I wrote earlier this week about how TJ and I support each other through our various health issues, and it really started me thinking. Whilst we are good at keeping each other going, no matter what, we are terrible at nurturing ourselves (physically and mentally).
I have known this for a long time, at some level, but it was showed to me very clearly Thursday afternoon when I visited a dietician for the very first time. After around 10 years of IBS-type symptoms, I’ve gradually discovered some major triggers, however recently it has felt like it doesn’t matter what I eat, I still get sick regularly. I’ve asked for help figuring this all out before, but never been referred, so it felt like a huge relief to finally see someone.
In reality however, the appointment simply reflected things I have always known – my diet is very limited and lacking spectacularly in various ways, which is having a direct impact on my energy levels. But more importantly, my biggest factor is most definitely stress rather than any particular food group, and therefore getting that under control is the key to eating better.
The problem is, how do you reduce your stress when life is throwing stressful situation after stressful situation your way? These past few years have been a constant stream of one new concern after another, and when I look back I can clearly see how the deterioration of my health directly corresponds to increasing levels of stress in my life.
The stress has come from three sources: a difficult work environment; TJ’s deteriorating health; and the financial implications of balancing the first two. Whilst I have made major changes to my work, reducing stress significantly, the impact that my previous job had still plays on my mind. I still have a fair amount of healing to do from that – there is no quick-fix to help recover from burnout, especially when your recovery included the stress of relocation and starting two new jobs.
And though we can make changes to our working life, the health issues we both face and the difficulty balancing a tight budget remain a source of real worry. It feels like we sometimes live life on a knife-edge, constantly ready to spring into battle at the first sign of trouble, meaning that the stress is there even when it isn’t!
When I look at all we have to cope with, I realise that it is no wonder I find myself with a pounding head, churning stomach, or abdominal cramps more days than not. It is also unsurprising that this then means I do not feel like eating, which in turn impacts on my energy levels. After a day at work, on my feet all day, I will often struggle to make more than a bowl of porridge for tea, having barely eaten at work as well. But eating like this only adds to the problem.
My appointment with the dietician may not have given me any answers I didn’t already really know, deep down. But it did make me realise how very much I have been neglecting my own well-being. I have been so busy caring for (and worrying about) others, both through work and at home, that I have forgotten to care for myself in a massive way. And that needs to change.
Which leads me to today. Today I am looking at how I can nurture myself. I have filled my kitchen cupboards with a variety of foods that will help me increase my protein intake, the aspect of my diet that was massively missing. And I am researching quick and easy meals we can make, as well as beginning to take vitamins to give that extra boost.
But this goes beyond the food I eat. It needs to include finding ways to deal with the stress in my life. The reality is that the stress is going to be there, no matter what, so rather than hoping for it to disappear, I need to find ways to relax amid the chaos. I started this earlier in the year with chanting, but I need more than the odd bit here and there… I need a daily routine of making time for myself, and for family.
TJ is with me on this – we are looking at ways to get out in nature, reduce our time glued to our phones or Netflix, and getting some quiet time in our day-to-day lives to reflect and recuperate. And I’ve decided to write about it here, on the blog, as a way of both holding myself accountable to actually doing this (rather than having the idea and never really doing anything about it) and seeing the impact it has on our lives.
It feels like a good time to do this, as we reach the end of Summer and feel Autumn fast approaching. I’ve always felt like September was a month of new beginnings, perhaps due to all those years when the new school term began at this time. And Autumn itself feels perfect for some self-reflection and nurturing as we surround ourselves with home comforts and close friends ready for the Winter months to come.
It’s always been my favourite season, and with Little Man’s birthday and our Wedding Anniversary added to Halloween, Guy Fawkes and Christmas, it feels like a truly magical and celebratory time too. I want to be well enough to enjoy all of this, rather than simply surviving it like I did last year, and that means finally putting my health and well-being first.
So that’s where I am and I’m excited for this journey ahead. I do hope you enjoy coming along with me.