We are all great at telling our loved ones that they need to take some time for themselves when they're feeling stressed and run down; we are awful at making time for our own self-love, though.
Let's take a show of hands; how many of you regularly schedule time for yourself? Where you don't have commitments, studying, or chores to do? Just time to do whatever you want or need to do to relax and love yourself? I'm truly interesting to hear from any of you that do and would love to hear some tips.
I am about a month into my masters degree and while I wouldn't classify myself as being on the wrong side of stressed right now, I'm getting there. Relaxing is beginning to get lost amongst coursework, reading, my job, trying to finalise a dissertation idea, and looking at PhDs already. Don't get me wrong, I was never expecting a masters to be a walk in the park; I am a strong believer in getting the best results when you take care of yourself. Though I'm not entirely sure why I don't do that as often as I should do.
A few weeks ago, I listened to the first Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert podcast. The topic was "do what ignites your soul" and it spoke about trying to find a balance between your passion and what you consider your obligations to be, and how you can release yourself from them sometimes to indulge your passion. Elizabeth shared a profound quote that I can't stop thinking about and that I need to share you with you:
"I think of my writing simply in terms of pleasure, it's the most important thing in my life; making things. Much as I love my husband and my children, I love them only because I am the person who makes things. I am who I am, is the person who has a project of making a thing. And because that person does that, all the time, that person is able to love all these other people."
- A S Byatt, British author.
What Byatt is saying here is that if she couldn't do the things she loved doing, she wouldn't be able to love the way she does. I think that's such a powerful idea and it makes sense when you think about the big picture.
Consider something you truly enjoy doing, your passion, your love in life. If you couldn't do that thing, how would it impact your life? Would you be unhappy? Would you be able to love your family and friends the way you want to? It's worth thinking about.
I think quotes and ideals like that are vital for helping us as a society get over this idea that spending time on ourselves or being "selfish" is a bad thing. Being "selfish" in this context is not a bad thing at all. Being a selfish dick is something else entirely. We all have the right to be happy in our lives and to deprive ourselves of that is pointless and destructive.
With all of this in mind, I want to share some simple acts of self-love. The list is by no means exhaustive, it's what works for me so I'm interested to hear what you do and what your thoughts are.
Planning & Organisation
A really easy way for me to decrease my stress levels is to plan and organise my life properly. If I don't know what I need to do and when, it makes me anxious and I end up not having time to get everything done. I also hate not being able to remember when I'm working; if I think I have the day off work and then I realise I'm at work in the evening, it puts me in a rubbish mood.
I try to set aside some time each week to use my planner and look at what I need to do in the week ahead, look at longer-term plans / commitments I've got, and break up larger tasks into smaller tasks to make them more manageable. When I do this, I can identify time to spend on doing something I want to do and it makes me feel so much better.
I'm also finding this is a good way for me to figure out how to make sure I get "time off". Anyone who is (and ever has had to) balance studying with work quickly realises that it's important to make sure you have at least one day off from everything each week.
One of the greatest joys in my life is being outside with nature. And moving up to Scotland has made it even better. We are now less than 15 minutes from a beach! It's pretty exciting because we were about 3 hours away from a beach before. We're trying to take time to get outside for a bit each week, though living in Scotland means the weather does not always play ball. If it's a bit of drizzle, I can deal with it, but driving rain? No.
Last week, Daz and I visited Aberlady Bay and it felt so good to stand on the sand again and listen to the waves. The last time we did it was in Tofino in June. I didn't realise how much I needed that walk until I stood there and felt myself relax. I might even go as far to say that almost I understand what all those young adult authors were referring to when they kept saying "I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding in." Almost.
Change your scenery
Similar to getting outside, I think it's easy to go a little stir crazy sometimes. I find this is especially the case if I'm working on assignments and spend the whole day staring at my laptop. If you've got studying to do, do it somewhere else occasionally; use the library (gasp!), go to a coffee shop, get outside if you can.
I feel like this is such a cliché but it's true. I feel a lot better after sticking on a face mask, actually adhering to my skin care routine, and remembering to put oil in my hair after a shower. The great thing about pampering yourself is that you can do it at home and it doesn't have to take up much of your time if you're short on it.
Take some time each week (I feel like Sunday is always good - if you don't have to work, that is) to pamper yourself and read a book or magazine while you're at it.
I am one of those people who gets convinced that what I've got to do is completely insurmountable and horrendous, until I say it out loud. Talking to someone about how you're feeling about something can really help.
Often, I'll start telling Daz about "all this shit I've got to do" and after a few minutes I've switched to "actually, it's not that bad." Saying things out loud and working things through with someone else can help you see the forest for the trees.
A look at my Goodreads challenge for 2017 will quickly inform you that I have been terrible at reading books this year. I mean, I have read goodness knows how many journal articles (can you include those in your Goodreads target?) this year. It's not to say I don't enjoy reading those papers because they're really interesting, but some of them are horrendously dry to read and there are no wizards.
Daz and I are both huge Harry Potter fans, and Daz is the kind of person who remembers everything. He remembers things like who Mrs Weasley's favourite singer is. When that question came up in Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit, I didn't even remember Mrs Weasley's musical taste coming up. We have at least three copies of the series between us and we're planning to start reading it together.
Last Friday, I took part in the Cosy Reading Night on Twitter and started reading John Green's Turtles All The Way Down. It was so nice to read something other than journal articles, and I hadn't realised how much I'd missed John Green's writing. I don't think I'd realised how much I missed the feeling of escaping when you read too. A couple of years ago, my blog was primarily books and I've finished one non-fiction book this year; how did that happen? Life.
Finding the yes & no balance
A couple of years ago, I remember the blogging scene going through a huge phase of encouraging people to say yes more. Saying yes can be great sometimes because it gets you out of your comfort zone; you shouldn't always say yes though.
Saying no is really important sometimes, and I think it's something most people have a hard time doing. We want to please people and help them out but if you keep doing that, you're the one who suffers in the long run when you're burned out and exhausted. I understand that sometimes there's a trade-off; you say no to an extra shift and you lose out on extra money. Try to take a step back occasionally to look at the bigger picture, and ask yourself what you really need right now. If it's some time off, say no.
Ask for help
Our inability to ask for help is probably one of the biggest drivers of stress. At school, we're taught that we shouldn't be afraid of asking for help but as we get older we buy into this perception that asking for help makes you week. No, it doesn't. I like to remind myself of something a chef at my old work used to say, "no one likes a hero." Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Whether it's school, work, or your home life; if you're struggling with something, speak to someone and ask for help. I know that in the workplace it's a conversation people fear having because they worry it makes them look like they're not good enough, or they can't cope. Your job should not involve being paralysed by stress and a huge list of things to do and not enough time.
The same goes for school too. If you're finding yourself overwhelmed and need some breathing space, speak to your tutor as soon as you can. If you can do that, they can help you and you can keep on top of your grades.
Ok, I'm really curious and want to hear your thoughts on this topic; are you good at spending time on yourself? What do you like to do to de-stress?