Hello! Welcome back to my self-care series here at HealthPsychTam. This post is all about emotional self-care.
This series took a bit of a hiatus, and if you follow me on twitter you may have seen that my life became a little chaotic. Funding ended and hospital appointments ensued. I had to find somewhere to live and move in the space of two weeks. Health issues flared up in addition to a generally busy schedule.
So, my ability to practice self-care was really tested. I did great in some areas, not so great in others. But, one thing I have done is forgiven myself for letting my blog fall onto the back burner. This forgiving is what I consider to be an act of emotional self-care and is one that I will cover in this blog post.
So far, this self-care series has focussed a lot on budget and daily actions surrounding self-care. I wanted to acknowledge that sometimes the most important acts of self-care cannot be seen. They are internal and you might be the only person who knows about them.
But I think, that given we are always with ourselves, these acts of emotional self-care are some of the most important skills to have in your arsenal.
So without further ado, ten acts of emotional self-care.
Saying no can be really, really hard. Especially when we’re conditioned to think of others nearly all the time (and often over and above ourselves). But it’s important to do it. Otherwise we can find ourselves feeling like slaves to our limited time and energy.
I personally have a process for saying no, if it isn’t an instant, wholehearted YES, then it’s probably a no. And I’ve really learnt to trust this gut instinct. It’s pretty much always served me well.
This ranges from work requests, social requests and anything else in life. Sometimes it can make me feel like I’m missing out, but I can usually rectify this with some thinking about what the value of saying no is.
You do not owe anybody an explanation
If, after considering a request, you might decide it just isn’t for you. Maybe you would rather spend the evening having a bath, a nice dinner and an early night than going out to a club. That is perfectly ok.
You are as a worthy of your time and those around you. Therefore, say no, and if you don’t want to give an explanation – don’t. The only person you have to pacify about your decisions is you. A simple ‘I’m afraid I’m busy on Wednesday’ or ‘I already have plans’ is sufficient enough.
If they probe you, don’t feel like you need to make something up (nobody likes having to be careful of where they go, when they’ve already said they are busy and then bumping into people!). Just reaffirm you have plans. Or, if you want to share your plans, or that you just don’t feel like it, those who matter will completely understand.
If somebody says to me ‘I really don’t feel like doing that’ – I really love and honour their self-care, and often make a point to say thank you for being honest. It’s freeing to not have to explain ourselves to everyone.
Keep an eye on your ‘sorry’
You may (or may not) have noticed above, ‘I really don’t feel like doing that’ didn’t have a sorry on the end of it. Even though instinct would say there should be. But we are also conditioned to apologise for things that aren’t our responsibility, or in fact, where no wrongdoing has taken place.
Unless you are truly sorry, don’t use the word. Perhaps ‘I really don’t feel like doing that, but I am sorry that we won’t be able to spend time together this week’ fits better. Because you shouldn’t have to apologise for feeling sorry.
I have noticed that really being accountable to my sorry means that when I do say it, I truly mean it. And when I don’t say it, I’m not laying on unneccessary feelings of responsibility and guilt.
This one is a bit related to saying no, but also to saying yes. Knowing your boundaries, your limits, your non-negotiables, is really important. Otherwise you can end up feeling resentful of your work, your social life and your family, if you keep saying yes to things when you really don’t want to.
We can (and should) have clear boundaries in all areas of our lives. I think that those with family and friends, in relationships, can be the hardest to develop. But work is a great place to practice them.
I have set boundaries around my working times and schedule. I don’t budge this unless I really, really want to, and I certainly don’t budge it because somebody else asks me to. Sometimes I meet resistance, through disgruntled people or mockery from those that don’t understand. But when you know what your boundaries are doing for you, they can stand firm against any level of resistance.
Allow yourself to receive
A while ago now, I wrote about how many of us have nourishment barriers – a barrier to receiving nourishment. And breaking down this barrier can be really hard. It can challenge some of our deepest beliefs about ourselves (more on that in the next post!).
It’s really important to be able to take care of ourselves. But sometimes in order to do so, and part of looking after ourselves, is asking for help. And allowing ourselves to receive that help. Whether it be a gift from a friend, a service from a professional or a compliment from a stranger, it’s nourishing and wonderful to receive from others. If it’s something you struggle with, looking out for ways to receive in your daily life is a really good start.
