On the importance of self-care… #drained
We’ll do introductions later. They aren’t important for the purposes of this “story” anyway. It’s Thursday evening, the day before a (much needed) long weekend vacation. I receive a message from my dear friend Jazzmin, explaining she’s decided to start a blog with a handful of ladies and has extended an invitation to me to be a guest blogger. My immediate, mental response is, “NO! I cannot take on ANYTHING else.”
In November, I began feeling a bit overwhelmed. I was just starting to get back into a regular work-out routine. Working out, of any kind, is the best stress reliever for me – far above pampering myself with manicures or massages or anything else. But I wasn’t seeing the scale move, and honestly, I was still eating poorly, so I’m not sure what I expected from myself or the scale. The stress relief was, essentially, neutralized by the stress of not seeing the scale move. Add to that mounting projects at work, being in the throes of trying to be successful with a few months of MLM sales under my belt, charity work for the holiday season, and the inevitable family stress attached to the holidays. Recipe for disaster, right? Did I mention I was in my second-to-last class for a graduate degree? No worries, though. I was promised a tropical vacation, at the Atlantis resort, in the Bahamas, so I just had to hold on and push myself through the holidays. One month. I could do it. January came and the Bahamas trip fell through, as did a back-up plan to visit California. I could feel it mentally, though. It was beyond desire. I needed a break.
I finished out January with the flu. My body was forcing breaks on me, but I wasn’t having it. To see the scale move, I’d started to work out twice a day. Work was giving me one project after another, with difficult colleagues to collaborate with through project ends, extending through mid-March. I had a thesis paper to complete by the first week of March as well – the feather in the cap of this degree. I knew I needed a break NOW, or I was going to break.
I booked my tickets to fly to Asheville, on Monday evening, February 25th. On Tuesday, I was diagnosed with strep and given antibiotics. I made a few key decisions that day. First, I would still be spending Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in Asheville. I’d return on Monday and be refreshed to finish my work projects. I would use the trip to reset my pace with everything in life. Second, I would, absolutely, not post anything on social media about where I was, nor would I answer questions or tell people where I was going. Why? Because when people know things, they get selfish and the questions begin, and your three-day escape turns into running from one place to another, picking up gifts and visiting people and doing NOT what the intent of the trip was – relaxing and re-setting. Third, I wouldn’t be bringing my vape pen, nor would I be smoking at all. I quit last July and I wasn’t going to let the vacation be an excuse to cheat or indulge in any way. Fourth and finally, I would not stress in the slightest about money. I would spend what I needed to spend and enjoy the trip. I would buy what I wanted to buy, eat what I wanted to eat, drink what I wanted to drink, and do whatever I wanted to do. I was going to be selfish and spend the weekend doing 100% of the things that make me happy, bring me peace, and make me smile.
The results – exactly what I wanted. I enjoy craft beer, and I enjoyed a couple each day I was in Asheville – nothing in excess, but a couple of good, flavorful brews each day, without the worry of calories. I started my mornings when my body was ready to rise and I didn’t rush. I made coffee, ate breakfast, stretched, and slowly made my way to each day’s agenda. I went hiking – no music, no cell reception, just fresh mountain air. I ate whole foods, with the occasional processed addition. Fried cauliflower and cod fritters with a light aioli. Sushi, grapes, tomatoes, strawberries, kale, almonds, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, salmon, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, tri-color carrots, and butternut squash soup. I chose, when I gave myself the time to think and actually decide, to eat unprocessed, whole foods. I felt amazing and full of energy all weekend. Though I’d been feeling tired and generally weak from the strep throughout the week, it was as if the mountain air and change in diet had instantly healed me. I recognized some key items of high importance to my self-care and overall well-being…
1. Eating healthy is what I WANT, and it isn’t difficult or time-consuming. It takes the same amount of effort and time as picking out and cooking the processed stuff.
2. My body doesn’t NEED nicotine or tobacco, or anything else found in the cigarettes and vape juices. The anxiety I feel when I want a cigarette isn’t from a lack of nicotine; it’s from a lack of fresh air. The anxiety is from the presence of “weight” – from work, from social media, from family, from friends.
3. *This is a BIG one – and it’s a TOUGH one to do. This one will be the most difficult to really implement in the everyday of my life.* I (and only I) have the ability to permit and prohibit toxicity in my life. I am the only person who can prevent myself from responding to a text which doesn’t NEED a response RIGHT NOW. I am the only person who can allocate my time to what is important to me. I control my pace at work and outside of it. I am the only one who can tell my management when the workload is too heavy, when I won’t make a deadline, or when I have the capacity to take on more. I am the only person who can stand up for myself in my home and determine what will be tolerated there.
It’s all up to me. I get to decide how I allow others to come into and affect my life – at work and outside of it; with roommates; with friends; with family; with significant others. It took feeling like I was pushed to the edge before I was willing to do something about the anxiety and stress. As I sat on the actual edge of a mountain Saturday afternoon, all of these realizations hit me. It may take time, trial and error, making mistakes, burning a meal here and there, and sometimes unintentionally offending a friend, but this self-care has taught me so much about how I can choose to take care of myself, which will give me what I need to take care of those I care about in my life.