This post was updated on 24/03/18
For the month of March I committed to carrying out three self-care activities every day. I posted most days on Retrain Mind, Train Body Facebook page. I didn’t have the dedication to post my 3 things every day; there were days when I didn’t have the enthusiasm or concentration. Rather than feeling negative and looking at this as a failure because I didn’t stick to what I committed to, I have an appreciation of why it happened. In this blog post I am going to try and explain, not only so that I can reflect on it myself, but also to give you an insight.
In fact days after making the commitment to three self-care activities every day, I realised I was falling into a depression. I’ve suffered with low mood before and you could maybe even call it depressive mood. I would sleep a lot. Time passes quicker when you sleep. I would hate being on my own but also not want to see anyone. It lasted one or two days and was very focused on the exact situation I was in. However this time it felt different. I realised it was happening on a Sunday afternoon when I’d spent a whole hour just sitting on the floor of the bathroom. My husband and I had had a silly misunderstanding which I just couldn’t get over. I just sat; I don’t even remember thinking about anything, apart from feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness. I then took my sleeping puppy out of his bed just so that I could have a cuddle. That was a low point and selfish and I knew enough was enough.
I needed to focus on me and my recovery and not much else. It was great using the #3forme and the three self care activities every day but I knew that wouldn’t be enough. I had a feeling of overwhelm. A feeling of being stuck or helpless. I wanted to change how I felt but was too exhausted to begin. It was a battle between mind-body exhaustion and I didn’t know where to start or what to heal first.
I phoned in sick to work and took it at my pace. I didn’t view it as a sign of weakness, that I couldn’t cope, but actually a sign of strength that I was putting myself first for a change. I knew from that first day that I wouldn’t return to work until I felt ready. I took a day by day, or even hour by hour approach, to how I spent my time based on how I was feeling. There were times when I simply felt exhausted so I allowed myself to rest. Most days I would have a nap, sometimes two. I watched comedy programs, listened to audio books. I managed a small amount of reading but I found that tiring. I didn’t have energy for much else but that’s fine. I took it as a sign that my mind and body needed to rest and recharge.
When you feel overwhelmed, you don’t sleep well so you wake up still tired. You don’t want to get up in the morning and every small thing is a mission. You don’t want to look at your phone or email and certainly don’t want to look at or think about your to-do list. It all feels too challenging. I took all non-urgent appointments out of my diary and routine. My husband is always telling me, that just because something needs doing, doesn’t mean I have to do it. The problem is, that normally means it doesn’t get done! After a further chat with my husband, he started helping out around the house more. I also developed a (slightly) more relaxed attitude to what household tasks need doing and by when. There was no menu plan and probably too many takeaways and pizzas. That’s what happens when my husband is busy with work and is in charge of the food!. But I also had no pressure and less to think about, which is just what I needed.
Harvey, my gorgeous black Labrador puppy, gave my day just a little structure. I didn’t spend a single day lolling around in bed and that’s because of Harvey and the need for me to look after him. In turn this also meant I was looking after myself. The best example of this was I had to get washed and dressed every day by just before lunch time, in order to take him for his lunch time walk. I really enjoyed these walks, as I always do. I was getting exercise and fresh air every day but I was also getting more than that. There are numerous psychological benefits of taking your dog for a walk and it has been proven that being around a dog can lower the levels of the stress hormone. Physical activity is also a stress reliever, so win win. I made a conscious effort to be mindful when out on these walks; to connect with nature and just take in my surroundings. This really helped me to slow down and connect with the now rather than my mind constantly racing.
On the days when I had a little more enthusiasm and energy I would write my three self -care activities and think about the day ahead etc. I bought myself a new journal, which I love. It became part of my daily practice to set my intentions for the day then review and reflect in the evening. I’ll write more about the journal in a future blog post.
In one of my times of reflection, I thought about how I hate rushed mornings, or times when it feels like I am doing so many things that don’t include looking after my own needs. I decided to create a morning routine that focused on getting my mind body and soul ready for the day ahead in a calm, positive way. I spent time researching morning routines, including meditation, yoga and something for the soul, such as inspirational reading. I can’t say I followed all three aspects every day but even keeping to the outline of making time for me first thing in the morning helped my wellbeing.
When I started adding these details into my day and week, I started to feel better bit by bit. It gave my days structure and it gave me a sense of accomplishment, just what I needed to combat the feelings of overwhelm and perceived failure. I felt the fog was beginning to lift. I could start to think about more things and not get completely worn out by it. I got up and dressed at the beginning of the day and could get through a day without needing to have a nap. I could clean the kitchen and enjoy it. (OK I know some people might find that strange at the best of times). I started reintroducing household activities slowly. Try to do too much too soon and I would have just set back my recovery (energy levels). There were still days when a load of washing wasn’t done. There were days when I had a bowl of cereal for lunch. But I told myself that was ok. I took it at my pace. So days of being too exhausted to do anything but lie in bed or watch tv became days of morning routine, walking Harvey and journal writing as well as household tasks.
In the grand scheme of things, I wasn’t off work for long, but it was just the right amount of time for me. Since going back I have continued with the new practices, as I know the more I focus on my wellbeing, the better I feel.
This hasn’t been an easy post to write. In fact it has taken me much longer than planned to finish writing it and publish. But that’s because this is probably my most honest blog post to date and only a handful of people know how low I felt. I didn’t want friends or family reading this and wanting to know why I hadn’t told them. Talking about these things isn’t always easy, but writing is my therapy.
I’ve wanted to share this update for a while and have felt guilty that I haven’t been able to. I am sure no one is as critical of me as I am and after reading this you’ll see that my mind has been all over the place and not up to writing anything that would make sense. I now think I am ready to make sense of it.
I’ve also wondered, have I been putting off writing as I didn’t know what to say. I found this quotation from C. S. Lewis which encouraged me to finish this post. Through this writing I understand what happened, how I allowed myself to rest and started to change my thinking. This isn’t the end of the journey. I just took a slight wrong turn, but I’m back on the right road now.
Take care of yourself and others