral. Good or bad choices usually always have some kind of cost, but one will bring good results, the other not so much. The quality of my sleep can be affected by so many things which do not improve with age, so here’s my checklist for good quality sleep:
Pain, hot flushes and anxiety all affect my sleep quality. Talk to an expert and find ways to tackle these the best you can. For me, HRT isn’t an option, so I had to find alternatives and it’s one of the reasons I founded hapihemp! As a way to ensure maximum well-being for myself, I have been using our 15% Cold Pressed Full Spectrum CBD Oil as part of my daily routine for some years now and wouldn’t want to be without it!
Do not eat too late
This can keep me awake into the early hours and cause a very restless night. Spicy food after 7 pm is not my friend!
Keep the room cool but not too cold
A hot room can be a middle-aged woman’s worst nightmare! Too cool and I’ll keep waking up cold to put the cover back over me, only to wake up again too hot and remove the cover…. continuing the cycle all night until I finally find the energy to get up and shut the window.
Try to fit some form of exercise into your day, even if it’s just a walk to your local shop for a loaf. This can really make such a difference both physically and mentally. It actually improves my pain levels too, but it is also important to remember not to overdo it when managing things like a chronic illness.
Occupy your busy mind
If like me and many other menopausal women, you too struggle with anxiety, addressing this is essential. I often hear mental health experts talking about how there should be no devices in a bedroom, but my smartphone is often the only reason I get back to sleep when I wake up numerous times in a night. I agree that we shouldn’t watch the screen (the light sends signals to our brains to wake up), and I always switch to blue light at night anyway, instead, I listen to a podcast or something on YouTube that’s more interesting and informative, rather than exciting. As long as it isn’t playing too loudly, this usually gets me back off to sleep very quickly. The times I try to go back to sleep without it usually means very little sleep at all for me and books just don’t work. If it’s a page-turner, I’ll be up all night anyway. My need to know what happens next in a good book will keep my mind switched on no matter how tired my body is – just holding a book can be painful for me too.
Give your body a chance to shut down
The later you work, the later your body will be ready for sleep. When I work, I vibrate on a more anxious/energised level. It takes time to come down from this and for my body to be ready to relax. I usually need a calming cup of CBD Tranquil Tea and at least 2 to 3 hours to unwind before I can properly relax.
Once your sleep is improved it’s easier to work self-care into other areas of your life. Maybe you can get up earlier and get ahead of the day more. Perhaps you can find that half an hour for exercise that will benefit you both physically and mentally. If you do manage to get up earlier, just make sure you don’t just fill it with more stress.
Most of what I have mentioned so far includes effort and working at it. Another thing that is important to me for self-care is downtime, this shouldn’t feel like it takes much effort at all, and you should feel energised from it, rather than drained. Downtime can vary for different people. For me I love to read, although this is hit and miss as holding a book can be painful, but when I can it’s definitely a favourite. I sometimes even enjoy reading in a hot bath with a candle and glass of wine. I add a warming drizzle of soothing CBD body oil just to treat my skin and body with that little bit of extra love! I also love to take a walk or drive somewhere beautiful – it really fills my soul. Escaping to a good restaurant with my partner or a handful of loved ones, to enjoy some delicious food and wine is definitely a favourite too. Of course, you may prefer to be out dancing all night, doing an extreme sport or just socialising with friends.
Whatever it is that charges your battery, just make sure you make time for it. This kind of self-care doesn’t have to be expensive either so is available to everyone. Walking to the nearest park and dancing around your home are both free. Spending some time with good friends and family doesn’t cost and is priceless.
At the end of the day, we need to remember that we are all doing our best and most of all, we need to just give ourselves a break. Self-expectation can be destructive if you allow it to be. Some of the wisest words I ever heard were “good enough” is okay and acceptable. In a toxic world of perfection, where we are reminded that only the best is good enough, we can feel so inadequate, but perfectionism is poisonous and when it’s what you consistently strive for, it hinders you rather than actually helping. People give up before they start for fear of not being good enough or failing. We have to challenge this thinking because it is not helping anyone. Failure is part of growth – full stop. If you are not willing to fail, it will make growing very very difficult. Embrace mistakes and keep moving forward. If you aim high and fall short, then just try again tomorrow. No condemnation.
As an example, at the time of writing this blog, I have missed 3 weeks at the gym because my schedule has been so busy. I failed to go once again yesterday morning, but I will not get downhearted or beat myself up. I will continue to aim for 2 or 3 times a week and genuinely keep trying each week. If I can move my commitments to achieve this, I will. If my schedule continues to be too stretched, then I’ll ensure I take time to review what can be done about it and restructure what I can. I’ll keep taking the small wins on my way to achieving my goals and will not give up trying until I get there. The gym is my latest self-care mission. It’s been over 25 years since I attended the gym regularly so it’s going to take some work, but I am keeping my focus on prioritising a few sessions a week to ensure I do what is best for me – whether I feel like it or not.
So, to summarise what self-care means to me – prioritise yourself (remember you are as important as your loved ones), work towards ensuring you get a good night’s sleep, get some exercise, ensure you have some downtime and spend time with good people and remember to give yourself a break – you’re not perfect and that’s okay, you are doing your best.