When your life gets stressful, when you feel overwhelmed, what do YOU do?
Well, when I first moved to Canada from England almost 10 years ago and left behind my friends and much of my family, I had quit the career I knew – and was good at. I moved to a country which, although it spoke English, turned out to be much more foreign to me than many countries in Europe where I didn’t speak the language. We knew no-one in Vancouver – and at the time I thought it would be an adventure. It was.
But I had not counted on how hard it would be to be alone and working from home day after day while my husband was at work when I was used to working in central London, in a bustling office. And I had not counted on how hard it would be to grow my own coaching business from scratch.
What did I do when I felt stressed and overwhelmed? I made lists. I tried harder. I worked harder.
Then, after 4 years, we followed our dream and moved to a Salt Spring, a small island of 10,500 people. We wanted space (we got 5 acres!), peace and quiet, to grow our own food and live a more spiritual life closer to nature (check, check, check). We also wanted to belong and feel part of a community. Check.
Of course the move to a much smaller home that needed lots of renovations and had 5 acres of land – much of it overgrown – was not the de-stressing move we had anticipated.
And this time, because I knew I wasn’t going to find many coaching clients on Salt Spring, I launched a new online business for coaches: The Coaching Tools Company. So, after building my coaching business from scratch, now I was going to build an online business from scratch. What could be easier…
And, what did I do this time when I felt stressed and overwhelmed? Well, I made lists. I tried harder. I worked harder. Oh – and add in that I knew how important support was, so I worked hard at finding and making friends too.
Well, almost 3 years later, my body said enough. I had endometriosis (where womb cells grow outside the womb) sticking my intestine together in 4 places, an ovarian cyst the size of a grapefruit and a blocked ureter (the tube that exits the kidney). I couldn’t eat, lost 20lbs, had major surgery and had to take 3 months off work.
“Something’s got to give. Don’t let it be you.” Stever Robbins
So, what did I do this time when I felt stressed and overwhelmed? Well, this time I managed to relax somewhat. After all I had little choice…
And then as our renos and B&B Cottage building took longer than expected and financial pressure mounted, when I felt stressed and overwhelmed I began to again (you guessed it!), make lists, try harder, work harder.
But there was a difference this time. I was AWARE.
You see, about 5 weeks after my surgery, I did a week-long silent retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Centre. It had been booked for over a year, and I was determined to go. And something magical happened while I was there. For the first time ever, I found a strong, positive, wise ‘voice’ inside. Not a speaking voice, and not even talking inside my head, but strong, positive, wise and supportive thoughts. And ever since then I have worked to cultivate those thoughts – through journalling, reflection and meditation.
So, this time, (on Boxing Day) when my hubbie Duncan and I had to leave immediately for England for a family emergency, when I returned to Canada alone and Duncan stays behind in England for the next 18 months, things are different.
This time while I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I am paying attention to my “self”. What am I feeling? What do I NEED? I have slowed down. I am taking care of myself. I am still making lists (actually – for me, this IS a form of self care). But this time I am NOT trying harder, I am trying LESS. I am not working HARDER, I am working less – and also working DIFFERENTLY. Oh – and FINALLY, I am asking for help when I need it.
It’s strange. I thought I would want to have lots of people around me. After all I’m now living alone after 15 years of being together with my husband and never having spent more than a week apart. But I’m paying attention to the wise, positive, supportive voice that I have been actively cultivating over the last 3 years. She says to take it easy. Be kind to myself. Do what I need to do. Walk the dog, curl up in front of the fire and journal/read/watch TV. Have a bath. Turn the computer off. Say “No” to others. And say “Yes” to me.
I have had an outpouring (literally) of support from my friends here on Salt Spring Island. Offers of dinner, support, wood-chopping, company, gardening, helping out with Starsky (our cat) and Dexter (our dog) and more! I’ve had emails, flowers, homemade cookies, phonecalls and visits. That ‘community’ I was looking for? It’s here. And I am SO very grateful. And if you’re reading this, THANK-you. And when I’m ready, I will reach out.
But for now, my kind, wise voice says take it easy. And I am. I’m adjusting and figuring stuff out and supporting Duncan in England. And keeping my businesses ticking over. And that’s all I have the energy for right now.
It’s a long 18 months ahead. But it’s for a very good cause. And I can clearly see I will be not only a better person – but a stronger, wiser, kinder person at the end of it. I have HAD to let go of control, because I don’t know what’s next. Working harder won’t change anything here. I need to focus on the present moment, be thankful for what I have, and take each moment as it comes. I need to take care of myself for me! AND so that I can support Duncan.
Life keeps teaching you the same lesson until you’re ready to learn it. My ‘old’ way of coping with stress and overwhelm was to work harder, try harder and do MORE. FINALLY, I listened. And here I am, doing LESS. Working less. Trying less. And taking care of me.
When we feel out of control, the one thing we can control is how we treat ourselves…
It’s hard to convey the inner strength I feel from taking this new path. Yes, I’m tired, lacking energy, feel frustrated, sad, lonely sometimes. But I feel STRONG. I have let go of the need to control, and I feel EMPOWERED. I feel uncertain – but I am OK with that because I feel SUPPORTED by both myself – and others.
I hope you see the moral of this story – take CARE of your SELF. Look/listen/feel for the kind, wise voice inside. And pay attention to what it says.
So, back to you. What do YOU do when you feel tired, stressed, overwhelmed? Or perhaps I should say what WILL you do next time when you feel tired, stressed of overwhelmed?
“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” Jim Goodwin
If you liked this article on the importance of taking care of yourself, you may also like:
- One Easy Way to Calm Down, Slow Down and Focus on What’s Really Important to You
- Meditation for Relaxation – 3 Practical Ways to Find Calm
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Thank you for sharing your courageous journey, experiences and insight. You are right, self-care is something we must make a priority. It can start with one loving gesture, one gentle step, one kind action. It can begin by treating ourselves like we would our best friend.
Thanks Nicolette! A great point – to treat ourselves as we would our best friend. And perhaps be our own best friend too… Warmly, Emma-Louise