100 Days Without Booze: You Can't Pour From An Empty Cup
After two weeks away from the blog I can now confirm that I have reached day 45 and am fast approaching halfway through my 100 Day Sober Challenge. I can't quite believe that I haven't touched even a sip of alcohol in all this time! It is very unlike me to have such will power. I wish I could say that I feel fantastic but unfortunately I am suffering from a horrific cold which has been on and off for about four weeks and I am feeling pretty down as a consequence. However, being ill has only served to reinforce for me the importance of self care, as without our health and well being I truly believe that we cannot fulfil our full potential.
I heard this quote in yoga the other day and it really resonated with me. So many people make excuses for not looking after themselves; not exercising, or eating well or sleeping enough. They say ‘Oh, I have too much to do. I couldn’t possibly leave the kids’ or ‘I have to do my marking. I couldn't possibly go for a run.’ But actually, taking care of yourself should be a priority, because if you are not in a good place mentally and physically you are not going to have the energy and motivation to look after others when they need you. And the longer you put off looking after your health, the more likely it is that you are going to burn out and you will become someone else’s problem, whether that is a loved one having to deal with your low mood at home or someone at work having to pick up your slack and deal with your emotional problems.
I am seeing this problem on a daily basis and it makes me want to lovingly shake the people who refuse to make time to look after themselves. Were they not listening during the on board safety announcement?! You have to ‘put the oxygen mask on yourself first so that you can help others.’ This is why I now lead a 20 minute yoga class for tired and stressed teachers on a Thursday lunchtime, so that they have a little self care time at work and can return to lessons centred, refreshed and motivated to teach. The feedback has been very positive so far, with colleagues saying that by merely sitting and breathing and being in their bodies it makes all the difference.
So stop making excuses and find the time! Go for a run, make a healthy soup, listen to a Podcast, eat sushi, meditate, dance naked round your living room! Anything that makes you feel more like you, like you are alive in your body and living in the present moment.
‘You can't pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.’
Another key aspect of self-care is the simple act of saying ‘no’, thereby avoiding over committing yourself and risking burn out. It's important to set boundaries to protect your spare time, and thereby your mental and physical health. Saying ‘no’ to driving to Cornwall straight after work on a Friday and frustratedly sitting six hours in traffic, saying ‘no’ to looking after your crazy ass toddler nephews when you should be preparing for your own wedding the following weekend, saying no to working on your day off, and no to visiting three different friends in one weekend all in different parts of town. Because sometimes we need to just come home on a Friday and collapse and not go anywhere except to bed. Sometimes we need to spend our day off having a day off. Sometimes we need to put our foot down and recognise that actually, for once, it is about us. Sometimes we need to be selfish.
I have come to recognise in the last year that if I don't establish boundaries and say no I get myself into situations where my time is not my own. I become over compromised, over stretched, tired, frantic and pissed off. In these situations what tends to happen is that I automatically reach for the bottle, in anger, in defiance, in rebellion, and in search of an escape. And then of course, I can't fulfill all my promises, because I am too hungover, and I end up letting people down, and then feeling guilty about letting people down. Then I make promises to make it up to them, and the whole overly- committed cycle starts again!
Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my friends and family! I love a change of scene and getting away at weekends. But it's about recognising what you need at the time and being honest about it. Do you need to spend 12 hours driving in one weekend, just to spend one day by the sea? Or do you just need a weekend at home, pottering, getting on top of admin and reading the papers? Do you need a massive night out and a fitful night’s sleep on someone s sofa? Or do you need a bath, Pj's, takeaway and a good film? All of the above are great options, but under the right circumstances. I have come to find that it is about listening to your body, listening to the warning signs of being run down, and just being honest with people about what you can and can't commit to. They will understand. There will be other times for wild times.
I write this in a state of convalescence, lying prone on my sofa in my pyjamas, sipping lemsip, endlessly blowing my nose and fantasising about being in good health. I imagine taking a road trip somewhere, camping under the stars, going out for dinner, drinking Nanny State in a cool bar, visiting my family and friends in Plymouth, Manchester, Oxford, Dubai and Chile. But none of that is gonna happen til I am back on my feet. Right now is time to take care of self.
Onward week 7!