Monday, July 27, 2015

Self-Care is Not Laziness

Lately I've noticed that there have been a number of articles about the importance of self-care (Modern Mrs. Darcy's post was the one that really inspired me with its simplicity yet effectiveness)... which is coinciding with my resolution to do just that: to take care of myself. As the articles have stated, we've created an (almost) idol out of being busy. If we're not busy doing something, the word "lazy" gets added to the mix. For the longest time this used to bother me -- being called "lazy" -- because I felt it unfair. People who called me that didn't know me -- didn't know that I needed the break from whatever (school, work, etc) for my health (mental and/or physical) -- yet, because I wasn't "busy," I was obviously wasting time and being a freeloader. It wasn't until this month that I made the decision to let those judgmental thoughts slide and finally give myself some much-needed time off from everything. Really, it's going to be a two-month summer vacation (my first in years).

As many of you (who've known me for years) know, I helped take care of my dad during the 7 years he battled with cancer. From ages 17 to 24 all I did was go to school, work (I was a retail slave, no less), and/or take care of my dad. After my dad died, I still went to school. I literally took two months off before I returned to school. It took me 3 months to find freelance work after graduating from college and that's been what I've been doing since. Then I started that ill fated stint at Utah State for an intense Speech-Language Pathology program for nearly an entire academic year before I had to pull out due to declined health. Even in the middle of that, I managed to publish two novels, the second having come out only a month after I left Utah State. I pushed myself to what I thought was my limit and I messed up my health in the process.

My weight plummeted down to 113-114 lbs at my smallest, 4-5 lbs underweight. My iron levels were dismal (and I was still "slightly" anemic at my last blood draw in April) due to poor eating. Stress, anxiety, poor sleep, poor nutrition... this busy bee burned herself out. I was still trying to stay "productive busy" through earlier this month when I realized that I was not doing myself any favors by not taking a decent break. With grad school starting in late September, I knew I had to start taking better care of myself in preparation for it. I left my low-paying, high-stress freelance writing job earlier this month. I put my third novel on hold. These days I'm all about the self-care.

I'm still "busy"... but it's a busy that is necessary. I keep the apartment clean, vacuuming and dusting twice a week. I wash the dishes by hand. I check how my car is doing on oil and water as well as using a rag to clean off the dust the maintenance guys throw onto my car with their leaf blowers. I pray at least twice daily. I read books. I stay in the loop of the Catholic world by checking out the daily emails I get sent from places like the Catholic News Agency, ZENIT, and the National Catholic Register. I touch bases with friends via email and/or text message. I cook. I listen to music. I run errands. It's still a busy life... but nothing that is too stressful.

Most days my to-do list consists of:
- Morning prayers
- Rosary
- Examination of Conscience
- Nighttime prayers

That's it.

Of course, I sleep, eat, and take care of my personal hygiene. As I wrote in my Digital Burnout post, taking breaks from online activity has helped me. I installed the StayFocused app for my Chrome browser to keep myself off of sites like Twitter... though, in all honesty, it's currently disabled because I accidentally left the Twitter tab open when I went to eat, after replying to someone today, and the 10 minutes expired... and I needed it to post the link to this blog post on it. Yes, I will enable it again when I'm done posting the link to this post. I'm averaging less than 5 minutes on Twitter on the days I do log in for whatever reason (usually to reply to someone; I get the notifications sent to my inbox which is how I know someone sent me a message) and it's wonderful. Same with FB. All of this is done for my mental health and self-care.

I'm slowly working through my Warm Weather Bucket List, having modified it a bit to better suit my new self-care regime. I'm working on fixing my sleeping cycles, adopting an EST time frame since I'm up in the 4 a.m. hour (PST) to drive mom to work, which would be 7 am EST. That means not watching late night shows or movies to get proper sleep in. I'm exercising more (or trying to) and I'm eating healthier. I'm trying to learn how to make my own bread and rely less on store bought things that may not be as gentle on my stomach (I have horrible GERD/acid reflux). My weight is finally at a good, healthy place and has been consistent since about late April-early May. I'm trying to build up a "bag of self-care tricks" for when I do eventually become busy again (with school and work) to help me get through the worst, most stressful days. I'm looking at finding things I can do in 5-10 minute breaks when I'm super busy. I've even started a Pinterest board for ideas.

I'm afraid some of you with children and/or very busy lives may roll your eyes or be unhappy with this blog post. "I don't have that luxury," you may say. I'm sorry if that's the case. I'm not flaunting my self-given time off. The grass is not greener, folks. Sure, I have no husband or family to take care of but I do have a mother to help and a loneliness to battle against. All I'm saying is that it's okay to give yourself a break if you're able to do so. Hey, adult coloring books are selling like hot cakes on Amazon for a reason! Embrace the idea of a small break and take care of yourself. Self-care is not laziness. Idleness is terrible but so is failing to take care of the body God gave you. Think about it.

Anyway, just my two cents in something that seems to be a popular topic, and with good reason. I've seen enough of you lovely folks getting burnt out quickly as the summer progresses. Don't push yourselves too hard. Learn from my mistakes. Do me a favor and take 5 minutes out of your day to do something for yourself. Even if those 5 minutes is simply sitting on your couch or bed, closing your eyes, and listening to your favorite song while having a drink of your choice.

That's it for me for now. I really want to get started on one of the new puzzles I got at Target (four 1,000+ piece puzzles for under $7, score!). Self-care while keeping my mind busy before I switch to prayer and a book before an early bedtime. ;)

I hope y'all have a great start of week!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D


AnneMarie said...

Emmy, this is awesome! I think we really need to re-learn the art of self care in our culture today. Personally, growing up, self care often seemed connected with laziness, as you said, and the really loving, giving people NEVER took time for themselves. Thankfully, I have since realized how horrible that mentality is. I'm an extrovert, and my love language is acts of service, so I thrive off of bouncing around with people and volunteering. But, I've discovered that when I take time for myself every day, I am more energized and have a better overall attitude. I think you have a good idea with the 5 minutes thing. Surely, everyone can cut out 5 minutes of social media, get off the computer, and do something fun and relaxing! :)

Emmy Cecilia said...

AnneMarie - Yes! I've seen so many people get burnt out because of how poorly self-care is seen by others. I'm so glad you mentioned that as an extrovert you also need to take time to yourself. We usually hear it from introverts so I appreciated you letting me know how you take care of yourself. :D

Sonia said...

I'm lazy, so dry in everything. Please pray for me. I wish you didn't have to go through all that distress. I'm sorry for any hurt I've caused others.