I have never really been good at self-care. I mean, I do things that help me feel refreshed and renewed, like going to church and spending time with family and friends. But prioritizing it, scheduling it, being mindful of my emotional reserves, etc., is not something I’ve ever been consistent at. I’m typically a pretty busy person in general, but this last year, I took it to a new level. I work full-time during the day, take classes at night, and began teaching an early morning religion class to high schoolers (seminary). For the first time since being a teenager, I was consistently missing large chunks of sleep. I found myself getting frustrated with co-workers and saw my friends less and less. I was feeling worn down and burned out. I love my work, am excited for school, and find seminary enjoyable and challenging but my glass was completely empty. And yet I kept trying to pour from it. I don’t know that I have ever in my life had such low reserves or felt so depleted. I’ve spent some time over the summer when work has been less demanding and seminary has been on a break to consider what I need to do moving forward to refill my reserves and find enjoyment in my daily life. In talking to others and researching some on emotional health, I’ve come up with a list I will be using moving forward that I thought I’d share.
1 – Sleep needs to be a priority. If homework is due or there was a need to get work done, sleep was the first thing I sacrificed. No more. I am protecting my sleep time so that I can get 7-9 hours a night, depending on the day. I’ve set an alarm on my phone to help me maintain this personal boundary.
2 – Schedule self-care. One of my good friends schedules time to read, take a bath, have time alone, etc., and she guards it just the same as she would if she had plans with someone else. Schedule and protect personal time. And if someone asks why you’re not free, it’s okay to say the time is simply unavailable and you’ll have to check your calendar for a different appointment.
3 – Time with friends and family is important. When I am busy, I tend to cancel or fail to schedule time with those that love and support me. This leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Caring for those you love, and allowing them to care for you, is an important part of any relationship.
4 – Lowering personal expectations. I didn’t do so great in my undergraduate career. When getting my Master’s degree, I felt the need to prove my abilities to myself and worked hard to get a 4.0 GPA. Back then I was a full-time student. Going back to school a decade later (and feeling the effects of an extra decade) while working a full-time plus job, I knew that maintaining a 4.0 would be challenging. I gave myself permission to get Bs. It took a while but this summer I got my first B because I chose to sleep and spend time with family instead of revising a paper to its best version. It was the right decision and a little relieving. Sometimes, you have to prioritize you over a task.
5 – Notice when the warning light is flashing on your emotional reserves. It is so important to pay attention to signs that you are starting to get a bit overwhelmed. I didn’t pay attention to those signs and became more and more depleted. I had created a routine it was hard to pull out of. Be mindful of days you are tired, don’t feel quite like yourself, are more irritable, etc. We all have them but if you have a few in a row, that could be a sign you are starting to get worn down.
6 – Accept help when offered. Don’t make excuses or feel guilty. Say, “yes, thank you for offering.”
7 – Create your home so that it is a refuge. I actually moved to a place that felt more me, and was more tranquil. You give enough of yourself. Make sure to care for yourself.
I hope this helps others of you who tend to overschedule as well. As for me, I bought fresh flowers for myself, took a bath, and will be headed to bed soon. May you take care of yourself.