Sometimes although it may seem easier in the moment to say ‘yes’ to people, it is actually kinder and healthier to say ‘no’ – know your boundaries and don’t feel bad for looking after yourself, for it will help others in the longer term too, even if that involves temporary disappointment.
This time of year, as nostalgic, fun and relaxing as it is ‘supposed’ to be, can often bring with it stress and an ever lengthening ‘to do’ list.
It is so important to be aware of where you are at with your mental health, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts in this series, and in more in depth articles throughout my blog.
There are expectations that we place upon ourselves and that family, friends and society places upon us. Expectations that might be completely unrealistic and out of our grasp and that leave us feeling worn out, stressed, worried and even at ‘breaking point’ at times.
Look back over some of my previous posts, or search my blog for posts on ‘mental health’ related topics.
For this post, I’ll try to keep it simple: Break it down to avoid breaking down.
I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve got things organised for one week, I’m at the end of the week and needing to start all over again. Your tasks might be work oriented, or to do with keeping up with commitments, events and nurturing your friendships and relationships.
Today, ‘life as it happens to be’ sees me looking at a countertop of dishes needing washed and put away, recycling bags needing emptied, bins to be put out and clutter to be tidied away, food shopping to be done, and other household tasks to attend to, over and above all of the other things I want to do with my days and my life.
I often encourage myself and other people to break things down into smaller, more manageable ‘chunks’ to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed. At this time of year there may be more things popping up in our diaries and calendars, and it can be hard to get around at times and to keep up with it all, which can lead to stress and anxiety or the exacerbation of existing conditions.
Some people are natural organisers, but even if you are not, you can work at finding a system that works for you to enable you to do what needs to be done, and thereby feeling more relaxed to take the ‘time out’ that you also need.
I have a lot of blog posts on mental health, organising, strategizing, and the different tools, techniques, ‘games’ and systems I use to make the load a bit lighter for myself mentally and emotionally and to even find the fun in being productive.
I need to keep reminding myself of these things, and that includes in attending to my list of ‘to do’s’ today.
If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and ‘frazzled’ or don’t know where to start, take a deep breath and remind yourself that your health and wellbeing is far more important than living up to certain expectations that may be unrealistic, and to getting everything done a certain way. Take your time, break it down, put on some calming music and just take the next step. Don’t try to do things all at once and try to make it fun. Ask for help when you need it, and give yourself some kindness and encouragement. Search and browse through my other posts on mental health and getting and staying organised and hopefully you’ll feel less overwhelmed, find something that helps you and reminds you that you’re not alone.
And remember – break it down to avoid breaking down! 🙂
Do you ever find that some mornings you wake up and feel bright, positive and eager to make the most of the day ahead, while on others you feel more unsettled about your life and yourself? You know those days, when a thought, a seed of doubt or anxiety creeps in, and suddenly you are drawn towards thinking of the things that make you insecure about yourself as you stand, bleary-eyed in front of the mirror? I am sure that everyone has had mornings like that. And with the thought comes an emotion, and if we’re not careful we can let this slip into a negative frame of mind, and negative ‘self talk’.
Our Creator made us and sees the beauty in us as His Creation, individual, unique, special. And yet our society is so focused on an airbrushed external version of life that we can be left feeling inadequate and critical of ourselves. In the morning, I like to remind myself of the Truth of who God says I am – ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, precious in His sight, important to and uniquely loved by Him.
Yet, there is another component to our thoughts, and this is what we say to and about ourselves and how we talk to ourselves. No matter what you believe in terms of faith, everyone has ‘self talk’, and the morning is a good time to be aware of how we are approaching our day, what we are saying to ourselves, and find ways to intentionally be kinder to ourselves in our thoughts and actions. Would you say what you are saying to yourself to a friend? If you did, would they still be your friend? If something is amiss, then it’s a good point in the day to change our thoughts before going off into a world that is already critical enough of everyone. We need to be kinder to ourselves, and in turn to others. And don’t you think this morning is as good a time as any to say something kind about yourself? I encourage you, right here, right now, be kind. x
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It’s 2.15am. I’m in bed, but clearly, I’m not sleeping. It’s just one of those nights when I’ve been ‘triggered’ and my anxiety issues have resurfaced. Things are so much better than they used to be. I used to not be able to sleep or settle down until maybe 3 or 4am, and even then I would be fearful, stressed and sometimes struggling with nightmares. My system was in overdrive, and fight, flight or freeze was all that it knew.
