“Secret of Adulthood: If I want to ask a lot of myself, I need to give a lot to myself.” ~Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project frequently shares her Secrets of Adulthood on her blog and on Twitter. These are things she’s learned over the years about how life works. The one posted above is one I encountered today on her Twitter feed.
Like many of her Secrets of Adulthood, it sounds rather obvious, but it’s something that I don’t do very well at living into. I tend to expect a lot of myself but think that it’s selfish to give anything to myself. The problem is that when I don’t fill my own tank, I have nothing to give to others. Therefore, I continually disappoint others and myself with my inability to do what is expected of me.
I’ve learned over the years that I have pretty strict requirements for the amount of rest, downtime, and self-care I need in order to maintain my mental, emotional, and physical health. Compared to most people, this is fairly narrow range of tolerance for extra doing, decreased sleep, or missed routines.
This week has been extra hectic and stressful just because of the confluence of too many things all at once. I’ve been packing too much into my days, staying up too late at night, and skipping my morning pages some mornings to squeeze in a little extra rest. Missing my morning pages has left me feeling off-kilter during the day, which adds to the stress, and the lack of downtime and sleep has worn me down.
As a recovering perfectionist and someone with considerably more interests than I have time, I frequently find myself trying to do too much. This condition generally leads to high levels of stress and frustration, inadequate self-care, and emotional (and sometimes physical) meltdowns when allowed to continue for too long.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to catch this pattern sooner in the process so that I can avoid the more extreme effects that can come from doing too much for too long, but I find that frequent reminders of the importance of monitoring my energy levels and the size of my to-do list help to keep me on track with this. This week’s links are a set of posts about doing too much and have served as great reminders to me of how I do (and don’t) want to live my life.
Every year as the weather gets cold, I start craving comfort food in a big way. And when it’s cold, comfort food to me means hot soups and stews, particularly thick ones made with lots of vegetables and beans.
Comfort food also means lots of root vegetables, especially roasted ones. I feast on potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, parsnips, carrots, rutabagas, sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes), and beets. And I’m quick to throw in other vegetables while I’m roasting too: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes.
As I anxiously watch the election results roll in tonight while trying (not very successfully) to study for an exam later this week after having gotten up even earlier than usual this morning to vote, I’m very aware of that some heavy-duty self-care is in order right about now. As I try to sort through all of the things that are on my to-do list to figure out what I owe to whom right now, it’s hard to make letting it all go to do something for myself to care for myself a priority.
I really struggle with doing things for myself. I tend to put a lot of energy into first making sure that everyone else’s needs and wants are met first and that my plan to do something for myself isn’t going to inconvenience or bother anyone else.
This is true whether I’m thinking about setting appropriate boundaries, doing something I want to do, or even basic necessary self-care. I usually wait until a complete crash is imminent before I do what I need to do to take care of myself. (And even then, I feel horribly guilty about it—especially when other people complain or disapprove.)
I’m tired tonight. Really tired. It’s been gradually building all week, and it’s been an interesting process to observe.
I’ve been taking such good care of myself lately, that it’s been startling to see the difference in the person I am when I’m rested and am practicing self-care and the person I am when I’m exhausted and worn out. For many years, I thought this exhausted version of me was all that existed. Now I know better.
I am still adjusting to a new schedule now that I am working full-time again. I’ve gotten pretty good at getting up early, which is an amazing thing for me. I’m not a morning person by nature. I’ve tried all kinds of tactics for many years to find ways to help myself get up earlier in the morning, and it’s never worked for more than a couple of days. By prioritizing my writing time for first thing in the morning, I have now managed to get up early (2.5 hours earlier than I am used to) for a full four weeks!
I am incredibly proud of myself for the commitment that I am showing to my writing life. I am also unbelievably tired because I am not doing a very good job at going to bed much earlier than I used to despite my new wake-up time. Obviously, my bedtime needs to shift to an earlier hour very soon if I want to continue to be able to keep this up.
However, I am learning to appreciate the importance of sleep in a whole new way from going through this time of relative sleep deprivation. I am acutely aware of how much my lack of sleep is affecting my moods, my thought patterns, my motivation, and how my body feels.