By Joseph Fleming, Direction Psychology Social Worker
There’s a saying that’s been on my mind lately: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
We often talk about self-care, but it can be difficult in a world that values hard work and productivity. While it’s true that sometimes pushing ourselves can be a good for us, we need to be aware of our personal limitations, and aim for a happy medium.
That said, how often do our friends cheer for us when we cancel our catch ups with them to stay home and sleep instead? How often do you hear about people excitedly sharing how they said no to an interesting (but exhausting) opportunity?
Never?! Or if ever, very, very seldom…
As a society, we tend to celebrate the idea of “soldiering on”, pushing through whatever challenges face us. Too often this means expending more energy than what we take in. It’s simple mathematics and mechanics: if the energy out is greater than the energy in there’s going to be a problem somewhere down the line.
Usually, our default mindset is: “Well I’m coping right now, I can just get through the day and deal with it later.” But so often we put it off again, and again, and again, until one day we reach for our cup and find that it is completely empty. We ask ourselves, “how did it get this bad?”, and we wonder why we didn’t do anything about it sooner.
It’s because it happens in degrees. Burnout doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a sliding scale that gets worse the more we continue to neglect ourselves. A small energy deficit here or there can eventually snowball into a crisis if we don’t nip it in the bud.
It is a tricky paradox, because the busier you are, the more important it is to take time out for yourself. When your schedule is packed, you probably won’t “have” time to look after yourself, but that is exactly when you need to prioritise yourself and “make” the time.
Self-care is the conscious effort of making time for activities you find beneficial in maintaining your mental and physical health. Caring for your mind and body doesn’t have to be time consuming, but does require regular and ongoing attention. Eating and drinking well, getting enough sleep, exercising, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and living a healthy active lifestyle are just some of the physical health related aspects of self-care, but don’t forget to focus on the mental health aspects too, like relaxation, mindfulness, social connections, and hobbies.
Your health is invaluable, and your self-care can’t afford to wait. If you keep putting others first, you’ll soon find that you don’t have anything left to give them. Sometimes looking after yourself is the best gift you can give to others.
So, what are you waiting for? Fill your cup and keep it full by practicing daily self-care.