Thankfully I’ve worked so hard and have reaped some benefits from my disciplined changes along the difficult journey of recovery and self care. But I need to remind myself that it is a journey, a process, and one that others often don’t understand because things might seem ok or even good for a time, which is why it is important for me to learn to communicate and honour my own needs for wellbeing and to feel ok to say ‘no’ even when I or other people want me to, or think that I ‘should’ say ‘yes’.
It’s not an easy thing to do. So often we put the needs of others before our own, and I have done this many a time, and in the long run we are neither helping ourselves or them. For if we burnout or break down how can we be strong for anyone else?
I think it’s the ‘little things’ that are beginning to get to me, and to cause those stress reactions to ‘flare up’, the cortisol, the adrenaline and so forth leading to heightened anxiety, sleeplessness, worry, fear, racing thoughts trying to figure things out and ‘keep everyone happy’.
And maybe, just maybe, if you’re reading this, you too can relate, and are maybe even looking for some reassuring advice or guidance. And maybe you’ve come to the right place, where you can hear the thoughts of someone who has lived through and survived the horrible experiences of panic attacks, being sick at work, crying in public and feeling like my brain was exploding in its own kaleidoscopic nightmare.
If you’ve been there and have as a result been exploring ways and means to not only manage your symptoms and conditions better, but to also build ‘self care’ into your life, or if you’re still going through what feels like the worst of it just now, then firstly, know that you are not alone, and you can be an overcomer, don’t ever give up.
But if you have come through the worst of it, and are managing or maintaining things at the moment, then perhaps you are aware of those subtle ‘tell tale’ warning signs and ‘triggers’ that alert you to the fact that things might be getting off kilter a bit, and that you might be allowing external (and / or internal) demands to encroach upon your well being and send you down that slippery slope once again. It is important to have that self awareness, because no one else can really know what we are experiencing. And sometimes because they don’t know, we feel the need to have to please everyone, all of the time, even to the detriment of our own health.
The people at work don’t necessarily know about other parts of my life, just as the people outside of my work aren’t aware of the stresses I might face day to day as part of a normal workplace environment. And so they may not be aware of how cumulative factors can cause their seemingly good, reasonable and perfectly acceptable request or requests to add to the subtle or not so subtle build up of stress.
As you can see, earlier last month I was out and about – I got back into my work routine, did some photography on snowy days, went to various music events, socialised and began my ‘home projects’. Additionally, I kept appointments with my doctor who is helping me work through managing my symptoms etc, and eventually leading up to ‘going it alone’ more with less intervention. All positive things, but not necessarily smooth sailing.
I find blogging a good way to make sense of things and find my calm and balance in some ways. I also have found a new church that I love to go to, after a few years of not having anywhere like that. I’m still new there, but I feel more connected with God and His people, and it is a good environment to be built up spiritually and to show and receive love, and to reach out and help others. However, the process for me of getting there can be stressful. The requests to attend colleagues birthday events, to see friends and family and to keep on top of work commitments while having started my ‘decluttering project’ can begin to trigger those stresses. So I need to give myself permission to say ‘no’ sometimes. To look after myself so that I can be better at being there for others, as well as honouring God with what He has given to me, and realising that my wellbeing and self care is important. Often other people aren’t aware of what you’re experiencing, and if you let them know maybe they’d be pretty understanding and help to ease your sense of obligation when you feel that you’re beginning to struggle. I don’t know if I’ll say no, or yes, or a combination of the two, but I know that I need to consider my responses carefully, and that that’s ok.
I hope you are doing ok, and that you remember to take care of yourself and take ‘time out’ and say ‘no’ if you need to. After all it was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’, so maybe one less load to carry will help you to stay well and healthy and stronger in the long run.
And now to try to get some sleep. Much love. xx