Practice Self Care (Ann Campbell)

I recently read this article in a small community booklet I receive once-a-month, and I thought the material was important enough that I wanted to spread the word. So thank you to Ann Campbell, who wrote these words:

“One of the current buzzwords is ‘self care’. We see it everywhere these days, on every platform. It is a relatively new term, and it might lead one to wonder just what it means. The online definition reads “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress”. Well, since 2020 has basically been one big ball of stress, I guess it makes sense why the word is being used more and more often these days. However, just a definition isn’t enough to express what it really means, and how we can apply it every day to ourselves.

“Self-care applies across many facets of one’s life. In the most basic terms, it means seeing a doctor and being proactive about one’s bodily health and well-being. It also applies to one’s mental health as well and here is where it gets nuanced. Yes, it means seeking professional help if your mental state is one that has deteriorated to a point where you need help and support, but it also means finding joy in your daily life. It’s not just spa trips and massage appointments, it is thinking hard about what you like and making that be a part of your daily experiences.

“There are some simple ways to add small joys to your daily life, little things that build your self-care regimen to improve your world. Get a candle or a melter in a scent that makes you happy. Get rid of any clothes in your closet that make you feel unattractive. Play that song that always makes you want to dance. Buy yourself a sparkly piece of costume jewelry and watch the light play on it. Spend that extra three minutes in the shower with the water pounding on your back. Call that person that always makes you laugh. Find out what time the sun rises or sets tomorrow and take a minute to stop and look at it.

“Small acts of self-care seem simple, but they help in large ways. At the end of the day, you need to be important to you, so take a minute to treat yourself well.”

P.S. You’ve heard me use this quote before, but it always bears repeating: “Fill your own cup first and nourish others with the overflow.”

Where I’ve Been – Where I’m Going

For years and years now, I’ve suffered from S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder). Since discovering it had both a name and a diagnosis, I’m keenly aware of its possibility beginning in late September. By preparing for that possibility, I’ve been able to train my mind that it may cause some low swings in mood but is combatable with extra sun, a mild depressant and just kindness and tolerance towards myself when (if) it happens.

I’ve also struggled with depression over the years, which has a large effect on my mood and can send me into a very “F it all” place if it gets bad enough. Again, having suffered from those attacks, I’m usually aware of their onset and quickly reach out to loved ones to let them know I’m headed there, more to forewarn them that I may disappear from my activity in their lives than for any other reason,

Well, this year – yesterday, to be exact – I’ve learned that depression can manifest itself in physical symptoms. For several months now, I’ve been suffering from serious fatigue and exhaustion, sleep patterns that are worse than what is “normal” for me ( which aren’t good patterns) and a loss of appetite. I’ve been tired mentally as well. I’ve been chalking it up to this crappy aging process and just accepting of it being what it is without much thought. When you’re overweight and diabetic, you tend to look at loss of appetite as a positive, right???!!! Less sugar plus less calories equals lower blood sugar levels and burning fat for energy, right???!!!

Well, apparently, all of these symptoms are also classified as being physically depressed. I didn’t even know there WAS such a thing! I am always keenly aware of my mental and emotional changes, and honestly, was actually pleased that, with the crappy year we’ve all been going through, I’ve remained in positive spirits except for the frustration of being always fatigued and yet, not able to sleep well enough to erase the fatigue. Now, according to my doctor and some additional research on the Internet (what did we do before we had access to information on anything available at our fingertips?), these physical symptoms all point to depression.

On one hand, that finding eases my concerns a bit – knowing that I’m suffering through something and it’s not just aging that’s causing it. On the other hand, I am uncomfortable with the thought that I’m apparently depressed nonetheless. It is apparently more common in people in my age bracket, and women more than men, so it helps to know I’m not alone in the experience. Exacerbators to the onset are both less sunlight and the fact that, due to wearing masks, our bodies take in less oxygen whenever we are forced to don one.

But while I’m accepting of all of these facts, I’m still working through physical therapy for my shoulder, the last little bit of the problem with it seems impossible to conquer, and I have exercises to help that I just don’t have the energy to do. I’m finding myself having to really push myself to accomplish basic chores, and some of them get pushed down the priority list more than they should. When you start choosing what to wear based on what’s in the clean clothes basket because you haven’t found the energy to hang up or put the clothing away properly, when the stench of your trash finally forces you to tie up the bag and put it outside to be taken to the bin, when you let dirty dishes pile up in your sink for more than three days, when you can’t even read more than a few pages of a book because your eyelids are tired, well, that’s a problem!

So, where I’ve been is struggling – – and where I’m going is apparently going to be the same place I’ve been. I’ve done some ‘nesting’, not as much as usual, but some. I’m now forcing myself to eat twice a day, no matter how little, simply because some of my medications need food in my stomach in order to work properly. I’m deriving a plan of setting a small amount of chores on my to-do list every day and accomplishing them, no matter how tired I am. I’m pretty much trying to train my body and mind into adapting a survival code and giving myself permission to accept that I’m not going to do all of the things I want to do but adamantly going to damned well do all of the things I need to do. And the biggest one for me is that I’m going to learn to be okay with the fact that what I do may not be enough in other people’s eyes and they can think poorly about me all they like!

My focus is going to be taking care of myself as best as I am able, and being there for others as I can. Putting myself #1 in my life is going to be a challenge, and I know I’ll stumble along the way, but I’m beyond the ability right now to have the energy to worry about anyone who thinks I’m being greedy.

So, readers, forgive me if my blog posts continue to be sporadic.

It is what it is!

Shaky but Surviving

I haven’t added a post here for quite a few days. That’s partly because I haven’t really thought I had anything important to share. The other part of it is that I was letting myself take advantage of the almost constant “napping” that my body wanted as part of the physical symptoms of a bout of depression.

Until Monday, I hadn’t been consciously feeling any of the mental stigma of depression, but I found myself quickly becoming defensive with someone, which I later realized was that I was feeling attacked. This morning, for whatever reason, I got ‘attacked’ emotionally from several angles and it broke me. I had a pretty major melt-down and a good cleansing cry.

Sometimes, when I’m struggling for whatever reason, I often think that a good cry would make me feel better. My female readers will probably understand that and have probably felt that way at times. Growing up, as I expressed in a previous post, I was someone who would cry at just the simple saddest thing. I can remember crying over mushy Hallmark card commercials, even though the commercials were full of happiness. For some reason now, I have to almost WORK at making myself cry. I’ve pondered that from time to time, undecided if I just want people to see me be strong or if I’ve conditioned myself in ways to actually BE that strong. Either way, it’s not something that comes easily for me.

But earlier this morning, I broke. I won’t go into details – most of you wouldn’t understand – but I had a meltdown and the tears just came. At the time, I felt defeated but now – now I feel like I needed it to happen! I mean, it’s not a pleasant experience, but it did it’s job of cleansing me and the weight I felt like I was carrying, so I don’t regret it.

I share this because I’m hoping others will realize it has to be okay for you to not always be the one others see as strong and invincible! I share it to help you realize that sometimes just letting it express itself is good medicine! While I’m still a little shaken from everything that caused the meltdown and the experience itself, I have no regrets for it. I’m calling letting it all come out a form of ‘self-care’ and it’s obvious I needed some!

So, my point is – sometimes it’s okay not to be okay! We are all equipped with a myriad of emotions, good and bad, and I’m sure it’s impossible for us to live in 100% good emotions all the time. But hey, if you can do that, please share your tips!

Live to work or work to live?

I have to start this blog with a big shout-out to Mr. Peanut Belly, one of my Mixer family. We got into a conversation in a chat recently about the difficult role of managing employees and that spurned the thought for this post.

In past generations (and I suppose some still today), people tended to measure their worth by the value of their career. It was as though each rung of the ladder you climbed became a signal of your worth; the higher you climbed, the more valuable you became. And that may have been true to the corporation for whom you worked.

But who suffered when you made climbing the corporate ladder your first priority? Did it mean having to spend more time away from your family? Did it mean not having the time or energy to spend with friends? And what about you? Did it mean you never had time to “stop and smell the roses”? Was there a voice in your head telling you “if I just do this much more, then I’ll be a better person”?

I was raised in a family of two parents with strong work ethics. My dad traveled during the week and spend many weekend teaching flying. Yes, it allowed us to have a nicer house – certainly not an extravagant one – and buy clothes at name-brand stores. My mother would be sick and go to work, saying “Why stay home when I feel bad when I can go to work and make everybody miserable?” Add to that the fact that she was a self-made martyr (I learned that trait from her as well), and you can pretty much surmise that sick days were for wimps.

My brothers and I all developed strong work ethics. Initially, we were all initiated into the “live to work” lifestyle. Eventually, my younger brother and I started to break a bit away from that. Both of us realized that working at a job we hated was as far from being happy as it could be. We both still stayed true to the strong work ethic, but eventually moved on to jobs we got some joy out of doing. I bounced around for a bit, finally sticking my toes into the waters of the lodging industry. I entered the water planning to stay for just a year, wanting to have a better sense of what goes on behind a hotel’s front desk. At the end of the year, I’d secured a different job and gave my notice. My supervisor, and those further up the chain, decided they didn’t want to lose me. The wonder of feeling needed by an employer was something I’d never experienced before and ended up putting me in that industry for over 20 years.

I moved around from hotel to hotel during that time, finding that the position I enjoyed the most was sales and marketing. But a bit of a slump in the country’s economy also meant that we were one of the most expendable employees. And that happened to me.

After some time helping out a friend part-time with the accounting for her business, I finally found another sales job with a hotel organization I knew and trusted. I really enjoyed that job, until they brought a new manager in. We butted heads from day one. About a year later, as I was hanging onto the last knot in my rope, a colleague offered me a position in managing a bed and breakfast (just down the street from the hotel where I was working). I took it! I spent the next five years working crazy hours (on salary, of course), sometimes not getting a day off for many weeks in a row – – even thinking about time off on a weekend was taboo!

In none of my 20+ years in this industry did I live to work. I enjoyed much of the time I spent engaged in it, and got some opportunities for both professional and personal growth, but I never saw myself as increasing in value by how much I gave to my employer. My joy always came from growing the business, helping it reach its potential, and giving the ultimate in guest services experiences to everyone who came through the doors. I earned the B&B several awards for customer service, enjoyed reading the reviews of guest experiences, and patted myself on the back for increasing occupancy and revenue. I didn’t get much in the way of acknowledgement from the supervisor nor the owner, but I knew I was doing the very best that I could!

But, in all that time, I didn’t really work to live, either. Sure, I earned enough salary to pay bills, have an occasional splurge, save a little. I didn’t spend on vacations because I never had the time off to go anywhere! I didn’t spend on experiences because I had neither the time nor the energy.

In all of that history about myself, my point is this: We all need to find a balance between living to work and working to live. We need some of that “living to work” drive so that we become valuable employees and always strive to do our best. But we need to get past the mindset that our value is measured in our careers and the money we make from them. Our value lies in the person we are and how we present ourselves to others. This presentation needs to come from our minds, hearts and soul. If you can’t find that, what do you have to say after your dissertation about your job is finished??

But we cannot forget that we need to work to live. Living has financial costs associated with it, and we need to make sure we are responsible enough to cover those costs. Once you’ve covered the necessary expenditures, it’s okay – possibly even necessary – to treat yourself now and then. Maybe it’s a dinner out, or a vacation, a little trinket, whatever. I’m NOT suggesting you spend whatever is left on some vast indulgence! But I learned the very hard way that we all need a little indulgence now and then in our self-care program. Learn a lesson I learned the hard way: Find a balance between work and life so that both get your best!