Self care sometimes gets ignored as fluffy mumbo jumbo, or else just seems a little too self indulgent when you’ve got so much other stuff going on. However looking after yourself is crucial if you want to be happy, successful and be nice to others.
Plus, it’s just nice to be nice to yourself.
Now, does this picture ring any bells? It’s getting close to a deadline and you’ve had an unproductive day. About 4pm you sit down and actually get something done. You stop for dinner later on (you know, one of those really healthy dinners of pizza/noodles/bacon sandwiches/crisps and doughnuts) and then keep working. You’re getting tired but you are also in the zone. Coffee/coke/further cake helps you to push on through. When you eventually stop work it is late. You realise how hungry you are, so finish off the pizza/doughnuts. Then you watch inane TV/YouTube videos just to put a buffer between your work and your bed. You crawl into bed after 1am and take ages to fall asleep: it’s a combination of feeling pretty wired and paragraphs of your writing going round and round your head. You sleep late, waking after 11am and getting up at midday. Repeat this a few too many times and you’re starting to feel really rough.
Self care includes sleep hygiene. We know that your body clock is set by the time that you get up, and that light (from computer screens, TV, tablets, phones etc) stops your brain producing the chemicals required to make you sleepy. We also know that lack of exercise and junk food both make it harder to sleep. At its worse messing with your sleep can lead to complete day-night reversal. Best case scenario is that you continue to function but have a bad case of jet lag all the time and struggle to stay awake in an afternoon meeting. And if that doesn’t sound that bad don’t forget that data which suggests people with chronic jet lag (shift workers and students) are more at risk of heart disease, diabetes and a raft of other difficulties. In summary: sleep badly – die early.
So, if you want to be top of your game, be half decent at work/school and still be in some kind of decent condition outside of work/school then you do need to look after yourself. Go out for that run you were planning, make it to a yoga class or have a swim from time to time. And at the risk of sounding like your mum, eat healthily when you can. If you can possibly face it, get up at a similar time each day (even the weekends/those days when your boss is away). This is easier if you have children who helpfully wake you early every day, including (especially) those when you don’t actually need to be up for anything. Getting up at the same time each day helps your body clock set itself. Also connect with your friends, both those who really get your latest project/work deadline/thesis/essay question/coursework and will tolerate you talking for hours in immense detail and those who couldn’t care less about it and make you talk about more inane stuff. And if you’re having a tough day, be nice to yourself. Sometimes it is ok to eat a few doughnuts. This is the stuff of self care.
(…and if it still feels too indulgent then you can say a doctor prescribed it. Dr Ellie x)