I am constantly discussing self-care with my own treatment team. Self-care is impossible for me to escape. Without “knowing” me, one could presume I hold the potential to be the poster girl for self-care.
I come home, and collapse. I find myself feeling guilty for not spending enough time with my family. I feel guilty when I recharge to keep myself functional enough to get through the day in one piece mentally.
Self-care is always a hot topic for me. I work in health care. I am constantly talking self-care to my heart patients. I live with bipolar disorder. I am constantly discussing self-care with my own treatment team. Self-care is impossible for me to escape. Without “knowing” me, one could presume I hold the potential to be the poster girl for self-care.
Sleep, prior to my onset of symptoms, was never an issue. I was the girl in high school who would go to sleep at 9 p.m. willingly, because I like sleep. While I have always struggled with my weight, I used to be able to keep it within a reasonable fighting range. I was disciplined and focused. I might have been a bit “messy” in my party phase during my 20s, but in my defense, most of us can relate to feeling that way at some point in time or another.
In the months prior to my bipolar diagnosis, (the calm before the storm, if you will) I was eating right, I was exercising, and I was sleeping. It all went by the wayside during a full-blown manic episode, of course, when eating actual food and sleeping actual sleep went out the window. Now in recovery, I am fanatical regarding proper nightly sleep hygiene and I really do try my best with my eating habits. It has been a slippery slope, however, in taking medications that alter my brain chemistry triggering sugar and dopamine receptors, setting off vicious cycle that is often difficult to break. I once had a colleague tell me how horrible my diet choices were. I nearly cried. I already know and I die inside daily with every bite since being put on mood stabilizers. I am painfully aware without anyone pointing it out, thankyouverymuch. Hence my nearly 100 pound weight gain.
Here is the kicker: I am human. I treasure mental stability above all else. Therefore, I take my medications daily and sleep first. So what is a gal to do when my lifestyle is beginning to prohibit proper self-care? What tools can one find in their toolbox to really make time to ensure whole-body care in addition to the mind? I have been struggling with this topic lately as a woman, as a professional, as a mother, and as a patient. I work in a field with a staffing shortage and long hours. I come home and collapse. I find myself feeling guilty for not spending enough time with my family. I feel guilty when I recharge to keep myself functional enough to get through the day in one piece mentally.
While my weight is down 10 pounds from my all-time, lifetime high of a year ago, I feel homely and insecure. It affects my anxiety and interactions with others. It affects my mental health, as much I don’t like to admit it. What is it that makes self-care so challenging when you sometimes work 100 hours in a pay period? How do you exercise when you — no joke — have literally no time?
I had a conversation with a colleague this week that was feeling in a similar, yet different way from me. She talked about how the Dalai Lama rises at 4 a.m. every day to get himself centered for the day (hi, my name is Ann and that’s when I wake up for work). We both agreed I couldn’t be rising earlier for myself to initiate self-care, but we did figure what I can do is adopt her other mantra: Me First. She starts her day by saying Me First. She does one thing every morning for herself first before taking care of everyone else, whether it’s make a phone call she has been putting off or savoring a cup of tea over five minutes. Me First. That way she knows she took care of her soul and her needs first in order to nurture everyone else for the rest of the day.
Me First. It’s the brilliant, simple solution I was looking for in my current state of mind.