Well here’s a loaded topic.
This “new” term seems to have been going around ever since that email from a female CEO went viral when an employee emailed her to let her know she was taking a mental health day to which the CEO replied being very supportive and encouraging of her doing so.
I have to say, when I saw that exchange I was stunned and impressed. I too worked with a girl boss at the time and while she was also very supportive in many ways, I’m not sure a reply to such reason for taking a day off would have been as encouraging.
When I sit back and think about my own self care- I guess it has to an extent always been a priority. Like many, I can run myself to the ground, but only for so long. Once I get to a certain point, I really do block everything out and take care of me.
As I’ve grown up and gotten more life experience with equally larger puzzles in life to solve, self care becomes more and more important and something I try to pay close attention to.
Two years ago at work, my boss had gone on maternity leave, and I was “in charge” of the office for a month followed by her boss (who is extremely difficult to deal with period) came to visit the office for another month- all while I was still responsible for my regular duties and team members in a particularly trying time in business, along with personal life obligations. It was the last day my boss’ boss was in the office and on my drive home I distinctly remember having chest pain and irregular heartbeats. For a minute I thought, shit I finally pushed myself to the point of no return- I’m having a heart attack. Living with anxiety some of these symptoms weren’t foreign, I’ve learned a few breathing tricks, so I started to take long deep breaths the best I could while monitoring the rest of my symptoms; which at this point were tingling fingertips (sign of hyperventaling and not getting enough oxygen to my brain). I knew that, so I continued to try and breath. Within a few minutes as my symptoms didn’t worsen, I knew it wasn’t a heart attack, but anxiety, too much stress, exhaustion, and self neglect. Immediately I phoned our HR rep and told her I would be taking a mental day the next day while promptly shutting off my phone as I didn’t want to stress about any replies.
The next day I booked myself a 90 minute massage, took melatonin to get some good sleep, sat outside in my backyard while staring up at the trees and breathing fresh air. I also scheduled a B12 shot (which I’m a HUGE fan of and try to get them once a week) and a shower later I was a different person. But an angry one. After I’d done a few things to take care of myself and bring my stress and anxiety back “normal” I was angry I’d allowed myself to push and neglect myself so much, and over what? Yes my job is, was, important at the time. It is certainly necessary to have an income and pay bills; but is this or any job no matter how big or small worth your health and well being? NO! Absolutely, 100 times NO!
Lets assume you do have a super important job where lives depend on you- If you are not taking care of yourself, you are then not providing the best care and work for those lives that depend on you. When we spread ourselves thin we allow room for error. And depending on what you’re trying to take care of, the reprecautions could be irreversible. And then what? You’d end up in a much worse spot knowing your self neglect lead to not being your best self and affecting others. What’s worse, many of us don’t have those kinds of jobs where lives depend on us, and we still run ourselves to the ground this way- WHY?! Well if you’re type A like me, there you go- but my point is, it’s not worth it!
A few years ago, one of my uncle’s passed, and at his services I was sitting chatting with another uncle who’s always been a big jokester. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a serious conversation with him, or seen him take anything too seriously before. We were talking about taking a cab home from the airport and I said- “that’s an expensive ride” and he promptly replied “anything you buy with money is cheap”. That hit me. My family doesn’t come from money and doesn’t have a lot of money, and overall I would say a lot of weight is put on money in general on that side of the family- so I feel that statement hit me even more considering the source. But he was absolutely right! Yes, we all want the nice car, big house, designer clothes, etc- but what’s all that without life or health? If we lose it, who cares? All of that shit can be replaced. We can always make more money, but we cannot always guarantee good health or life. So again, why are we constantly stretching ourselves so thin and compromising our well being over things that are not really worth it?
It’s easy to say “take care of yourself first”, “don’t stress”, “practice what brings you peace”– but it’s much harder to actually practice and implement these things in our daily lives. Truth is, looking at the negatives or what we are missing is a far easier avenue to take than to appreciate all the wonderful things we do have. Many of us have a laundry list of what we need to make us happy, and from that list we can control maybe half of it So what, are we just going to be unhappy until all those things in our list that are beyond our control or unrealistic magically fall into place? And if they don’t, will we just be unhappy forever? Furthermore, what’s really on that list?
Let’s take this a step further; what if you do your part, truly practicing and choosing happiness but someone at some point in the day ruins it for you and gets you in a bad mood. Well, what did they really do? Was it really that important? And most importantly, why does this person have that much power over you that they can ruin your day? And is it really your problem or theirs?
By no means have I mastered this or can claim I actively practice this every day at every moment, or am any kind of expert; but it’s certainly a lifestyle change I have been working on for the last couple of years. Sometimes the source of my stress is very clear and obvious, other times I can’t even pin point what is stressing me out so much or why I’m feeling so overwhelmed. Whatever the case, I try and aim to catch this early. I take quite a few step backs, evaluate what’s on my to do or responsibility list and deadlines; rank according to priority and assign new deadlines as needed once I’m realistic about my time.
Simple things that help me relieve stress are
- petting my dogs
- cuddling with my dogs
- going on a hike
- feeling the ocean breeze
- watching and listening to the waves crash
- getting my nails done
- getting a massage
- if there’s a way, I like to take a whole day to do nothing- I will lay flat on my couch, bed or floor and stare at the ceiling in silence (I call this alone with my thoughts)
- if a whole day is not possible, then indulging in a long, lazy breakfast by myself
Stressful things or situations are bound to be thrown us from time to time and unfortunately there’s no easy one correct answer for everyone on how to relieve stress. Different things affect us differently. But what is important is to evaluate how much weight we are placing on each of the things that are causing stress and determine whether they are worth it. And then, how can we better cope with these stresses to ensure we are not compromising our health.
Remember, if we are not our best selves, we cannot have the best results in what we do.
And if all else fails; just remember this: