I have re-written this very sentence a number of times and it’s really testing my patience to say the least. The truth is, the idea of looking after myself is uncomfortable and the reality of it is a bitter pill to swallow. An ego filled mask of “toughness” would have screamed 4 years ago that I didn’t need to look after myself, because I thought I was invincible. However, with every visit from depression brings a deeper hole that gets harder and harder to climb out of. It’s taken me years to realise that I actually need to pay attention to my internal home, even though the saviour complex that adorns my exterior finds it excruciating to accept.
Unfortunately, I’m a short term thinker when it comes to my own health and wellbeing. When I get ill, I believe that a Lemsip and Vicks should make me feel great in the morning, ignoring the weeks of battering my immune system has probably taken to get ill in the first place. When I become agitated or anxious, I feel that a breathing exercise should do the trick, oblivious to the not-enough-sleep-totally-overworking-myself behaviour that I have been doing for the previous couple of weeks. When I get super low, I think that spending time with some friends should bring me out of my rut; completely ignoring that I have actually been feeling myself get lower and lower but I have just been neglecting myself until I have finally boiled over.
It hasn’t been easy to get out of my own way and finally “practice what I preach”; you know, the whole self awareness, emotional regulation, baby steps, being kind to yourself kind of thing? However; after watching endless video’s, listening to as many podcasts as you can think of, reading books, making it a popular topic of conversation, scheduling self care into my diary, repeating things over and over again, practically forcing myself to do things I really don’t want to do – I’ve realised, that there is more to looking after myself than what I had originally thought.
For me, looking after myself isn’t just about taking a break, or doing nothing. Personally, for self care to fulfil it’s purpose, it has to serve me in some way. It has be to a good mixture of things. It has to relax me as well as benefit me beyond bodily, sometimes it could be petting my cat for hours, and other times it could be super productive. I’ve gone from one extreme of self care to the other, from diluting self care to just taking baths and being mindful, to contradicting self care by making it all about to do lists, and getting through emails.
At times, I have been so frustrated with myself for never getting self care “right” and it never “working”. Despite how many times I have tried and failed at routines, and “Instagram Inspired” idea’s; all these “unsuccessful” attempts have only made me more patient with myself and taught me to be more resilient after all the “this relaxing nature filled walk did not relax me at all” moments. That in itself is a massive success and a step in the right direction towards looking after myself.
So, whether you like taking baths, playing sports, taking walks, watching movies, reading more, praying more, spending more time with loved ones, getting through those emails or just looking out of the window, don’t be deflated if it doesn’t “work” the first time. Make it a good mixture of things that looks after you holistically, making sure you’re hitting all the notes within the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model and most importantly, making sure to acknowledge your patience and resilience with every set back and understanding it is all a part of growth.
I sincerely pray that Allah allows all of us to look after His creation in the best of ways, Ameen!