Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the instinctive knowledge that you just need to slow down? A rough few weeks have ultimately culminated in me being very stressed out and run down. Physically it’s been gruelling, but I’ve also been feeling increasingly overwhelmed with my mental load. I’ve taken on a lot and I haven’t put enough effort into balancing that out with self-care, and the cracks are starting to show. I thought now would be a good time to check in and remind myself of not only how I need to be taking care of myself, but also what my warning signals are.
Let’s back up for a minute, though. It took me a long time to figure out my anxiety and panic triggers and warning signs, but now that I’m on this side of the road I can see how valuable these lessons are to tracking and keeping my wellbeing in check. With practice I have become more self-aware and it has become easier to recognise when a pattern has begun to develop. Everyone’s warning signals are different and unique to them, but mine include a lack of patience, my nutrition suffering (I eat worse the more stressed out I am – which causes a flaring in my anaemia related breathlessness, particularly during pregnancy), and a significant imbalance between work and quality family time. Because I’ve learned to listen to my body and mind, I have been able to greatly reduce my feelings of anxiety and panic, and it’s impact on my life – but it has been the result of hard work, time and a great deal of persistence.
Breaking this down, how do you begin to become more attuned to these signals? Well, through reflection. Look at if anything changed lately. Do you feel any physical differences in the way in which your body functions or moves? How are your relationships, are they suffering or under strain? Identifying these (sometimes subtle, often not-so-subtle) cues takes practice, and you won’t begin to understand your unique patterns and triggers overnight – so be patient with yourself! Journaling was one very helpful way in which I was able to track my progress with this. If you aren’t a writer, don’t worry, you don’t need to write anything eloquent or even interesting. Allow yourself the freedom to just write down what you need to remember, making lists can be a great exercise. Also, no one else ever has to see what you’ve written, so let that take some of the pressure off.
What’s my number one way of checking in with myself and resetting my batteries + something that I think works for just about everyone? I take a night off, regardless of what I have going on, and indulge. This usually includes a bath, guilty-pleasures T.V., and comfort food. It may seem counter-productive, but allowing yourself this little bit of freedom and pressure-free time, actually enables your mind and body to rest and reset and then enables me to be more effective when I’m “on it” later.
I’m also in the middle of putting together a directory of practical mental health resources. In the early days, when I was just beginning to figure out what was going on for me and how I could manage my experiences, I used to wish that I had contact with someone who had similar lived experiences – or, failing that, access to some real-world activities or lifestyle information so that I could begin to piece things together myself. This whole space is in response to my own expereinces, and the information, resources and connections that I longed for once upon a time. Please keep your eyes peeled, it’s very nearly ready to share. In the meantime, I have a little treat for you to share with your kids (if you have any) – it’s a wonderful mindfulness exercise, generously shared by the lovely folks over at Education.com!
Check it out here: