Pre-Empting The Sh*T Hitting The Fan

Are you sensible about looking after yourself in order to keep well and happy? Or do you tend to push on through until you end up over-tired or ill?

(Yes, this is a loaded question :-))

I’ve lived pretty much my whole life doing the latter, thinking it was somehow admirable to take on more and more rather than protecting the future me. I used to think I was weedy because I felt like I got ill a lot, but actually I think I just frequently overdid it.

I suppose in our 30s and 40s the work hard, play hard mentality that lots of us cultivate in our 20s becomes unsustainable. Now I try to be much more of a grandma in order to be kind to myself (early nights, gentle exercise if I’m knackered, eating healthier, saying no to things that aren’t the best option for me) and to do it unapologetically. So much of the time we don’t want to let others down or don’t want to ask for help, but what if we radically changed this? What if we put ourselves first a bit more and asked for or accepted help as much as possible when we needed it, or even before we get to the point of desperately needing it? What if we understood that sometimes having low energy can last days or weeks and that we don’t always spring back, but instead were patient with ourselves and saw our lives in terms of a long game - cycles of quiet recuperating or laying low before a more energetic expanding?

It struck me recently how crazy it is to assume that our physical and mental health are givens, that we can toy with them and push them to their limits and expect them to stay totally intact after years of neglect. Or that we wait until there’s a problem to change how we do things.

More and more, especially with mental health, I hear of people I know (even those who had previously not seemed to experience any blips in mood or anxiety levels) suffering with something that seemed to come “out of the blue”. But did it really? Or is there something lying below the surface that we push away, or are not taught to explore or even recognise?

It is ultimately sensible to get your ducks in a row before things go wrong, to aim to be mentally and physically healthy in order to future-proof your life. It requires us to listen to ourselves and develop a healthy self-awareness about when and how to intervene in our own lives. To realise when we need to stop and rest, when we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones a little or a lot, when we need to say yes and when we need to say a firm but kind no.