Rediscover Your Inner Spark
It happens – one day you feel like you can take on the world whilst the next day you feel like hiding from it. You’re in a funk and it’s unnerving, uncomfortable and worse, you’ve no idea how long it’s going to last. We’ve all been there. But is there anything we can do to speed the process up, rediscover our inner spark and feel like we’ve got our “mojo” back?
Luckily, the answer to that is a resounding yes! So, if you’re feeling out of sorts, read on to find out more about what might help, as well as identifying what probably won’t.
Get Back to Basics
Quite often, when I find myself feeling like this, it’s because I’ve burnt myself out, taking too much on than I can comfortably handle.
Of course, sometimes we have no choice but to take those tasks on, say as a single parent having to be both mum and dad, or working full time whilst caring for our elderly parents, or even just during exceptionally busy times in our lives period. It’s during these times, however, that we need to really take some time to assess and evaluate what absolutely must be done and what needs to take a back seat.
For me, getting back to basics is crucial to either avoiding burnout altogether or to recovering more quickly from a bout of it. It’s about doing all the things we probably don’t feel like doing during these times: eating healthily, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep and taking adequate time for ourselves to rest and rejuvenate. The oft-quoted example of this that I see is that of the instructions when on an aeroplane to put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others, such as any children.
The difficult part of this is being motivated enough to do it! Just recently, I went through this exact situation. I knew what I needed to do, I just couldn’t be bothered to do it because I was so burnt out. It’s a Catch-22. But do it you must if you want to speed up the healing and recovery process.
Tip: Start small. Identify one or two things that you could start to do now, today, that you know are good for you. What you’re looking for is to start building momentum so that things you want/need to do but don’t feel ready for just yet, feel a little easier once you’ve got some of the basics under your belt. Things I did:
- increased water intake;
- went to bed earlier;
- listened to guided meditations;
- made sure to have 3 meals per day;
- started taking vitamins and probiotics again;
- contacted the GP for help quitting smoking.
A week later, feeling buoyed up with having cared well for myself that week, I felt inspired to take on some other essential self-care that I’d let slip but that a week before seemed just too difficult to face:
- made sure to have a healthy breakfast;
- took up yoga again;
- reconnected with hobbies (knitting, blogging, etc);
- reconnecting with friends and family;
- reading self-care books/articles;
The plan for this coming week is to stay on track with all of the above now that I’m feeling much more like my old self. A couple of weeks ago, every single one of these would have felt impossible.
Set Healthy Boundaries
I’m sure that some of you are thinking “Great – and just when am I supposed to find the time to do all of this?” and I totally get that. The answer, however difficult you may find it (myself included!), is to stop doing all the things that you’re currently doing that you don’t need to do.
I can’t speak from a male-perspective, but as a wife and mother of two who works full-time, I’ve realised recently how much I was doing for other people that I didn’t really need to do or that could wait for a time more convenient to me. It still feels incredibly selfish to write that sentence because, somehow, I have this perception that I “should” be doing those things.
I realised that if I wanted to be a better wife, mother, employee, me, something had to give. I couldn’t give myself the things that I needed for my health and well-being if I was constantly doing things for others first (think oxygen mask analogy again). I also would inevitably burn out eventually and then couldn’t do all the things I needed to, whether for others or myself, and then I really would be in a pickle.
Maybe it comes from wanting to feel needed or liked on a subconscious level but these last 2 weeks I stopped. Told the family, friends and my students that actually I wouldn’t be doing anything that I felt that they could and should be doing for themselves. Yes, there were a few who complained but you know what? The world kept on turning, they did it themselves and I had time for self-care. No, maybe they didn’t do it the way I would have done it but, turns out, my way isn’t the only way! They also learned how to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t have known how to do so actually everyone was happier.
