National Stress Awareness Month
April is “National Stress Awareness Month” and let me tell y’all, self care is one of my FAVORITE things to talk about, so I am psyched for this blog! Today we’re going to chat about implementing self care and my journey with stress management and mental health. I know there are a million bloggers out there who talk about the importance of self care and all the things they do, but I wanted to focus a bit on how to actually start self care, what that has looked like for me, and what that means for you. Let’s go:
Self care doesn’t come naturally to us all. I know it’s something some people really excel at, but for others it can be intimidating or even just not realistic for them to figure out a whole “self care routine”. Look, self care doesn’t have to be a huge thing. That’s the beauty of it. It can be whatever you want it to be.
One of the biggest self care things I have done for myself this year is to start going to therapy. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time, but I always attributed it to the fact that I wasn’t yet pursuing a career I loved. When I went full time at the beginning of the year, I thought that this was it. Finally, FINALLY I was doing what I wanted to be doing with my life. The mental struggles I’ve kept to myself for so long will go away now, right? They have to. This is all because I’ve never been doing what I wanted to do with my life…or so I thought.
When I sat down and made myself face facts, I had to accept that this was something I’ve dealt with my whole life. I’ve always been anxious. Constantly on edge worrying about making others happy or what other people were thinking of me. Quite literally, constantly. I’ve always been one to take care of others, to the point of neglecting myself. That would catch up with me and I’d be so overcome with stress and feeling depressed that I wouldn’t want to get out of bed, even if I had plans to do something fun. Even if it was to go to a photo shoot or work on my passion, I’d go into a spiral of self-hate, telling myself I wasn’t good enough for any of the things I want to achieve and honestly, who even was I to think I could do those things? Who was I to think anyone would want to listen to what I have to say? I’d stress myself out so much that I would be in physical pain. When I get stressed I carry it all in my neck, shoulders, and back and there would be weeks on end where I was in constant pain because I was always holding onto all these anxieties and stressors, and no one around me knew a thing about it.
Last fall, I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I was smack in the middle of my busiest wedding season yet and was working, easily, 40 hour weeks in my photography business to keep things running and afloat. Oh, and that was on top of my 40 hour a week day job that I did not enjoy, not to mention the fact that I am a human with an entire personal life outside of work. There wasn’t much of that going on. Any time I wasn’t working, was spent taking care of my pets, seeing my family when I could, and trying to make a long distance relationship work. This was coming at the end of a 4-5 year period of me building my businesses on top of my day job, and sacrificing my personal life in the process, and it took an EXTREME toll. I knew something had to change. I hired a virtual assistant and an editor, and if I hadn’t done that when I did, I am 100% confident that this business would no longer exist today. I was feeling so exhausted, so burnt out, and even more exhausted from feeling like I had to hide that from everyone. Bringing on a team to help me out, changed so much. It gave me time to rest and heal, and made a huge difference in my happiness and mental state. However, it didn’t change everything. My anxieties were still there. I still had days in a row where I’d feel depressed. But in my mind, I knew being full time was just around the corner and that would all disappear when that happened…right?…
When I did go full time at the beginning of the year and these issues didn’t magically go away (Shocker, I know) I knew it was time to prioritize my mental health, and that has hands-down been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, if not the actual best. If you’re struggling with mental health, even things like: self confidence, organizing your thoughts, being productive, staying grounded, or feeling like you’re not living your full potential, I would highly recommend you look into therapy. It doesn’t have to be some big, scary thing. And you don’t have to feel like you have a laundry list of reasons to go. That was one of the reasons it took me so many years to start therapy; because I didn’t feel like my reasons were good enough.
My therapist has since informed me without a shadow of a doubt: that my feelings are valid. My needs are enough, my health matters…and so does yours.
So let me be the validation for you right now. If you are struggling with something, and feel like you need help to get through it: your feelings are valid. You deserve to give yourself the best self care there is, which is putting yourself, and your state of mind, first and foremost.
One of the first things my therapist asked me was what do I love to do for me? What do I do to make myself happy, outside of my work? I looked at her dumbstruck, because I had no clue. The only answer I could come up with was “um..well I like to go to the movies by myself sometimes but other than that…I really don’t know. I haven’t had time to focus on what makes me happy.” She gave me a big smile and said “that’s wonderful you go to the movies! And don’t worry, we’ll find plenty of other things you love”. She’s been having me do different things to explore what I like to do for me, and it is SO much fun.
What I’m getting at is: it’s okay if you don’t have a huge list of things you love to do in your spare time, but it’s time to figure some stuff out. Or maybe you have a whole list of things you love, but haven’t made time for any of them? Yeah, it’s time to focus on that. Let me share a little list of things I’ve found I like to do for self care:
- Self movie date
- Watercolor painting
- Going explore a new town for a day or weekend
- Face Mask + bath
- Going for a walk
- Laying around watching Netflix (no, I am not ashamed to admit I love to do that every now and then)
- Treating myself to a nice dinner (aka- sushi)
- Having a girls night with friends
Do I do those things every day? No. Do I do at least one of those things every week? I really try to, and I’m getting better at it. I heard a friend say lately that they’re a “recovering workaholic” and that hit me deep, because it describes me perfectly. Now that I’m working to be more conscientious about implementing self care, I’ve seen a huge change in my happiness, mental health, and physical health!
I want you to know that you deserve to make time for yourself. I know what you’re thinking, “But Paige… I have a family to take care of… I have a job to do… I have responsibilities. They need to come first” and you know what? You’re right about one thing: you do have responsibilities. We all do, and they are important, but don’t those responsibilities deserve to get you at your very best? And can you be your very best if you aren’t taking care of yourself and making sure YOU are happy and healthy first? So, your first responsibility is to yourself, and everything else that comes after will be grateful you’ve put yourself first, because they’re getting the best version of you!
So this week I have a challenge for you: schedule some self care time for you. I am not kidding. If you’re a planner gal like me, mark it off in your planner. Put it in your phone on your calendar, and do not budge. Whether it’s one single hour, or a whole day, do not make ANY other plans during that time, and go do whatever the heck you want to do! Then come back here and tell me what you did, how you felt about it afterwards, and I’ll share mine with you. Sound like a deal?
Now go on and treat yo’ awesome self, babe! You deserve it!