Juggling the multiple roles that we do can often be rewarding and motivating, but it can also bring with it stress and exhaustion. I am reminded of the hadith of our Prophet SAW who said, “Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your riches before your poverty, your free time before your work, and your life before your death.” While this can serve to remind me to use my resources to help others, it also instils in me the importance of taking care of my own physical and mental health. After all, as the saying goes, you cannot fill someone’s cup if yours is empty.
Every morning, I make myself a fresh cup of tea and spend a few minutes in my sitting room, which overlooks my garden. The morning sun is energising, and the scenic view of trees, hills and the sky is not only calming, but reminds me I am part of a larger cosmos, a piece of history and a part of the future, and that my being here is an incredible privilege to be able to leave a mark on the beautiful world Allah has created. This fills me with a sense of purpose and energy. I do some stretches, which is incredible for giving you a rush of endorphins, which freshens my mind and allows me to start my day with a spring in my step.
As a full time mother, wife, daughter, friend, and worker, my day gets filled pretty quickly with endless to do lists, meetings, tasks, more meetings, and all the things in between: housework, homework, logistics, forms, and the emotional availability needed for all those things. I realise it’s important to recognise signs of fatigue during the day so I try to find pockets of calm where I can step back for a few moments and assess how I’m feeling. Self talk with honesty is crucial: I’m angry – what triggered me just now? I’m frustrated – what can I do about it? This doesn’t sit right – take a deep breath and identify where that feeling is coming from. This allows me to verbalise and understand my reactions and be able to deal with them without anything ballooning at the end of the day. I find moments of pleasure – getting off a few stops early gives me a walk down the canal – that daily dose of fresh air and nature can help set the tone for the day. Nipping out to fuel with an nutritious meal rather than mindlessly cramming a sandwich at my desk gives that extra space as well as quick physical activity to reenergise after spending a day on a chair in conversations. Keeping an essential oil burner gives bursts of lavender filling my senses with calmness and tranquillity. Finding priorities is important – the laundry needs folding, but relaxing in bed reading a book with the kids is what builds memories. Housework is constant, but memories are for life. Smiling without abandon – smiling not only makes you actually feel happy, but a warm smile back while crossing the street builds a human connection that transcends all barriers. I surround myself with people who build me up, the people you can entertain in your jammies and who make you laugh. And it’s okay to say no when you need some time out. As I get older, I value prayer more and more – I try to build my day around prayer, like a thirsty traveller in need of water. Touching my forehead to a warm, soft floor, praying to my Lord, reminds me to stop, step back, the world will go on, and that everything around me and everything I do is for Him, and Him alone. This gives me the change to re-prioritise.
For me, self care is about kindness to myself, as a servant of Al-Rahman, the Merciful, who created me. The self care allows me to take care of the soul that He created so I can be kind to others, to replenish my resources when they get empty, and to be compassionate when I make a mistake.