How to Be Kind to Yourself When You're Tired and/or Sick
When I asked people through Facebook and G+ when they found it most challenging to be kind to themselves, a couple of people responded that, for them, the biggest challenge was when they were tired and/or sick.I've certainly found exhaustion or illness to be two of the biggest barriers to self-care for me. Combine that with the fact that I find it hard to ask others for help and to give myself permission to slow down, and I can (and have) ended up feeling miserable, anxious, and overwhelmed instead of focusing on self-care.Over the last few years, I've had to deal with endometriosis, a condition that, at times, has barely affected me at all, and, at others, has caused me so much pain that I've fainted, experienced extreme fatigue, and a range of other unpleasant experiences. Learning to go with the flow and be kind to myself whatever my body throws at me has been a big challenge but, after many ups and downs, I feel like I'm getting there. Here are some ideas that I've found the most helpful:
Recognise that there is no "right" way to feel.
How you feel right here, right now is how you feel. Remember that you can't change your feelings, but also bear in mind that your physical state will affect how you feel emotionally too. Some days you might feel optimistic, ready for action and inspired. Others, you might feel drained, sad, and frustrated.[Tweet "How you feel doesn't matter as much as accepting how you feel."]
Avoid the unkindness cycle
One of the most unhelpful things we can do when we're feeling under the weather physically is to get get into a cycle of being unkind to ourselves then berating ourselves for being unkind to ourselves.Take a step back and use the phrase "I notice I'm..." to get some distance from the cycle and focus on your awareness of what's happening, rather than getting caught up in the middle of it all.
Remember that being sick or tired isn't a flaw
This is one of the most challenging beliefs I've had to overcome: that, because I'm not in 100% optimal health all day every day that there's something inherently wrong with me (beyond something physical).This grew out of years of negative experiences: doctors looking at me and sighing like I was just there to waste their time and telling me that I just needed to do some light exercise (when I already commuted around London by bike and went to the gym three times a week), employers making loaded comments about the fact I was off work yet again, and being surrounded by people who just didn't understand what I was experiencing.As I've focused more on self-kindness rather than feeling like I need kindness from other people, I've realised that being sick or tired isn't bad or good, it just is.When we're tired, we're tired. When we're sick, we're sick. That's all there is to it.
Work out whether there's anything you could do differently next time to prepare and anticipate.
If you've been working yourself to the bone and, as a result, are completely exhausted and getting sick all the time, what needs to change? If you know that certain things make a chronic illness worse, how can you avoid them?I recently read Turning Pro by Stephen Pressfield. Although the book is ostensibly about work, the area of life in which it resonated most with me was my health. When it comes to my health, I've been behaving like an amateur. I want to be able to do what everyone else is doing and get away with it and, over the last couple of weeks, I've had to face the fact that I don't have the same kind of body as everybody else (and who is "everybody else" anyway? Self-limiting belief alert!).When it comes to health, an amateur waits until there's an emergency to start looking after themselves. The pro realises that consistent care is the key to avoiding emergencies and enjoying a better quality of life overall. The pro prepares.
Ask yourself: what is the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?
And do that.
Is it to nap? Great.Is it to watch a movie? Fab.Is it to acknowledge you feel tired and/or sick but also that you'll feel a lot better when you plough through XYZ task and can relax, knowing it's done? Also fine.The question I use in these situations is: what is my future self most going to thank me for?And do that.Further reading: How to manage your self-care when you have chronic health problems & 5 things to stop doing right now for blissful self-care