Yesterday in class we focussed on whether or not we’ve been giving ourselves proper time to rest. The world is truly exhausting at the moment - it feels like one thing after another is popping up to tell us “I’m important, think about me!”, people are struggling and need us to keep on coping in order to prop them up and despite the global state of emergency we are existing in, bills still need to get paid and jobs need to get done. The danger is: we are so wired and busy helping others cope that we end up completely burning ourselves out in the process.
I read something online recently that really resonated with this point. We all know that self-care is important, right? It’s something we are told to check up on. But when was the last time you sat down to do something for you (reading a book, drinking a cup of tea, having a bath) without torturing yourself the whole way through with lists of things that you ought to be doing instead?
...Quite often, right?
When that happens, how often do you then still count that time you’ve spent being distracted from your proper relaxation time as time spent on yourself?
Also quite often, right? (“But I spent an hour yesterday reading a book on the sofa, so why am I still so tired?”)
I’ve got news for you: that’s not resting!! If you have a little bully sitting on your shoulder the whole time that you’re doing something that’s supposed to be relaxing, telling you that you ought to be doing something else, there’s no way you are going to be able to fully enjoy it or reap the full benefits of it, either. You are punishing yourself and stealing away your own restoration time.
The other thing we often do is tell ourselves that we’re not allowed to rest until our full to-do list is completed. “I’ll sit down and put my feet up once I’ve folded the washing/cleaned the kitchen/written that email...” The danger of this is that we never get to the end of the list, or we get waylaid doing tasks that have taken us longer than we think and therefore have to cut the nice relaxing bath we had planned for ourselves at the end of the day in order to fit it all in. Or heavily reduce the amount of time we had intended to give ourselves so that an hour-long soak with bath salts and relaxing music becomes a quick ten-minute scalding because we can’t wait for the water to cool down, or (worst of all) maybe even just a shower!
Here’s a radical idea... what if we started the day with something for ourselves? And what if we let ourselves relax completely while doing it? No guilt, no to-do lists, no anxious time-checking. How differently would the rest of our day go if we had already topped our own cups up first? Perhaps we would get down the to-do list more quickly and with less distractions.
Perhaps we wouldn’t feel so exhausted and like we were carrying the world on our shoulders.
Perhaps it would feel good.
There’s nothing more radical than actually doing something to make ourselves feel good, especially in England... ‘ooh how self-indulgent of you not to be miserable and to put yourself first in your own life! Tut tut!’
I can promise you that it is a game-changer, though. The more time we spend with ourselves, treating ourselves kindly and giving ourselves what we need, the greater we begin to trust and respect ourselves. This can only be a good thing. A self-respecting, self-trusting person is less likely to run themselves into the ground in the pursuit of others, and more likely to be productive.
So, the next time you feel like doing something for yourself, just notice whether that little voice is creeping in while you do it and trying to ruin things. Take a deep breath, kindly dismiss the voice and continue as you were. Because you were really onto something there...