Running on Empty? The importance of self-care and discipline in effectiveness and healing.
It’s been an epic few months! Needless to say, I feel like I have been running on empty! It’s not just a metaphor, it seems to be how we are all doing things these days and we wonder why we feel like we are stuck in a rut and ineffective. In reading this quote, and a few things happening this week, I decided it was time for a blog!
The importance of actually taking the time to reflect and review is essential to growth, but also in our healing journey. The art of healthy hyper-vigilance-If there is such a thing is anyone’s guess, but it lies somewhere in between a healthy balanced life, looking after yourself and an understanding and awareness of self. (I just came up with this based on my own experience, but It totally makes sense when we consider that most of us these days are operating at a high level of alertness and that is the norm. Any survivor, law enforcement personnel, or anyone living in a stressful lifestyle will understand hyper-vigilance)
When it comes to actual self- care… pfft… In the words of ‘Kimberly Sweet Brown’, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
I realise in the writing of my book “Unscathed Beauty,” and working full time and trying to balance all that I do – I am no expert and I am still learning. In fact, I have had many failures. However, one thing that I have come to recognise these past weeks is the power of self-care and discipline in healing. I have always known it’s important, in fact essential but the thing that I have always used as a coping mechanism. (busyness and distraction) mean’s that I haven’t really addressed parts of my healing that could well have benefitted from some actual intervention and time out.
It is very easy to get caught up in the chaos around us, whether that be our own chaos, or someone else’s. It’s a rare art form to maintain the external mask on the outside, and appear to the rest of the world like your world, ‘as they know it….’ is perfect. Its hard work keeping that mask looking unfazed… We become the masters of burying things, passing them off as nothingness, like pushing aside the panic attacks, dismissing those sweaty palms and failing to address fundamental issues that matter, like sleep!
Pretty soon we end with a very ugly mask… kinda like I was the other day and for the whole of this last week… sick, more snot than I knew what to do with…and quite literally my heart racing as I was running on empty… and barely making it to the destination. (I literally had been rushing around, going to doctors, looked horrible and almost ran out of fuel! It was a great metaphor for where I was at)
When the case of Cardinal George Pell came through and there was huge media coverage surrounding the case and sentencing. A number of people messaged me and asked why I thought they weren’t coping, why they all of a sudden were struggling with issues they thought long buried, and why they felt triggered. This is when I wrote the blog, HARD WIRED TO SURVIVE.
I had to ask myself some questions then, and I find myself asking similar questions again in the aftermath of releasing my own story “Unscathed Beauty,” to the world. I have taken a step back, because I have at least learnt when I need to rest… recognise when I need to address certain issues, and ensure I follow through with what is important so I can remain effective. (not to mention friends and family in my ear about not burning the candle at both ends!) Maybe you have been through intense periods yourself… and perhaps your candle was burning at both ends!
There were a number of intense emotional battles throughout the entire journey of writing that I had to overcome, but particularly in those last few weeks there seemed to be a number of hurdles that presented right at the last minute. Almost like someone was saying, you can’t do this…it’s too hard… It made me fearful, afraid and wondering what people would think. Old fears I thought I had overcome had re-surfaced. New fears had reared their head. New problems emerged and problems I thought I had fixed decided to show up again.
Its been a couple of weeks since the launch, and while I have still got lots to do I feel like I can breathe a little sigh of relief! (Thank God!) It’s time to refocus again…
Without writing another book, here are a few things that I am trying to focus on to achieve better self-care in order to be more effective. Some things I already do daily, others… well they have been a little neglected and pushed aside!
- SLEEP! Maintains healthy brain function, vital for good mental health, focus, and personal safety! Being tired means, I feel like I am in a fog. Unable to think, reason, or process information effectively.
- Eating a more balanced diet, increasing water, and increasing healthy food choices.
- When I observe triggers arising, take note, and deal with them immediately or in the near future. i.e. Panic attacks, or sweaty palms. When do they happen? What is it that is making me feel like this? Why now? (The quicker these issues are addressed, the less they become a problem as we seek to understand the why, and the how- means when the trigger arrives again we already have a strategy in place)
- Set boundaries and stick to them. I am still working out what these are for myself, but setting boundaries can sometimes be a hard thing to do for anyone who has experienced trauma of any kind. It is very hard to say what you need. It is even harder to enforce that boundary when it is challenged. For many, those boundaries have been violated and shifted, and for survivors it is ingrained into the psyche that what you want you simply either can’t have, or it comes at a cost i.e. your safety. (takes being brave continuously to a whole new level) A boundary could be simply (Personal boundaries) “I have the right to feel safe in my own home,” Or “No one has the right to enforce their thoughts, values and opinions onto me.” “I can say what I need without feeling judged.” (This is something I plan to do a lot more work on in the next 12 months!)
- Make decisions. (i.e. a conclusion reached after consideration (Oxford Dictionary)) Be brave in making decisions that hold value for you. Conclude means it’s final.. that is cutting off other thoughts. This is also about sticking to your boundaries, But I think it’s very important to the foundation of all you do. When you decide, you cease to give energy to things that are not taking you towards your goals.
- Make self-care a priority, even if it’s not a long time, ensure that you find some time each day that is simply about taking some time out.
- Acknowledge that you don’t have to do everything on your own. It’s okay to bring other people who you trust) into the situation who can help you. (i.e., a doctor, psychologist, friend)
- Hold your vision. While things can seem crazy, tiring and chaotic, don’t lose sight of what you want to achieve, your goals and your vision. It’s easy to get lost.
To do any of the above, and to look after yourself it really takes some discipline. That means holding on to your values, and the rules you have set for yourself… its hard, because when they are challenged, even by your own thoughts, the default emotion is shame and guilt. We then have to battle with this… and some people will play on that… but hold on! Stay brave and surround yourself with people who want you to succeed and be your best.
When you do have those triggers, or when something pops up for you that is challenging, i.e The Pell case, ‘Get help.’ Don’t ignore the feelings… my thoughts are simply that you have a choice now in allowing yourself to heal from whatever it is you are feeling. We can push it back down and the stress and effort it takes to hold that in will eventually rear its head elsewhere. Use the opportunity to heal and grow as things pop up for you.
Hope this helps a few people refocus and refuel the empty tank…!