I am prone to headaches, and if they turn into migraines, I’m going to have a bad day. I was on the brink of a migraine all last week, but managed to fight it off. During an evening conversation with Colby, I asked him, “do you think I should go to the doctor and see if he’ll prescribe me migraine medicine.”
Colby’s answer floored me.
His response: “No. I don’t think you need migraine medicine. I think you need to sleep more. You are starting to stay up all night just like you did last year.”
With those words, I could feel my stomach churn and the rosiness of panic spread over my face. “Last year,” I asked doubtfully.
“Yes. Last year.”
Last spring was the time in which my depression and anxiety became unmanageable. While I attribute most of their unwelcome appearance to a faith crisis I was in the midst of, part of the problem was also that I was not taking care of myself in any sense of the word.
I was doing student teaching, taking classes, working two part-time jobs, and planning a wedding.
I slept four hours a night at most. 2-3 hours was more accurate for most nights.
Ramen noodles and coffee were the staples of my diet, because they’re all I had time for.
I never made myself a priority, and I never did anything fun.
I crashed, and it was brutal.
In therapy, I learned perhaps one of the most valuable life lessons I will carry with me for a lifetime. It came to me like a grand epiphany, something life-altering. It was that I refused to take care of myself. I focused so much on helping others and managing my “to do” list—which I failed miserably at—that I neglected things that should remain part of one’s daily routine despite busy schedules. I neglected what is commonly known as “self-care.”
At first, I rejected this idea. I’m meant to care for people, plain and simple. Even during my hospital stay for depression and anxiety, the hospital staff and my family commented on how much I did to make other patients happy. There were never any grand gestures, but I made sure to compliment and encourage people, “share” my family during visitation hours with those whose loved ones were absent, and just stay positive and hope my energy spread to everyone one else. At some point, one of the hospital staff even cautioned me, “Do not worry about others so much that you hinder your own recovery. This is about you.”
That’s what I have trouble with. As much as I joke and call myself a princess, I feel selfish when life is “all about me.” I have a servant’s heart, and it has been with me my whole life. It wasn’t until therapy that I realized, in order to be the best version of myself I can be, I have to take time to care for myself, even if my “me” time is limited.
I know a lot of people like me, especially since I work in education. If you are reading this and you are someone who struggles with allotting time for yourself, consider this your “Self-care 101: Why Loving Yourself is not Optional” crash-course. As you adjust to managing your schedule and optimizing time for you, here are some ideas to help you practice self-care.
- Sleep a full 8 hours. This is absolutely crucial for me.
- Eat healthy meals and drink lots of water.
- Do something fun every.single.day. You are not wasting time; you are giving yourself much-needed time to rejuvenate.
- Make a list of things you are thankful for.
- Make a list of frustrating elements in your life and see if you can devise solutions for any of these areas.
- If you are a person of faith, start your mornings with some spiritual time. My planning period at school is first thing in the morning, and I make sure to read a devotional and pray every single day. I also listen to worship music while I work, and I cannot explain how soothing these two simple routines are.
- Endorphins are wonderful, and your body will thank you.
- Buy yourself something. It does not have to be anything extravagant. Pop some tags at a thrift store like me.
- Take a long weekend and go out of town. Again, this does not have to be extravagant. Budget travel is quite possible, and I will write a blog post about ways I travel cheap sometime in the near future.
- Read a book or watch television. Get lost in a fictional world that helps you forget reality.
- Go outside. You need Vitamin D, and Vitamin D can help prevent a lot of illnesses and disorders (like depression, for example). Nature is also pretty profound, and it can help you stay grounded.
- Be social. Friends are the best (and probably the cheapest) form of therapy.
- Do not be a stress eater, but treat yourself to a food you really like occasionally. I’m coming for you, FroYo!
- Not to sound silly, but daydream. As the girl with the 200+ item bucket list, I am a huge fan of daydreaming.
- Cuddle your significant other… or pets… or both!
- Take a bubble bath complete with candles and a good magazine (and wine if that is your thing).
So often we put ourselves at the bottom of our priority list, but we cannot afford to do this. We are our best investment, and it is time we start treating ourselves as such. When we remember to remember ourselves, other parts of our lives fall into place anyway!
Oh! And if case you were wondering, I have intentionally made myself sleep more since my little convo with Colby. Sometimes it is really hard to pry myself away from a stack of ungraded papers, but I am managing.