Christmas Eve is here and if you work in healthcare, the emergency services or you are caring for someone in any capacity it can feel as if you are the only one not celebrating.
You might not have managed to get the shift you wanted at work or even a couple of days off together so you can relax a bit. Your workplace may be short-staffed because everyone is going down with a virus, or their children are. If you are in healthcare, patients will still be there to be seen and treated whether its Christmas morning or New Years Eve and very likely, more of them than usual. If you're caring for others you may find you are doing preparations twice-over (for them and your own family) or worse still, not getting your own done at all. Shift-work or caring for others doesn't leave much time for last minute shopping or food preparation.
If you are caring for aging relatives you'll know that they can quickly deteriorate with a cough one day and a rip-roaring chest infection the next and before you know it your plans for Christmas are out of the window.
The run-up to Christmas can be stressful, not just because there's more to do at home, but at work also.
It's very often said that self-care is important; with such quotes as 'you can't pour from an empty cup' and deep down we know it's true. We often respond with a nod and 'yes I know but I'm too busy'! 'There's a full clinic, when have I got time for a break?', 'I need to get my Mum her meds and then get her tea-there's no time to eat!'.
It seems easier to put others first-the patients get attended to, Mum gets her meds and her tea, the paperwork gets done in time for the handover and that's great. However if that's maybe not every day but it's your average day then that proverbial cup is probably half empty by now. Meals are missed or rushed, going to the loo is delayed, your own niggling headache doesn't get treated. You can be left feeling-well-ill! If you continue to ignore the signals from your body then eventually that's a possibility.
We can be so used to coping with others illness and their often seemingly compelling needs that we forget our own. They become buried. Added to that if you suffer from low self-esteem (where you may see yourself as not important and therefore you subjugate your own needs) then it can be extra difficult to put yourself first.
The physical part of self care is just part of the story.....
What is Self Care?
Well its all of those things I have already mentioned. At a basic level, its making sure you are looking after your physiological (body) needs.
Eating before you get too hungry (preferably away from your work), going to the loo when you first become aware of the need and having a cup of tea or coffee when you need it. We tend to just keep going when we believe someone is more needy than we are, especially if its our job. We start to forget what its like to stop and just think of our own needs. If we attend to our own needs then we are able to go back refreshed but if we don't acknowledge them then we are neglecting our self-care.
Self-care goes beyond the physical. There's the emotional side as well. Working in healthcare or caring for someone is emotionally draining. You are constantly giving of yourself, showing patience, empathy and compassion. We are back to that rapidly emptying cup again and now its pretty much down to the dregs.
If you are on the front-line the work can be distressing and difficult to forget when you are (finally) out of work.
What can I do to get more Self-Care?
Firstly, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Tired, overwhelmed? Struggling with motivation or feeling irritable? You may not be spending enough time caring for yourself.
Here are some things you can do, even if you just do one of these a day-its a start. Once you begin to take care of one aspect of yourself and do this consistently it can lead to other acts of self-care.
Just a few minutes away from your work (you can do it in the loo!) using one of the popular free apps can really help you to feel calmer within minutes. Headspace is good, Calm is another, some use a visual pattern to help slow your breathing.
2. Get outside
Breathe in some fresh air and focus on all the sights, sounds and smells. If you can get to a park at break time even better.
Spend time on yourself doing basic grooming like showering, washing your hair, ensuring your nails are trimmed, just this action can promote a feeling that you are caring for yourself, it doesn't have to mean spending hours (and a lot of money) in the salon.
4. Treat yourself
Give yourself a treat during the day (a nice coffee for example) and really savour it.
5. Listen to music
Any genre is okay but don't under-estimate the power of some to make you feel the opposite of calm! Maybe try some soothing music or play a relaxation video (there are loads on Youtube).
Above all, tell yourself that you are worthy of being looked after. Time spent on yourself isn't selfish-its absolutely vital.