Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Why it's okay to put yourself first

Do you ever feel guilty about putting yourself first?

Growing up as kids, we're always told from parents and teachers not to be selfish and to put others before yourself. And it's a great tool to be taught - it helps us make friends and learn about friendship on the playground.

But when you struggle with your mental health, sometimes it's good to be selfish. Sometimes we have to be selfish. And what we've been taught as kids can make us feel guilty and ashamed of this.
Ever made up an excuse to cancel plans with a friend because you didn't feel up for it? 
Or wanted to give up on your to-do plans and just crawl into bed after a day in work or college? 
Or tried to avoid your housemates after a tough day because you don't have the energy for small talk? 
Or felt like you had to lie to your work colleagues when they ask what you did at the weekend, rather than admit to the time you spent doing nothing by yourself?
And if you're like me, you probably felt like a bad person, a weak person and incredibly guilty.

Sometimes I just need a 'me night'. A night away from work, from friends and my partner. A night off from the gym and with nothing on my to-do list. I try to make sure I have at least one night like this a week. And when that evening comes around I do whatever I feel like doing. Whether it's curling up with a cup of tea and Netflix, colouring in or crafting, heading straight for bed at 7pm or maybe spending a few hours stuck in a book. It helps me to recover and rest after a long day. It ensures I can face tomorrow.

On bad weeks when I'm low and struggling with my mental health, sometimes I need two nights. And that's just midweek. I also crave one a night like this on weekends too.

And yes, I have had to cancel plans with friends to get this 'me time'. Usually with the flimsiest of excuses of working late or not feeling well, and then I've felt inadequate when I respond to my work colleagues questions with 'oh, nothing much'.

Sometimes I have to withdraw to look after my mental health. If it prevents me from burning out or breaking down, why should I feel guilty or flawed for that?

Self care is more than making a cup of tea or running a bath.
Often it’s broken down to these small acts. And while small acts are important, self care is so much more than that.

Self care is doing what helps your mental health, what makes you feel better and what allows you to get through another day. Sometimes all you need is a cup of tea. Maybe a chat with a friend. But other times, you need to withdraw and take the time to rebuild your defenses. So say no, take a night off and allow yourself the time and space to heal.

Self care is putting yourself first. You know better than anyone what you need to improve your mental health. It will differ from moment to moment and day to day, but do what your mental health needs. If it's canceling plans or hiding out in your bedroom for a bit, do it. And don't feel guilty or like you're failing as a person for it. It's not selfish to prioritise your mental health over tasks, social events or other people's expectations.

But self care is also making sure that putting yourself first doesn't mean you make a habit of isolating yourself. While I need my one night a week for me, I also know that seeing friends or having a chat with housemates boosts my mood on other days. I don't want to become isolated and cut-off, so I try to find a balance.

It's okay to take time out for you. It's okay to put yourself first, to withdraw for a bit and come back healthier and better able to face the next day.

You matter, so make you and your mental health a priority.

Until next time,

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