I felt the familiar stirrings of a headache starting up as I walked back home from the school run. "Slow down", I told myself. Once home, I confronted the mess and turned on the taps to start the dishes. Without even realising it, I'd pushed my headache aside, even though I knew I could end up with a stronger headache later in the day. My to-do list was long and I was keen to crack on. You see, coping (soldiering on, managing my way through, getting on with it) is what I do well.
A headache? Ignore it or take a painkiller and carry on. Only I've come to realise, that coping isn't doing me any good in the long run.
Do these sound familiar to you?
- As a mother, I put my children's needs first and my own last
- As a people pleaser, I say yes to others and no to myself
- As a business owner, my work is never finished
- As a list-writer, I have tasks cross off before I can relax
- As a perfectionist, I want things done right, so I do them myself
All of these things mean that I look after others, do the housework, get on with work. I plow through the day without a thought of taking care of myself.
• Coping means I don’t stop
• Coping means I don’t ask for help
• Coping means I take on more than I should
• Coping means I’m ignoring my mental and physical health
My coping measures are masks for my anxiety.
If I carry on coping - boom - a migraine will force me to stop and crash. I get nothing done, often for a few days. I believe I should be strong, capable, independent. I should be the carer, not the invalid. I feel guilty, frustrated and more anxious about not achieving anything. As soon as I am on my feet again I am back to “getting things done”. Self-care is a luxury.
Not today, though. “What are you doing!” I said to myself! I turned off the kitchen taps and left the dishes in the sink. After 20 minutes of yoga, my headache had disappeared.
I realised today that I have options - ignore (bury, mask) the anxiety or deal with the anxiety. If I prioritise myself and invest in some self-care, then I don’t have to put myself in a position to cope.
- Is self-care a luxury or a necessity for you?
- When you are anxious, do you bury it or deal with it?
- What patterns can you notice in yourself?
- What would you change?