Tip: What did this include? Ironing for the husband and 18 year old. No reason at all why they can’t do their own and saves me a good couple of hours each week. Helping the 18 year old get her first contract phone. Normally, I would have dropped everything and just done it for her and caught up with my work afterwards cutting into my evening time. Instead, I offered to help her to do it at the weekend which we did. With my 7-year old, instead of just doing little things like putting her shoes away and tidying up any toys she left out, asking her to do it which she did (sometimes begrudgingly mind!). With my law students, returning work full of written English errors that could easily be corrected by them with an effective proofread without marking and asking them to resubmit once they had finished their work to the standard they know is required.
What did I learn from this? To set boundaries. This doesn’t mean that you gather your nearest and dearest and inform them that you’ll never lift a finger for them again, but rather that these things do not become something “expected” that you will do, especially where they are the responsibility of someone else. If you want to do something for somebody or if somebody needs your help, of course you will still want to do that but only if your self-care isn’t being compromised in the process.
Result: more time and energy for me to practice self-nurturing habits and build up to the big one – cutting out the things I knew were bad for me!
Banish the Bad Habits
I’m sure most of us have at least one habit that we desperately want to conquer but for some reason we keep on doing it. Mine – apart from not setting healthy boundaries – was smoking. I’ve been ping-ponging for years between quitting and smoking/smoking and quitting. I finally admitted to myself that I couldn’t do it by myself, made the call to the GP and went to see the nurse who prescribed Champix. I have to say it’s not for everyone but has made quitting incredibly easy over the last two weeks, more so than any other method I’ve tried. There are uncomfortable side-effects of course but I’m guessing heart disease and cancer, the almost guaranteed side-effect of smoking, are far more uncomfortable and deadly!
I’ve mentioned before on this site that at the end of 2018, I drastically reduced my alcohol intake to no more than around once per month for special occasions e.g. a holiday or celebration and, frankly, my life has been a million times better as a result and I don’t miss it at all now it’s become the norm.
What your bad habit is will be individual to you and, like me, you may well have more than one. That’s fine. I have no issue if anyone wants to smoke or drink or anything else for that matter. This is really for anyone who feels that their bad habit is making them feel bad about themselves. It could be as simple as stopping biting your nails or swearing (next on my list!). If you feel there’s a bad habit that you’d like to change, again, start small. Do a bit of research on the internet on how others overcame the same habit. Start putting a plan together, including a date for when you plan to stop or reduce your habit and maybe start building a “toolkit” to help you in your challenge.
If it’s a habit that takes up a lot of your time, and I can honestly say until I stopped I didn’t realise quite how much time smoking, going to the shop for supplies, drinking, recovering from a hangover and the like took up of my time, then you’re in for a treat when you do get past the first difficult weeks of stopping. You’ll have a ton more time on your hands for more self-care and you time. The only thing to watch with this is that you don’t substitute one bad habit for another!
Another example of how I did this was when I tried to quit smoking previously I replaced cigarette breaks with coffee/tea breaks. Whilst I’m sure nicotine and all the other chemicals are far worse for us than caffeine, being over-caffeinated to the point I was I’m sure contributed to the feeling of burn out. And then I had to wean myself off the caffeine too! Not helpful.
Also, don’t give up if you don’t manage to break your bad habits the first time. I’ve quit smoking so many times now that I doubt anyone believes me anymore, not even myself. I can’t wait to surprise everyone! Remember, we call them habits for a reason and, regardless of our reasons for having these habits, at some point we’ve clearly come to rely on them to help us get through the stresses of the day. Go easy on yourself and take it one day and one challenge at a time. If you do relapse, take a break from quitting your habit of choice, dust yourself off, regroup, re-plan and try again.
Finally, don’t expect overnight results with any of these tips. It took time for you to lose your “mojo”, it’ll take time to get it back again. Just start taking steps in the right direction, at the right pace for you and you’ll regain that inner spark in no time.
How about you? Have you any tips that could help others feeling under-par to get them back to their best selves? Why not share your tips in the comments below.