Updated: Nov 22
Why is it we don’t stop to take care of ourselves unless our brain shuts down, or our bodies scream, “Medic!” I was having a conversation with a close friend the other day while on my lunch break, and we were talking about how women our age have been having more strokes lately.
“You wouldn’t believe it,” Rosie blurted over the phone. This person had a mini stroke at her desk at work and didn’t realize what was happening until her co-worker called the paramedics!” I just shook my head in disbelief as I listened to her describe how stressful the 50-ish woman’s job was and the chaos of her home life.
“Wow, I hope she recovers from this,” I sadly replied.
Once I got off the phone with Rosie, I went back into my own job, sat down and began to think about my own life. Honestly, the easiest thing in my life right now is my job. The areas of my life that have been causing me anxiety and many sleepless nights, involve my growing design business, finances, and trying to mentally and financially prepare myself to transition from a job I’ve worked for over 20 years to caring for my aging parents. When it comes to mom and dad the decision is non-negotiable. They need me and I WILL be there for them. Period. So, now, I’m in hustle-mode to set myself up financially as the months to my exit from my 20 year job tick on by.
Sitting in my classroom, watching my little students rest on their napping cots, I began to make promises to myself concerning things like my eating habits, my spiritual health and my physical health. I was ashamed to admit to myself that I haven’t exercised in over 5 years! I used to be a gym rat in my 30s and 40s. But it’s as if when 50 hit the scene, I hit the couch. “Why?” I thought to myself. I mean, it’s not like we don’t know what to do to take better care of ourselves. It’s just that we don't do it. Instead we ignore the signs, pull into yet another drive-thru, and super-size our own self-sabotage. I honestly, had no good explanation for why I let myself go. Sure it’s easy to blame it on our environments, but guess what? That still will not keep you and I out of the ER. So what do we do?
Listen, we are approaching a very busy and potentially hectic season of the year with Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am determined to minimize my stress and enjoy my family and the festivities. I am also more determined to welcome the New Year with healthy blood pressure and cholestrol levels. Oh, did I mention that my doctor wants to put me on blood pressure AND high cholesterol medicine? Now, I’m not opposed to medicine, but I do want to try to get my vitals down naturally, if possible.
*DISCLAIMER: I AM IN NO WAY ADVOCATING NEGLECTING YOUR DOCTORS ORDERS OR ADVICE TO TAKE MEDICINES FOR YOUR HEALTH AND WELLNESS.
My health choices are mine alone and my doctor is giving me the next six months to lower my levels naturally, with the understanding that if I fail, I begin taking blood pressure and high cholesterol medicine. Okay, now that that is out of the way, let me ask again, “What do we do?” It’s simply not enough to know what to do to improve our mental, spiritual, and physical well being. We have to identify WHAT is keeping us from taking control of our lives. Here are just a few things that have run through my mind during those night’s of insomnia:
Am I in denial that something as tragic as a stroke or heart attack could actually happen to me?
Am I so depressed that I just don’t care?
Do I think I’ll always have tomorrow to start eating healthier?
Have I convinced myself that I’m not THAT unhealthy?
Now, it’s your turn. I want you to PAUSE and ask yourself what thoughts or excuses
are keeping you from taking control of you wellness?”
Just imagine yourself sitting on the beach…relaxed and at total peace. Now, write down whatever springs from your heart. Notice I said your heart, not your head. Our heads are full of to-do lists, work deadlines, and figuring out what’s for dinner. So this soul-exercise will take some effort on your part to silence the noise in your head and listen to your heart.
When I did exactly what I am asking you to do, I was amazed at the ONE WORD that seemed to burst out of me as if it had been imprisoned in the deep recesses of my heart. My soul literally screamed, “BOUNDARIES!”
