Two very interesting subjects in the title of this post…
They’ve manifested themselves out of interest stemming from others around the topics and my own feelings about the two which are heightened at present.
To anyone new I always write from personal opinion and experience so a reminder there is no claim of being an expert here, only my individual interpretations like usual business on this blog!
Firstly, let’s dispel the myth that to practice ‘self care’ you are in need of it as a result of a mental health problem. Self care stems from the very basics, and sometimes to keep a feeling of ‘wellness’ or on top of things in our often busy lifestyles, it’s essential, not a luxury, and not just a term for those identifying with issues to look after themselves. I personally think it’s a lovely term, albeit a bit flowery…I think for this reason in itself it has some stigma attached to it, but I love when I hear my friends using it so casually because it can be, just an important part of our everyday.
Now, there’s an important ‘Vs’ in the title, because I think a lot of the time (credit to many) we are often ‘self aware’ (another earnest term but with similar occasional annoying connotations) yet we don’t always feel able to best serve our own interests to match this with ‘self care’.
There are many ways this can happen and areas in which this relates to but for the purpose of aligning this post with the present (and keeping this piece a healthy length!) I’ll use just one of my own examples of this which I think many will relate to from those who’ve been in touch –
When things are going well (work and health wise, socially, mentally…) although busy, they feel manageable, you may feel a sense of ‘I can do anything. Let’s say YES to more in life!’ and you begin to keep adding to your schedules…you realise the thought of them are beginning to overwhelm you but feel you can handle it and keep on arranging…*cue sarcastic tone – “oh aren’t you doing well, being ‘busy’ (what a glorified term) keeping up (barely, beneath the surface it’s a tight one!) excelling at multiple areas of life (wearing yourself out to do so that bit too much) keeping on pushing yourself”…eventually you can guess what may happen. You become aware that things are going to be a bit much realistically to handle and juggle, flow will be unbalanced and you may feel you let others down as well as potentially yourself. Overwhelm. Yet, with this self-awareness, do we always act on the self care that could compliment it? Do we always take charge and ownership over what could help us? Or are we too busy wondering what others would think, experiencing feelings based on their reactions as well as ourselves? Ah, reaction. One thing I’ve noticed I’d like to work on is the ability to respond (in real time, not social media acceptable time) rather than, ‘reacting’ taking a step back, acknowledging, re-booting and so forth. For doing this will help to think before committing to a task/plan that may in theory sound great, doable, rewarding, enjoyable etc but could equally tip things over the edge. Also, think about how your network gets back to you when you put you first (you deserve it, believe me, you can’t pour from an empty cup as the saying goes). Do they respond to you (with compassion and empathy if you’re lucky!) or do they react? Do they take time to understand your perspective, listen with open ears and support in ways they can? Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in our own agendas for other people’s time we want when actually, we may need to consider the other in this. Have they reached out and told you things were tough? I personally praise and applaud this honesty, self awareness and courage and think we could all promote the basics that are needed sometimes such as self care and decisions that prioritise this. Supporters can also take note in how self aware they are too.
It’s not an easy balance and I for one am still learning. I definitely fluctuate and go a couple of steps forward and even more back at times but let’s see what I can do to neutralise the scale.
Time to unwind now methinks. Keep speaking honestly, reach out to your support networks and have an open mind. We’ve all got our struggles, mental health issues or not!
I hope this has helped those asking about self awareness and self care, including how to support a friend. If we can try to be more assertive in what we need and try to not feel guilty for it this could really help but I know it’s not easy. We’re all on a journey…let’s keep learning.
Lots of love,