If you’re given a compliment, take a second to soak it in and say thank you. Receive the compliment rather than bounce is back to the giver with a ‘oh this old thing’ or ‘oh I thought it was terrible’.
I’ve been practicing this recently when out with friends. I used to really struggle with letting others pay for something, a cuppa for example. But now, I trust that if people are offering to pay for something, they really want to, and I therefore allow myself to receive it and ensure I express my gratitude of being able to receive their gift.
Observe your internal chat
This is the one I struggle with the most. My mind can be really unkind, and often it’s worse when I’m run down, stressed or just burning the candle at both ends. Which is the time I least need to feel like I’m being knocked down every two minutes by the thoughts in my head.
Learning to observe my thoughts has been really helpful. Meditation is a good way to develop this skill.
Something else I’ve been playing with lately is saying what’s in my head out loud. Speaking the thoughts in your head, on your own but out loud can really take the power away from them. It can also make them seem absolutely ridiculous once you hear yourself say them. Even more interesting is when it feels really really hard to say it out loud. To me, that means it’s not true and helps me to dismiss unhelpful or destructive thoughts.
You might require some external help and support. Maybe a friend to ask you how your mind is doing when you’re feeling down on yourself, or a professional such as a counsellor to help you explore your self-chat.
Essentially, you can have a bully in your head, or you can have a cheerleader, but it’s up to us to keep an eye on which is directing the show!
Make time for rest
I’m a HUGE advocate of rest.
We need far more than we lead ourselves to believe and so many of our struggles could be lessened if we allowed ourselves to rest.
This doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping, or stopping completely. For some that just doesn’t feel like rest. Rest to me = restoration. Therefore, anything that feels restorative can be rest.
Maybe a hike isn’t what would conventionally considered restful. But perhaps fresh air, social connection (or solitude) and nature can be wonderfully restorative.
Rest can be fun, and exploring what types of rest feel good, or what constitutes rest can be fun too.
Oh, for the last two weeks I have been beating myself up and chastising myself for not writing this blog post sooner. What did that do? It used up valuable energy and headspace – which I could have used to write the post!
As soon as I forgave myself for letting this blog series slip, I felt motivated again to write. I could have continued beating myself up for such a long time. But I accepted that I had let things slip and I felt disappointed with myself.
Once I identified these feelings towards myself, and also why I was feeling them, I was able to think about why things ended up this way. Which is when I reeled off the list of the last 4-6 weeks and realised how chaotic it had been.
I applied my favourite balm – self-compassion, had a little cry about how stressful things had been and then looked ahead.
This blog is important to me. But in the grand scheme of things it is not the be all and end all. But this process of accepting feelings, determining where they stem from, applying some self-compassion and releasing some emotion, paves the way to move forward.
Forgive yourself. You are doing your best, even if you know your best is better, you are doing the best you can, right now. If you could do better, you would.
Finally, develop gratitude for all the things in your life. All the things you are privileged to have, all the hard work you have put in to get where you are.
Appreciate all the good things. This can be easy. Once you’ve nailed this, I challenge you to start trying to be grateful for the things you might label ‘bad’. This is where the wisdom and the true treasure lies (in my opinion).
In my resilience research, I am seeing that some of the most valuable life experiences and personal development stem from difficult times. We might not be able to see it in the moment. But in hindsight, we can see what we have learnt. Whether that be a skill, or something about ourselves, like our tenacity or ability to continue to give when we are stressed financially.
For me, these last few weeks have shown that though I wouldn’t choose to, I can withstand a lot more stress and pressure than I give myself credit for. I also had the chance to sharpen some of my self-care skills and be reminded of just how vital self-care is.
I’d like to end this post by saying that some of you reading may have experienced some real feelings of discomfort or felt triggered by some of the suggestions. If you did, that is ok.
I’d encourage you to recognise those feelings, without judgement. And do your best to apply some self-compassion.
Often the suggestions made above can feel wrong or challenging. Society teaches us that looking after ourselves can be selfish, or should come last on our list.
We are particularly taught that looking after ourselves emotionally can be a ‘fluffy’ or show ‘weakness’. This is really not true, and in my next post I’ll be giving some tips on how to work through resistance to self-care.
Until next time 🙂