Self-care: A Route to Improving Life AND Sleep
It seems to me that we spend the majority of our lives focussed on caring for others. Our spouses and partners. Our children. Our boss' and business' needs.
It's not always direct care – there is a lot of "indirect" emotional work that goes into each keeping the plates spinning. For example, we might directly care for the family by doing something explicitly for them.
But guaranteed, we do a lot of indirect care by organising schedules, making notes, and doing a lot of emotional and behind-the-scenes orchestration of life. This caring fills all the gaps between the direct care we give to everything and everyone – except us.
Why is it hard to give time, energy, and space to myself?
Despite this, many people – myself included – still feel it's a bit of a leap to give ourselves time, energy, and space. I know for myself, I will often struggle to sit quietly and just do something I enjoy.
Not something "productive" and not something for someone else. I feel like I "should" be doing something else. I "should" myself all over the efforts that I do sometimes make, which then strips away the joy and reward it could otherwise bring.
Seizing an opportunity
Carving out self-care time without those feelings attached is a personal development skill I'm still – at 47 years old – practicing. The coronavirus crisis thrust me (and everyone else) into a strange place of time and space. I had a lot more time to dedicate to myself, so I used that opportunity to upskill my self-care repertoire.
Rediscovering an old hobby
One of the most beneficial things I did was pick up my old hobby of knitting. Knitting serves multiple purposes for me. According to my partner, I have a huge stash of yarn that needs to go away, and so what better way to deal with it than to use it up!
It's relaxing and creative and I love to browse all the patterns I can find – I have more I want to knit than I have days left in my life!
Mindfulness made easy
Mostly, though, it's a mindfulness practice for me. I can use a simple pattern for when I can't sleep at night. I just count simple pattern repeats until I can't remember what I was doing, and then I go back to sleep. I can use a more complicated pattern to challenge my skills and create something spectacular, which boosts my confidence.
Regardless of what kind of pattern I have used – I am creating something for myself. The process rewards me along the way and wraps me up warmly in the end.
My sleep is better when I practice self-care
Practicing better self-care gets easier and more fulfilling for me as I do it. I now crave that time. And when I take that time, my sleep is better than when I don't. For me, this cuts through the whirlwind and subtle anxiety of constantly organising, anticipating, and reacting to the people and circumstances outside me.
There is something renewing and centering about developing boundaries that provide time and space for looking after ourselves and doing the things we enjoy.
Give it a try
I started small, and saw benefits from truly tuning everything else out so completely, even for a short while. That time and space for me gradually expanded and became richer. And that whirlwind from the outside became easier to slow.
I strongly suggest doing this purposefully, until it becomes a habit – and don't do it "to sleep better." Do it because your whole life will benefit from it – and because you deserve the time, care, and attention you will give yourself.
Do you have any other health conditions besides insomnia?