Today is Valentine’s Day. I’ve never really been one for spending exorbitant amounts of money on dinner reservations or fancy plans with that special someone, so today I’m in Amsterdam with my gal pal.
It all started a few weeks ago. My last term of my Masters degree was finally in full swing. I was stressed as any postgraduate student tends to be. I had a lot on my mind- attending lectures, group projects, business projects, dissertation proposals, finding a job, running a society at school, planning events, dealing with bureaucracy trying to set up a damn payment portal, need I continue? It’s trivial in the grand scheme of things, I know– but wow, I was overwhelmed.
A few days later, I found myself in bed in the morning completely unable to move. It was like waking up in the middle of a REM cycle. My entire body was paralysed but my mind was awake and I felt completely trapped. It was like I was Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Hermione had just whispered, Petrificus totalus! And for about 30 minutes, I laid there completely petrified and simultaneously terrified. That day, I couldn’t find the strength to pull myself out of bed. So I did the only thing I could think to do– I tried to go back to sleep. But my body just wasn’t having it.
The short of it is this: my body had had enough. I was feverish, delusional, and could not function properly. I was so busy worrying about managing other people and making plans for others that I forgot to catch up with myself.
I used to be a subconscious practicer of self care. And by that I mean, I used to spend a day or so every week to myself. I’d wander around London, weaving through Borough Market nibbling on cheese samples or meandering slowly through Columbia Road Flower Market. I would sit in Shoreditch coffee shops and let my pen take off, writing something brilliantly nonsensical on scraps of paper. I would sit in a park and read voraciously.
I suppose somewhere along the way, life caught up with me and like Ariana Huffington and so many busier and more important people in this world than me, it took me hitting bottom to realise it. At the time, I didn’t even think I was burnt out. I just thought, “This is not a good time to be falling ill.” It wasn’t until I had finished reading Ariana Huffington’s Thrive and more recently finishing up a paper on employee burnout and suicide that it really hit me. I had burnt out. I had forgotten to take care of numero uno.
With that I also realised that I had stopped exercising regularly. I was eating worse than a college fraternity boy. I had stopped doing all the things I loved doing for the sake of others. I’m not insinuating that my first thought was, “Screw them! It’s all about me from here on out.” My actual first thought was, “I am so tired.”
Although I disagreed with parts of Thrive, it was reassuring to read that I was not alone. It was reassuring to read that many people, especially women, have the tendency to give more than they take. Many people grow to be considerate and thoughtful, but often at their own expenses.
I love helping people and I love giving my all every day. People who know me would probably tell you I’m high energy, but what they probably don’t know is that like anyone else, I’m battling my own demons. And so the emotional labour of appearing cheerful and carefree can take its toll when combined with other factors. This was my reality. Moving forward, I signed myself up for group exercise at Frame (Frame is so wonderful, it deserves a post of its own and it’s coming, I promise). I started buying fresh groceries again, planning out meals, and simply drinking more water.
Fast forward a few weeks, I’m feeling more like myself. I don’t feel like waking up each day is a battle. Nor do I feel utterly defeated by small setbacks. I feel stronger from working out regularly and healthier for eating better and even just taking the time to breathe.
This is a message that so many share… and yet, more and more people seem to find themselves in this situation. I think we all think, “Yeah, but that would never happen to me.” And the truth of the matter is, this thinking is silly. It’s arrogant, quite frankly. It doesn’t matter what you need to get back to your centre point. Maybe you need to go to Bikram Yoga. Or maybe you need to buy a Mindfulness Colouring Book ( I recommend Johanna Bradford’s, they’re fantastic). Maybe you need to run 13 miles or just throw down in the kitchen Top Chef style. Who cares? It really doesn’t matter. Find what you need to do and do it. I really do believe that each morning we get up and we all do wonderful things (unless we are Donald Trump or Steve Bannon- yeah I made it political, yeah I went there). But despite all this good, it doesn’t mean you should neglect the most important person in your life– you.