As you probably know by now, I see a LOT of women come through my practice who are suffering from adrenal fatigue and burnout. They might present with anxiety, hormonal imbalances, thyroid issues, a desire to lose weight, they might be feeling exhausted, or perhaps they just want more energy to get through their day. And although I do what I can to help them with diet, herbs and supplement suggestions, there’s a common thread with nearly all of these women… no “me time”.
We’re simply too busy. And our bodies aren’t coping.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve prescribed Dr Libby Weaver’s TED Talk to clients, since she delivers it so clearly and succinctly – Our female biochemistry is simply not set up for the pressures we experience in our busy lives today. The more we add to our schedule, the closer we come to burnout.
We’ve been conditioned to want it all, to do it all, to push through the limits of our energy reserves to get everything done. To multitask like a mofo. To be everything to everyone and to put ourselves last. And then when we begin to falter, we usually compare ourselves to some other woman who is no doubt an overachiever and we tell ourselves “Well, if SHE can do it all, then I should be able to as well.”
Except you have NO IDEA what’s going on behind the scenes. (If this person that you’ve put up on a pedestal was suffering some form of adrenal fatigue or burnout herself, would you even know?) You don’t know what she’s gone through to achieve what she has.
Perhaps we are too busy comparing ourselves to others and not listening to our own bodies.
I know. I’ve fallen for it too (and continue to do so sometimes!). Pushing myself to work harder, to achieve more, to spend my “days off” doing work-related stuff (it usually starts with “I’ll just check a few emails” and spirals from there!). But my body recently told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t going to get away with it for much longer (helloooo… crappy immune system, more frequent colds and flues, muscle and joint aches, mood swings, weight gain and fatigue). I also have some underlying health issues that also need to be factored in. In short – it turns out that the bulletproof constitution that I sported in my 20’s has long since disappeared, leaving in its wake a body that needs more time out to rest and recover. Finding out that I wasn’t Superwoman was a total eye-opener.
“But I don’t have time! I don’t have time for me time!”
I know – I said these words too. But if you don’t make the time now, your body will force you to later. Rushing around all the time is not sustainable. You might as well be proactive and take some time out on your terms, right? Then you won’t have to pay for it later.
Now… I’m all about taking simple, small steps towards your chosen wellness goal. Sure – you can book yourself into a retreat and go the whole hog, and for some people, this kind of “immersion” technique is the only way they’ll take some “me time.” But you don’t have to drop $3000 on a week of yoga and raw food in Bali to give your body the reset it needs (although that does sound quite nice!). What if you just factored in some “me time” into your week? Like, right now?
First things first
I want you to find 10 minutes in your day. And not just today. E-V-E-R-Y day. Just 10 minutes. It could be first thing in the morning, last thing before you go to bed, just before you pick the kids up from school. I don’t mind where you find it. If you can’t find a window of opportunity anywhere, then I’m afraid you’re going to have to set your alarm 10 minutes earlier. Then the next thing I want you to do is pop it in your calendar (and set an alarm). This is your “me time” appointment with yourself, and it must be kept.
Righto… what are we going to do with this allocated time? You get to choose, but it HAS to be something relaxing, something that brings your heart rate down, something that soothes the nervous system, something that unplugs you from the general chaos of your day (so no, a quick 10 minutes on Facebook doesn’t count – sorry!).
Here are some suggestions for your “me time”:
- A 10 minute mindfulness exercise or meditation. There are some fantastic apps available that you can download which have quick guided exercises. I love Smiling Mind, but there are loads of other great ones including Headspace, Omvana and Buddhify.
- A 10 minute yoga routine (Don’t have a mat? Roll out a large bath towel on some carpet!). Again, there are plenty of apps around that have short guided routines. Try Daily Yoga, 5 Minute Yoga or YogaGlo.
- Deep breathing exercises. Pranayama is awesome. There are videos on YouTube to help you to learn this.
- Give yourself a hand massage with your favourite moisturiser or oil, paying extra attention to fingers and cuticles. This is especially great if you spend a lot of time at a computer.
- Make a cup of tea and drink it in your favourite spot, away from any tech devices or people who might need your attention.
- Step out into nature. Take your shoes off and find some grass. Feel the earth below your feet. Listen to the bird noises around you. Feel the sunlight on your skin. Take a moment to drink it all in.
- Start a gratitude journal. Take the time to reflect on three things that you’re grateful for, and write them down (you might even want to draw a small picture).
Saying no to the requests of others
How many times have you said “yes” to something and then immediately had that sinking feeling? That pang of anxiety in the stomach that tells you that you would rather have said “no” but it’s too late now – it’s already out there! Saying “no” to the requests of others for the sake of your health is an art, and it may take a while to master (especially if you’re a natural people pleaser!). But if we’re going to find some more ‘me time’ for YOU, we need to exercise your “no” muscle for a bit. At first you might feel rude, you may worry about not being liked, or you might feel guilty.
These are all perfectly natural reactions, and as you exercise this muscle, these reactions will fade. The next time someone asks you do do something that is going to cost you time and energy, take a moment to pause before you answer and consider, “How much energy is this going to REALLY cost me? Do I have enough in my energy reserves to see this through without it affecting my wellbeing?”
There will always be stuff that is non negotiable. Looking after kids, caring for elderly parents, deadlines at work… but there will also always be things that suck away your time that CAN be offloaded. Stop and consider: What’s one small thing that you can go without doing, right now, for a little while? Will your world come crashing down if you don’t do it? What if you made your health—your me time—your first priority, and all these other things had to get in line behind that?
Small changes make for big results
It may seem insignificant at first, but these small moments of me time that you create? They add up. Big Time. Any time of the day where you consciously take time out to relax, breathe and reset your mind may help to lower cortisol levels (a key stress hormone and a big noise in the development of adrenal fatigue). Lowering your cortisol levels can impact your moods, digestion, nervous system, hormones, carbohydrate metabolism and energy production, just to name a few.
What will you do with your 10 minutes of “me time” today?
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