Is one part of your life outweighing the other parts? Are you missing the good bits because you can’t seem to find the right balance? Have you got the balance down pat already? Do you even know what it is? Are your responsibilities responsible for the way you feel?
Let’s talk about it shall we – I was a “yes girl” – I would say yes to everything. Here’s why I don’t anymore and how I figured it out….
There is lots of talk about self care these days. You’ll have heard it from all sorts of places; some that you wouldn’t expect too. Until recently, I hadn’t heard terminology like “sleep hygiene” and “mindfulness” but recently it seems to have become part of every day language. My thoughts on the topic is really split. Half of my brain says “yes, about time!” and feels that much of this had been brought about through a change in perceptions to mental health. The shift of society is brilliant, seeming to head toward the understanding that mental health is as important as physical health and can be as debilitating as any physical illness or disease. I know, I’ve been there.
The other part of me feels a little bit superior to it all – and I know that’s bad. I think that perhaps we shouldn’t have to be told to look after ourselves (which I laugh at because I do have to be told to look after myself!) Part of me feels like it’s another fad that will pass and be replaced. But I also hope it doesn’t. I hate the sceptical me!
But, if being ill with Postnatal Depression (yes it’s capitalised for a reason!) has taught me one thing; it’s that there is only one you. And only one me. And without us, the world would be a different place. So why should we play second fiddle to someone else? Why shouldn’t we sometimes prioritise ourselves over someone or something else? It’s a hard question to ask. Because immediately your brain screams that it’s selfish, that it’s not the done thing and “what about my responsibilities”?
As a parent, it can be easy to turn into a “mombie” (that’s a mom-zombie haha!) or a dadenstein (haha, I amuse myself!) and just carry on doing all the things, taking care of the small humans, loving our families and partners, doing all the housework, the chores, the maintenance, the general rigmarole of daily life and still having to earn a living from somewhere in and amongst! Where is there even time for you? When did a shower become a luxury? When did having time to pee alone (It happens and we all know it!) become something to be cherished? Where did the life balance go?
In my own functional little way I have tried to start looking after myself a little bit more. My problem, and I could use a shout out from those that have this issue too please, is that my leisure time and work are a combination. I LOVE what I do for a living and often need to be prised away from the laptop to do things like eat and spend time with my family. And I know it isn’t healthy! But I love it! Does anyone else have that problem? What is a work/life balance when your work feels like it is your life? For reasons right or wrong.
Looking after yourself should be natural. It is in the fight or flight response we have as our hormones still control that part of our natural instincts. But in the modern world, has looking after ourselves like the monkey’s do (hey, they groom themselves and each other!) just evolved out of us? Have we evolved past caring for ourselves without seeming selfish? Are we giving so much that there is nothing left? Is it so wrong to say “what about me?”
I’ve developed a little workbook, based on some of the work I’ve been doing with my amazing team of mental health professionals. I wanted to share it with you because I genuinely believe it can help someone else like it has helped me. You can download it here.
The idea behind it is to examine the balance between what you consider to be the different elements of your life:
- Self care (which, for the purposes of this experiment, includes sleep!)
Now these elements don’t have to be clear cut and they also don’t have to contain the things that society expects them to contain. I feel, as part of who I am and my illness that my “work” is very much melded with my leisure time. My productivity time includes things like washing and cleaning but also looking after my daughter. For me, it is not restful time, which is how I identify with leisure time. You don’t have to! An example of a different lifestyle might be a keen runner. Their leisure time would include a 5k – mine would certainly not! That isn’t a bad thing because this workbook isn’t for anyone else. It’s for you. The idea behind classifying the things in your life is simply to check the balance and analyse the results. To see if you need to shift the scales. Are you with me?
The way to work them out is to simply keep track of a day or two, a couple of days or a week, there are plenty of pages all laid out for you in the workbook for this. Note down how long you spend carrying out each activity and work out what the balance looks like (it’s all laid out plainly in the workbook to make it really easy!) It doesn’t have to be pretty or take lots of time. Obviously that would skew the experiment! Quick notes of what you were up to from what time until what time. That’s all.
The next stage is to take some time out (my little contradiction in terms there!) but do find the time. Just half an hour is plenty to complete the workbook after you’ve done your initial time tracking. You will work through the time you have spent and categorise each area. Again, these areas are for your eyes only and no one is going to see it or judge you for classifying walking your dog as productivity! If it’s not leisure time or self care, then that’s what it is.
Moving through the workbook you’ll score it to figure out your own little pie chart. I coloured mine in because that’s my kinda thing but again, this is up to you! Do with your workbook as you see fit. My only hope is that it is helpful to you and finds you some peace or clarity or both. The outcome will give you an idea of the balance of activities in your life and where the bulk of your time is spent. Most of you probably feel already that you can predict where the outcome is going, but you might actually find that you’re surprised. I was.
If the balance is tipped too far toward that of productivity and not enough in favour of self care or leisure, perhaps this might prompt you to make some changes. The main point of this exercise is that it is an interesting experiment in ones life (oo I went all posh and British on you there for a moment!) BUT it does not have to change the way things are. If you are happy and healthy then don’t change! It’s as simple as that. The idea of identifying self care for me is doing things because you want to or they make you happy – not because society says that it’s appropriate (clearly I’m not talking about activities with criminal intent or those that hurt others!)
At the end of the workbook you’ll find an area of self analysis, where you can look at how you could swing the balance, if you choose to. This is based on the amount of time that you feel you need to change. Initially you would need to ensure that the change is possible – if you work at the other side of the world then that big-ass commute ain’t going to change without some serious considerations to other things. But this workbook will help you to identify those changes that might need to happen or that you could tweak. And, broken record time, you only change if you want to!
Good luck and please let me know your results in the comments, or grab me on social! I’m really keen to hear the outcome of this experiment!
I would also love to hear from you about what the hell self care really is? What do you do to look after yourself? To give yourself that down time? And is it bad that for some people work and leisure are the same thing? Discuss….