Do you ever feel like you’re walking through life on a tightrope? Like you’re barely holding on by a thread? That any second you could just snap like a twig? Most of us have been there at some point or another in our lives. We’ve stretched ourselves too thin and got to a place where we just can’t give anymore.
Truthfully, I’m tired in every sense of the word. Emotionally, I can’t find the energy to get excited, sad, or even anxious. I can’t find joy in anything anymore. Mentally, my memory is entirely shot. I don’t know what I did five minutes ago, let alone yesterday. And physically, my bones hurt, and I’m malnourished.
It’s funny, I usually thrive under stress. I perform at my best when I feel like I’m up against a wall. But, at some point, I reached a new threshold. It was just too much. It was like a survival mechanism kicked in; a switch went off, and I just went numb.
I wish I could say it was work or school. That I just took on too much this time. But it wasn’t that; truthfully, it was a myriad of events stacked one on top of the other dating back to March. A series of incidents that led to the present moment. A moment where I am sitting at my table surrounded by a mountain of tomatoes that I have no desire to do anything with, in a kitchen with no food because I haven’t done a major grocery shopping trip in weeks.
The thing is, I feel confident that I’m not alone in my plight. Recent surveys show that 55% of Americans are experiencing significant stress levels right now, and 53% are confronting mental health issues as a result of them. And, the thing is, toxic stress can have real implications on your health.
When we are chronically facing prolonged levels of high stress, our immune system becomes compromised. Not only are we more likely to become sick, but our chances of getting everything from cancer to heart disease and even dementia are significantly increased. That’s right! Chronic stress does more than give you grey hair. It can literally kill you.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to keel over in a sea of rotting tomatoes because of stress. Like most of us, I will undoubtedly move through this challenging period and probably become stronger because of it.
But what if I told you that you didn’t have to follow in my footsteps? Any seasoned backpacker will tell you that it’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s how you carry it. Similarly, there are ways that we can better position ourselves to brace for the garbage that life throws at us. And how do we do that? The answer, of course, is self-care.
Too often, when there’s a lot on our plate, we make excuses and don’t set aside time for ourselves. But, the truth is, most things in life can wait. There’s always time to spend on you. Not every email needs to be attended to promptly, and the world isn’t going to end if you occasionally get takeout for dinner. Simply put, you can’t be of service to others if you aren’t first of service to yourself.
That said, not all of us are pros at self-care. In fact, up until recently, it was actually a pretty novel concept for me. I’ve preached it for decades, but never really embraced it or even understood where to start.
So, for those who are new to self-care, below are a few ideas to get you started on incorporating it into your daily life.
Develop a routine
Create a cleaning schedule
Keep a budget
Grocery shop weekly
Take a personal development class
Connect with nature
Spend time alone
Unplug from devices
Declutter your space
Listen to music
Read a book
Learn a new skill
Call a friend
Do acts of kindness
Do some coloring
Get a health checkup
Go for a walk
Create an exercise routine
Take a bath
Get a massage
If chronic stress is more than you can cope with alone, know there’s no shame in getting help. You can find resources for everything from support groups to local therapists online. And, if COVID has you a little nervous about face-to-face interactions, most mental health supports are now available virtually online.
Remember, each of us has the power to stay strong, even when life throws us a curve-ball. Your journey to a happier, healthier life starts with a few minutes spent every day on YOU!