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Sometimes we find ourselves on our knees; our motivation has deserted us, our energy tanks are depleted, we feel everything and nothing, all at once. We’re empty. Bone dry.
This often brings with it a sense of frustration – ‘Why can’t I be more like [insert name of friend who is posting their achievements all over social media]?’
Guilt – ‘I was supposed to be helping so-and-so with all the things.’
And shame – ‘I could do XYZ with my eyes closed a year ago; now I can barely leave my bed.’
When we feel empty and as though we have nothing left to give, self-care is critical. It’s also when it feels most impossible – the very time we have no headspace even to consider what might help us to feel better. We’ve been left with a foggy head, heavy heart and weary limbs and, to make matters worse, it feels as though the world is ganging up on us, wanting more, and more, and more.
The slant on self-care becomes more about survival, as rest-and-recovery mode is initiated. Everything else can, and must, wait.
Survival self-care is doing the bare minimum to get back on our feet. As well as making sure we are eating regularly and drinking enough fluid, here are some things that may help:
TAKE A NAP
It’s not lazy to start paying back the sleep deficit we’ve no doubt built up juggling all those balls, it’s really not. Sleep is an imperative part of our wellbeing. When we’re asleep, our bodies can begin to heal. When we’re struggling to sleep, try listening to soothing music or use a white noise app.
BE MINDFUL OF NEGATIVE SELF-TALK
When we’re empty, we sometimes have a skewed perspective on ourselves yet see others with rose-tinted spectacles. It’s divisive; it becomes about ‘us and them’. We need to try to be our own best friend – to treat ourselves with the patience and kindness we would show to others. Our words can harm or heal.
CALL IN THE CAVALRY
Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance. If a friend were in a similar situation, we’d jump to their aid. It’s now our turn to do just that. Friends can assist with childcare, by preparing meals that we can chuck into the oven, by sitting with us when needed, by helping us to take care of bills, and by supporting us in whatever way we need them.
This also applies to other people who may be able to support us – support groups, helplines, doctors, self-help books – anyone who can help make life just that little bit easier. The more supported we are, the better.
Consider some time out from work, school, life. Channel our inner tortoise and take it slow, hibernate for a while, take comfort in our duvet and Netflix. Allow ourselves room to breathe and recover. It’s important. Whilst we’re at it, limiting social media is a good shout, too – we don’t need to see the highlights and hustle when we’re feeling so low. It’s not a level playing field.Self-Care For When We're Empty And Have Nothing Left To Give Click To Tweet
QUIETEN YOUR PHONE
Smartphones can be noisy and intrusive. Consider switching off all alerts – emails, social media, texts, voicemail, WhatsApp, etc. Rather than being demanded to check in because a flashing light/vibration tells us to, we can then mindfully check in when we choose to do so. It helps us to take back some control in a world where it’s easy to feel as though we don’t have any.
KEEP/MAKE THOSE DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENTS
Self-care is sometimes about doing the very things we have been procrastinating over. If there’s something that’s been bothering us health-wise, let’s make that appointment. Take a friend for support. But go. Go now. The sooner we get checked out, the sooner our mind can be put to rest, or we can access professional help. It’s a win-win.
SAY ‘NO’ MORE
Now is the time to say ‘yes’ to us. It’s not easy to say ‘no’ to others when they’re so used to hearing ‘yes’, but our wellbeing is our ultimate responsibility and can’t be shelved any longer. Anything that makes us feel weighed down by others’ expectations, resentful, frustrated and angry, is a down-and-out ‘no’. An ‘always no’, too, not a ‘not now’ no.
CONSIDER WHAT WE ENJOYED AS A CHILD
As we get sucked into the ‘being an adult’ vortex, we forget to play – to do things simply because we enjoy them, for enjoyment’s sake. Play dominates our time as children but is often non-existent as we grow older. Take inspiration from the things we enjoyed when we were children and see how we enjoy them now. We might rediscover some ways to unwind and distract.
START A JOURNAL
Our thoughts don’t always make sense; they can be cruel, loud and ferocious. When we journal, we give those thoughts an outlet, somewhere else to be. In black and white, their power sometimes lessens. A journal can also help us to identify patterns in the way we are feeling – what might have caused those feelings when we feel our best and when we feel our worst. A journal can also serve as a real-time reminder of the progress we’re making.
START A POSITIVITY JAR
Positivity may well grate on us right now, as it’s so far from where we are – the negative thoughts might be in abundance with plenty of anecdotal evidence as to why we’re helpless, hopeless and worthless. Those thoughts are lying, and so it’s important to start collecting evidence against them – the nice things that people have said (whether we agree or not), the kind things people have done, the kind things we have done, the glimmers of hope in an otherwise dark time, our wins. Jot them down, keep them. Read back over them when a dose of sunshine is needed.
Our surroundings can affect the way we feel, and there’s nothing quite as stressful as looking for something we’re sure we saw an hour ago or the shame we feel about the state of a space. It can be overwhelming, though, so it’s best done in tiny stages, bit by bit. Decluttering can apply to relationships; those that may be toxic, stressful or unhealthy.
DO THE BARE MINIMUM
It’s all very much about the bare minimum right now. If you don’t have any energy to wash, don’t pile on the pressure about it – grab some wet wipes and some dry shampoo and make do with those for now. The same applies to all the things we feel we ‘ought’ to be doing – find the ‘hack’ – the lowest-energy way to address it. We can do better when we feel better.
When we feel low, we tend to give ourselves a hard time. There’s a tendency to want approval from others; after all, we hardly approve of ourselves right now. What tends to happen then, though, is that we never jump out of the hamster wheel of life that has got us feeling so awful. It really is time to stop, to reflect and to streamline. The world really will wait if we ask it to. There’s nothing as valuable, as precious or as important as our health – it can’t be bought with more time or more money. Don’t ignore the warning signs that life isn’t working as it should. Take heed and make time to recover. We’ll come back stronger for it.
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