How to care for yourself, when there is no time to care for yourself
We noticed in some of our cuppas, that replenishment - or self care - has taken a back seat for some of us, so we opened the discussion up in our Facebook Community, to talk about it some more.
It's been great to share what works for each of us, and inspire others to try new things. But it was obvious that for some of us, finding time to give ourselves a recharge is nigh-on impossible right now.
We also established that a significant number of us
"wait until we're totally exhausted, before prioritising our own self-care".
Be honest, If I asked you right now
"Have you planned time to replenish yourself today?"
Could you immediately come back with an activity that you had already planned into your day? I'll be honest - I can't! (although I'm thinking about it now!).
But what if we just don't have time to look after ourselves? Well we've pulled together 4 quick techniques (further down this blog), that can slot into our days, even whilst we're hanging the washing out or popping our PJs on!
Why is replenishment essential?
10 minutes of replenishment is like popping new batteries in a toy, petrol in your car or popping your phone on charge!
We all need new juice, or we simply stop working!
Without refuelling and nurturing our own bodies and minds, we put our bodies under extended stress. We run on adrenaline for a while (men for longer, as you have more adrenaline), but then we run on our primary stress hormone cortisol.
Both adrenaline and cortisol have a hugely beneficial purpose, in overcoming an immediate threat or stressful situation.
However, they are meant to be called upon in short bursts, after which our bodies recover.
Many carers, live in an almost permanent state of stress. Drawing on more and more cortisol, with potentially long term health implications.
"Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, [and] enhances your brain's use of glucose.....
......The body's stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems resume their regular activities.......
The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of many health problems"
The long term health implications can include:
Anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, memory and concentration impairment.
Do you recognise any of these in yourself?
When stressors are always present and we constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. And if we as carers acquire these health implications, it becomes even harder to continue caring to the level or degree we would want to. With the stress increasing and a cycle of ill health falling out of it.
This is why it's important for us to love and nurture ourselves. Both for ourselves, but also for the people we look after and support. We can only give our best care if we are physically and emotionally sustainable. And we can only be sustainable, if we're looking after ourselves.
But what if we don't even have 10 minutes to ourselves......?
4 Ways to Replenish yourself, when there's no time to replenish yourself!
Clearly a day at a spa, taking an art class, or a few hours to go on a long walk or fit in a yoga class, are more obvious ways to 'self care' and have 'me time'. But..... it's not always practical, possible or even appealing, when we're just plain exhausted.
Here are some proven techniques that take mere minutes to do and fit in with our busy days. They can really support us, during those high stress periods of caring.
1. A Sensory Mindful Minute (1 minute)
Pause. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing. I like to do this when I'm hanging the washing out. Closing my eyes, feeling the sun on my skin, listening to the birds, feeling the breeze, smelling the clean clothes or cut grass. Simply breathing slowly and deeply, listening and feeling all of our senses. Just like that, in the middle of a job! Just for a minute.
Rather than rushing through the job, using this pause to experience the beauty in that moment, focusing on the here and now. Giving our minds a break from running away with our thoughts.
The slowing down and the shift in our attention and focus, not only feels great, but it also has a physical effect on our bodies. Regulating our breathing, calming our minds, slowing us down and widening our world view to include some of the beautiful moments.
Repeat this sensory, mindful minute, throughout the day.
2. A Bedtime Meditation (3.34 minutes)
As we climb into bed, at the end of a potentially busy and draining day, we have a few moments to ourselves. This is a great opportunity for a short guided visualisation, to relax your mind and send you into a blissful sleep. Below is 3 minutes and 34 seconds of guided relaxation, to relax your mind and body. Helping to ease you into a good night's' sleep.
3. Drink Water (30 seconds throughout the day)
This one is so simple to do and just as simple to forget! It's all about getting into a good routine and habit.
According to Vandana R. Sheth, R.D.N., a certified diabetes educator and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“We often wake up after a night’s sleep slightly dehydrated,"
Which can mean we start our day feeling pretty rubbish! And that's before we've even started!
Why not fill a jug of water (with slices of lemon if you have them!) and pop it in the fridge the night before.
You can then start your day with a beautiful, chilled, hydrating glass of (lemon infused) water.
Not only does this rehydrate you, making you feel physically better. It also sends an important message to your mind, that you matter and deserve to be looked after.
And remember to drink plenty more throughout the day! While you're getting into this new habit, perhaps use an alarm on your phone to prompt you.
4. Think of 3 things that were OK today! (2 minutes)
As you're getting ready for bed, think about 3 things that were OK about today. Maybe the sunshine was out. Maybe you grabbed a cuppa on your own for 5 minutes. Maybe a friend called. Maybe it's simply that you have a safe home, a garden or your health. Find those 3 things that were simply OK.
Doing this, simply allows us to lift the amount of focus we have on the stressors of our days. Creating a new perspective of our day. Shifting the spotlight a few degrees to draw in some of the good, or 'ok'.
If you have the energy, write them down. Creating a gratitude journal is a great way to embed those positive memories in your mind. It's also a great read on a tough day!
How often should we 'self-care'?
According to an article in HuffPost, we need a mixture of short bursts throughout each day, and some longer stretches of self care too......
"For anyone seeking to live a healthy, sustainable life, one vital habit is self-care. In order to nurture the health of our mind, body, and soul, we need ways to recenter and restore. We need these in short spurts throughout the day, and also longer stretches."
Perhaps this is good news! Short bursts sounds achievable - even for a busy carer! And most of the techniques above can be repeated throughout our day. As for the longer stretches of self-care? When the time comes and the pressure releases a little, you can start to build in those yoga classes and long walks ;o)
And for anyone experiencing guilt about prioritising your own self-care, remember:
Without looking after ourselves, we're unlikely to be sustainable. That is to say, our ability to keep caring is hindered. To truly give our best care, we must be nourished and valued. And the only person who can really do that for ourselves, is ourselves.
Ultimately, if we burn out, we will be unable to continue caring.
How do we know if something is replenishing us?
We feel rested. We feel a sense of calm. Our mind stops racing. Our heart rate slows.
How does that sound? Good, right?
The techniques above can support these feelings. With practise, they can slot into our busy days and become an integral and valuable part of our day to day lives.