I have to admit that for the last few weeks that I was in the UK, things went pear shaped with my self-help, and my health declined. Even before things got bad, I knew at the time that I wasn’t giving myself the best chance, but somehow, I just couldn’t seem to motivate myself to create the supportive routines that I have when I’m here in Spain. Then things reached the point where I felt like I was just constantly firefighting; life became a cycle of resting enough to be able to do the next thing I felt I had to do, then feeling exhausted and having to rest again.
Although a little part of me is ashamed that the “ME/CFS Self-Help Guru” messed up her self-help, I know I am only human, and that as humans, we make mistakes. A wise friend once said to me that it doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make or how big that they are, all that really matters is how good you are at fixing them. I would go further and say that it’s not just the end result that matters when you’re fixing your mistakes, it’s what you learn in the process.
My most important lesson from this time is the reminder of just how important my self-help practices are. When we’re feeling a little better, it’s bizarre how easy it is to forget what it took to get there. I guess we want to believe that we are better, and that being better means we don’t need those practices any more. But time and time again I learn that without the support of those practices, my well-being cannot maintain itself. My big takeaway from this experience is that the things that support my well-being have to come first.
I choose to look on my mistakes with self-compassion. I had made commitments I wanted to honour, and when my energy was low, I felt I had to put them first. I’m not going to beat myself up for the choices I made, even if in hindsight they were poor ones. They seemed the best that I could do at the time. Once you get into firefighting mode, everything seems urgent, and it can be difficult to take a step back and change perspective.
A fresh start.
Fortunately coming back to Spain has given me an opportunity for a fresh start. (In the past, when I’ve been in similar situations, I’ve just set a date). Having seen the results of not putting my self-help practices first, I’ve found it relatively easy to change my mindset. The first couple of days were uncomfortable though. Although I was committed to the decision I made, I still had the drive to get things done pushing at me. I still felt fearful when I stopped work to rest before finishing what I felt I needed to. But I knew my priority was self-care, so I did it despite the discomfort. After a few days, it got a little easier; I started to relax again, and the push to achieve loosened its grip.
The importance of enjoyment
It can be extremely challenging to prioritise enjoyment when you’re feeling under pressure, but I’ve discovered it’s absolutely crucial to break that vicious downward cycle of firefighting. I was brought up with a value of work comes before play, and even though I’ve since learned the importance of filling my own cup first, that old value can still push hard. The first thing I let go of in the UK was going for my daily walks. They’ve been non-negotiable since I got back to Spain, and they’ve really helped me to relax. Having relaxed, I’ve realised that the things I thought were of vital important aren’t so urgent as they seemed. So another take away is this reminder that relaxing enjoyment is a priority not a reward!
Now that I’m already reaping the reward of better self-care, it’s even easier to continue. I haven’t got all of my practices back yet; it’s still a work in progress, but my recent mistakes have taught me that I really want to prioritise them!
How could you learn from what’s not going well for you at the moment? Are you ready for a fresh start?
Julie Holliday, ProHealth's Inspirational Editor, is a holistic life coach and writer committed to helping people take back control from energy-limiting chronic illness to live a more relaxed, balanced and fulfilling life. Julie loves spending time in nature, growing her own vegetables and spends as much of her day as possible in a comfortable pair of yoga pants. Writing as the ME/CFS Self-Help Guru, Julie shares tips on her weekly blog. You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.