Putting yourself first when others need you
It’s not easy to take care of your mental health when your head is noisy and your surroundings are even noisier. Things can feel all too much sometimes, especially now with the run-up to the holiday season fast approaching. Finding headspace to do things for you can become almost impossible amongst the chaos of it all. It’s taken me a few too many burnouts to realise that to look after everyone else to the best of my ability, I first need to look after MYSELF to the best of my ability!
I had to learn how to make myself a priority. After being a passenger in my own life for so long, it didn't come naturally. The good news is I’ve found a way that gets results! Writing down these small but significant self-care activities, I was able to actually incorporate myself into my busy schedule. It sounds so simple, but I literally had to put myself on the to-do list!
So in this busy time of year, I wanted to share the ways I take care of myself. I hope you’ll find something in here that will help you get to Christmas and New Year feeling a little more Zen-like.
10 Ways to take care of your mental health whilst caring for others
1. Take it or leave it
This was something a friend said to me and it’s really stuck. Use the time when it comes up. Leave the chores if you need to. You could continuously move all day long - the jobs you need to do are endless, but there's little satisfaction in it. So if some time appears, put the to-do list to one side, sit down and take some time for you!
And if you’re feeling frazzled and can’t think of what to do in those minutes, there’s a fab article here listing 40 Ways to Relax in 5 Minutes or Less.
2. Take care of your mental health by getting rid of the mind monsters
If you’re finding that your head is getting overwhelmed with lists and constant noise, it’s SO important that you recognise this and catch it quickly.
Don’t forget that not everything you think is true. Start acting as your own mind coach and ask questions. Is that really helpful? Do I actually need to be obsessing about this right now? It’s a way of getting some perspective on your reality. Act as a friend to yourself, question things and be as pragmatic as you can. Just remember to always respond with kindness!
3. Find help for the things that are overwhelming you
Okay, so this is an important one! You need to learn to outsource what you can or find clever ways to gain back time. Just as you would project manage a situation at work, try and find time to sit down with pen and paper and work out what is really stressing you out.
We created the Braintangle for The Positive Planner as a way of working through your feelings. We bang on about it a lot, but it really is a fantastic way of finding out what you need and putting an action plan into place to achieve this. If the Braintangle is new to you, head on over to our Instagram page to find the IGTV video I did on how to use this self-care planning technique.
4. Take it one day at a time
I know things can sometimes all get a bit much and when we overthink every eventuality, it can create huge amounts of stress and eventually totally wipe us out.
We suggest in The Positive Planner that you break things down into actionable lists that are achievable and help boost your sense of wellbeing, leaving you feeling accomplished at the end of the day. I use something called the Magic Three which involves creating a to-do list of the three most important things you absolutely need to get done. Anything after those three is a bonus. Then you’ll really feel like you’re winning!
5. Set your intentions
As well as the (realistic) to-do list, it’s also a good idea to set some intentions for the day.
We all have those things we wish we could be more of and you’ll find space for these in both our Positive Planner and Positive Wellness Journal. We think of intentions as forming more of a ‘to-be’ list than a ‘to-do’ list. So if you’re feeling resentful for example, perhaps you need to set an intention to be more grateful for what you do have rather than what you don’t. Many of us, including me, find we're subconsciously clenching our fists and holding our breath throughout the day, in which case maybe you need to make an intention to be more mindful or simply just relax your shoulders and breathe more!
It can sometimes be difficult to think of positive intentions each day - it’s something we often discuss and brainstorm in our private Positive Planner Facebook Group. If you need some inspiration, take a look at this article which gives you 50+ Intention Ideas to Set at the Start of Your Day.
6. Give yourself something to look forward to
We all deserve treats and planning something special for the evening can give us an anchor to hold on to during the day. Evenings can be a huge non-event, but if you decide on something you know will fill you back up again, the chances are you’ll make it happen!
This can be a wonderful way of replenishing your energy levels, allowing you to feel like yourself again after a busy day and go to sleep in a better state of mind. In fact, including a better bedtime routine would be a great addition to your evening - winding down is so important after a long and hectic day.
7. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
I’m talking from experience on this one. I know I’m not alone in tending to say YES to everything. However, I’m learning that being realistic is actually kinder to everyone else involved, including myself!
It’s all about knowing your boundaries. Just taking on what is achievable is a good way of keeping stress levels to a minimum. The most important thing is to communicate openly with others. We always expect people to be disappointed with us if we say no, but in fact, we’re all human and 9 times out of 10 they’ll respond with an understanding of your situation.
If you struggle with saying no, take a look at this article which gives some helpful practices on how to work on it.
8. Cut yourself some slack
Sounds so obvious, but really we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves. We expect such a lot with often ridiculous expectations. These ultimately affect our confidence levels and in turn our sense of wellbeing. Some days are good and some are bad, but we’re all human. It’s important to remember this to take care of your mental health.
9. Embrace your inner imperfections
I’m starting to see my imperfections as part of who I am and embracing them a little bit more. It’s all about understanding that we’re all just trying our best!
Even just having awareness of this can be life-changing and somehow by treating our imperfections with kindness, we’re able to allow ourselves to be more authentic and truer to ourselves. We can’t be good at everything, it’s not in our nature. Take care of your mental health by embracing what you do have and honour the parts of you that show up and try anyway!
10. Take the power back
This was a huge realisation for me, especially when suffering from anxiety and depression in the early years of motherhood. The only person who can take the power back is you. You are in control. Others can help you but honestly, YOU are the only person that can save you and take care of your mental health. This means you have to do whatever you need if you know it will help you.
Make yourself a project in your own life. Have frank conversations with those around you and put a self-care plan in place. Self-care is just the start but showing yourself love and kindness is something you will never regret.
It’s important we understand that whilst our friends and family want the best for us, the only person who can implement daily routines to help you keep on track is you. And this is really what our entire Positive Planner Family of books is about. Creating the time and space to put a little more self-care into our lives.
Much love and positive vibes to you all,