It can be so easy to forget the things we know. Yesterday felt like a bad day. I didn’t have any energy or desire or motivation. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just wanted stay in bed and not have to engage in the day-to-day. Thankfully, I couldn’t, and at some point during the day I realised what was going on.
After a difficult and long few days, which had taken their toll on my emotions, I had stopped taking care of myself. I’ve learned that self-care is the first thing that drops when times get tough. Things feel too busy. I just can’t be bothered. What’s the point? But, really, it’s one of the most important things to keep going.
After years of exploration and trial and error, during which I’ve had a go at all sorts of different ways of caring for myself, I have settled into a routine with a few key habits that I know help me to feel good and be capable of continuing to live life when it all feels like too much. I’ve implemented a few of these today, and I’m feeling so much better, and I wanted to share them with you in case they could help you, too.
Get plenty of sleep
For me, early to bed and early to rise is best. I usually go to bed around 9:30pm, but when I’ve had a tough few days, I like to get into bed with a book at around 8pm and let myself fall asleep whenever I’m ready. This is usually well before 9pm, and the extra sleep really makes a difference when my alarm sounds in the morning. I like to wake up early, typically around 6am, which is why such an early bedtime works for me but you do what works for you!
Move your body
It’s not a secret that exercise is good for your body and your brain, but it can be difficult to make the effort when times are hard. At life’s toughest points, I try to start my day with a few minutes of yoga stretches to get my muscles moving, or take a walk at lunchtime somewhere with trees. Being in nature, even if it’s just a tiny bit, while your blood gets pumping and your heart rate comes up, is all the better. I’d encourage you to take a moment to really look at what’s around you – observe the colours and textures, see if you can spot any wildlife, and think about what you can hear.
My meditation habit has had a huge affect on me. Taking a few moments to connect deeply with myself, even if it’s just for 60 seconds, almost always helps me to feel calmer, more grounded, and ready to take on whatever I’m facing that day. Over time, the daily guided meditations I do have taught me so much about self-reflection, patience and consistency, and these are all tools that I can apply to life. If you’re interested, I have a premium subscription to the meditation app Calm.
Prepare your meals
I really don’t like to cook, so if I’m not prepared during difficult times I will always opt for the route of less resistance. Usually this means leaving the house a few minutes early and picking up a pastry at Tesco on the way into the office instead of making porridge, or grabbing a sandwich (and often a large chocolate brownie) from the local cafe instead preparing my lunch at home. I used to think those times were a fun treat, but I’ve learned that, in this context, they just don’t make me feel good. I feel sluggish and tired and it doesn’t give me the energy I need to work at my best.
Do what you love
I think it’s really important, when times are hard, to make sure you enjoy life’s simple pleasures. For me, that’s usually listening to music, reading or writing. A few minutes doing any of those things helps me to switch off and reset, and allows me enjoy the moment. I think that music can really impact on how you feel, so popping on a song that you know makes you smile can be a quick route to feeling a little more cheerful. I personally find writing to be really cathartic. Sometimes I just like to open up my laptop or a notebook and let the words flow out of me. That kind of journaling helps me to process the things that I’m experiencing and often helps me to gain some perspective. Reading, on the other hand, is a great escape and spending a bit of time lost in a different world can do wonders for how you cope with what’s happening in the real one.
I hope that, in committing these lessons to paper, I’ll be able to identify when I most need them and be reminded to keep caring for myself even when I feel like I don’t want to. Do you have any tips for self-care when times are hard? Have you had any success with the tips I’ve shared? I’d love to start a conversation, so let me know in the comments below.