Happy Valentine’s Day hunnies! I’m here to talk about LOVING YOURSELF for once.
Those that have known me for a long time know that I have always wanted to be doing all of the things all of the time. Since I was around 16 years old, my desire to live a big life has driven me to fill my schedule until it’s bursting at the seams. I never wanted to miss out on any opportunity to expand my life or the lives of those around me.
Growing up in church, I was always told that I will go on to do big things and have a large influence in other people’s lives. This, along with my passion for changing the world, drove me to volunteer as many of my spare hours away on top of my school, work and personal life. I consistently felt like I could ALWAYS be doing more, even when the only free time I had with myself was when I was in bed asleep.
This trend continued when I moved to London to go to uni. I quickly became involved in a plethora of activities. As well as working and studying, I volunteered at a local care home, ran fundraising activities for my netball club, played netball 3 times a week, served in church at least twice a week, attended various political/activist events around London regularly and tried to have some sort of social life. At one point in my second year, I was going to bed around midnight every Friday night after leading a youth connect group and getting up at 5am on Saturday morning to work a shift at Sainsbury’s (having also got up at 5am on the Friday to work).
It’s safe to say that I was exhausted, most days I wasn’t eating properly and when I did eat a meal it was usually microwaved. However, I kept going, people told me I was a girl boss, “you’re so busy” was a compliment to me. I found it difficult to take time out for myself to relax, one of my housemates used to take the mick out of me because I’d have a bath for 15-20 minutes and then have to get out.
This all came to a head in February 2018. I had been making regular visits to the doctors at uni because of various symptoms that were unusual for me. After multiple blood and other tests were conducted, my doctor delivered the verdict: all of your symptoms are stress related. This wasn’t deduced from the state of my physical health alone. Every time I visited her I was carrying a fundraising bucket with me or some other piece of netball or volunteering equipment. She told me that if I carry on living for other people I eventually won’t have anything else to give. Although I had been told this countless times in the past by friends, family, leaders, managers and pastors, that was my moment of truth. I realised that consistently burning myself out like this was costing both my mental and physical health. I broke down in her office and knew that this was the day that I had to change the way I was living.
I started to make changes. I was more honest with people when I felt that I didn’t have the time or energy to complete a task. I stepped down from a few of my responsibilities. Initially I experienced feelings of guilt because of this, particularly when I stopped serving in church. I didn’t share these feelings with people because I felt that they were silly, I knew that I shouldn’t be feeling that way when I was prioritising my health.
On the surface this was a really successful time of my life, I graduated with a First in my degree, the netball club won loads of awards and I was seen as some kind of wonderwoman. Although I did still have fun times during this period, a lot of it came at a great cost to my mental and physical health.
Fast forward to February 2019. I’m living in rural Norway and I’m about 586% more relaxed than I was 12 months ago. In fact, I only realised whilst writing this that it’s been a whole hecking year since I was at breaking point. When I visited my doctor on that day in February 2018, she told me that I needed to have the most selfish 6 months of my life. This was one of the things that motivated my decision to move to the middle of nowhere instead of taking an office job in London.
Moving to Norway has been a massive help to me. I’ve learnt the importance of living a slow life. Busyness doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity. Even though I’m a lot less active in this community, I’ve learnt not to feel guilty about it. I’ve spent a lot more time working on my personal development, reflecting on my feelings, reading, crafting, baking, meditating, just being.
If any of this resonates with you, please understand the importance of your NO. Not every opportunity is for you. Please understand the importance of time out, time to feed your soul, time to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Your mental and physical health is so so so important, you only get one body in this lifetime, please look after it.
Conclusion: You can’t be booked and busy 24/7. Find ways to practice self care that work for you. Schedule them into your weekly or monthly routine. Whether it looks like a long bath or a cross country run, please get it done.