Growing up, did you have boundaries? What expectations were put on you at a young age that maybe convinced you that you had no say concerning what you may have thought you had a right to? Was your personal space considered a luxury or just not realistic in your environment or home life? You see, as the eldest daughter of four children, I took on roles in my family's home to make sure the kitchen and the house were always clean, lunches were made, and clothes were ironed and I was constantly picking up behind my siblings. I shared a room with my younger sister, and when she was frightened at night, I had no choice when she wanted to crawl into my bed. I was told to let her sleep with me. No argument. Now, I love my siblings dearly, but I also know where boundaries can be lost...or never nurtured to begin with. It's been my life experience that often times we don't put ourselves first because we may have grown up thinking that it was selfish of us. We become conditioned to be people pleasers, as we enter adulthood we become model employees who never say no to added work and feel guilty taking a mental health day, we become good wives who never say, "I need a moment"...and on and on. Gradually, we find ourselves burnt out, practicing unhealthy self-soothing habits like emotional eating, starving our authentic, creative selves, and unfortunately for some, slumped over a work desk from a stroke.
Life will never be without deadlines, burdens, and to-do lists. But the ability to say, “No” to what is killing you is a matter of your sanity and your survival. Time for another peronal story: I have been coming home after long work days, doing household chores and instead of going to bed at a decent hour, I'd start answering messages and e-mails from potential customers who have customization requests for artwork they are interested in licensing. Being the 'hungry' entrepreneur that I am, I stay up past midnight completing these requests, only to get 3 to 4 hours of unrestful sleep, before getting up at 5 a.m. to start yet another work day. Now, my devout subscriber, how long do you think I will be able to continue this pattern of poor health before I end up like that poor woman my friend Rosie was talking about? A couple months? A year? I once read that our fragile brain cells are regenerated while we sleep, and it is horrible what stress and lack of sleep does to the branches and synapses in our brains. I linked an article here that you can take a look at. After all, I’m no doctor. Still it's very interesting.
Doctor or not, I knew that I couldn’t continue on so little sleep and on tons of caffeine the next morning, which only made me more anxious and made my heart race. Identifying this area of necessary change, I crafted an automated message for customers and potential customers, expressing my excitement that they have taken an interest in my artwork, and letting them know how much I look forward to working with them. Within the message, I gave them my time frame for returning calls, and answering questions, as well as a downloadable PDF of my process for completing a customization order. You can create these auomated messages through helpful programs, such as maichimp.
These days, I am in bed between 9 and 10 every night. My sleep routine is a non-negotiable! I have adjusted the night settings on my iPhone to receive emergency calls from family members ONLY, and I have discovered the sweet relaxation of falling asleep to the sounds of falling rain, thanks to my white noise playlist on my iphone app. Below is a list of wonderful apps you can check out…and no, I am not earning anything from listing these apps. My sole reason for this blog post is to help you navigate through your day and rediscoer what it feels like to be happy, healthy, and at your creative best.
I still have nights of insomnia, due to health reasons that I am addressing with the help of my gynocologist. But, I’m no longer losing sleep from burning the midnight oil. Sleep is just one example of the boundaries I have had to enforce in my life. I even go to bed some nights and leave the dirty dishes in the sink. Now that's progress for me! Everyone’s life demands are different and I hope that you take the time to discover and unapologetically address yours.
I know that my creative platform is about art and design, and you might be wondering how a blog post on self care relates to art licensing. But at the end of the day, our gifts and talents are all dependent on our ability to function well. If we are not healthy, our businesses suffer, our families suffer, and our creative energy inevitably suffers. I want you and I both to be ready for the holidays, to create some of our best work, and to be at our strongest.
Below is a self care chart that you can customize as you discover your boundaries and your non-negotiables. *Note: you do not need a Pro acount to utilize this Canva template. It’s completely FREE! I sincerely hope that this will help jumpstart your self care journey. I also hope that this blog was beneficial to you and I would love to hear your comments. One of my many goals is to foster a creative community through these blog posts where we can offer one another helpful advice, creative tips, and Artisan support. Oh, and I promise that my next blog will be about something artsy and creative.
Now, Go Set Those Boundaries!