J. Lynn Rowan

The Perils of Ignoring Self-Care

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So it turns out burning the candle at both ends is really, really, REALLY bad for your well-being. We’re talking physical, mental, emotional burnout.

I thought summer break would be a chance to recharge, as it always has in the past, but it’s turning out not to be the case. You see, I recognized around mid-March that I was dangerously close to hitting the proverbial wall. At some point shortly thereafter, I apparently decided to haul myself and the metaphorical 50-pound pack-of-everything over that wall, instead of admitting to myself that it was time to take a true break.

In years past, I always made a point of doing little things for myself. Having a mini-spa day. Sleeping in. Watching a movie or seven that I’ve seen a billion times over. Reading a book in close to one sitting. Playing the piano. Wandering around the house singing at the top of my lungs. Exercising, even if I hated every second of it and only kept going because, yes, there is that euphoria when you finish.

Now, working full time and having a small child, I realize that a lot of that stuff isn’t going to happen much anymore, and I have an amazing support system. But the problem is that, in the past couple years, it’s not even so much that I don’t do the things that replenish me, it’s that I, somewhere along the line, apparently convinced myself that it wasn’t necessary for me to do them anymore.

There’s a lot of research out there on the importance of self-care.  Self-care is, in fact, so important and so often ignored that Ted-Ed actually has a whole series of TedTalks about it! I need to start figuring out a way to build it back into my life. Without it, I’m finding myself short-tempered, easily irritated, overly sensitive, constantly exhausted, and continually struggling to remain focused and effective in my work (both the teaching and the writing).

Ignoring self-care has affected my relationships, how I behave as a wife and a mother. It has affected me physically, as I haven’t managed to get myself back into an effective workout routine to maintain my weight and fitness. I’ve become a stress eater for the first time EVER, when stress used to make me lose my appetite. My skin has gone crazy in ways it hasn’t since I was a teenager, and even then I’m not sure it went this crazy. I continue to have flare ups of postpartum anxiety (something I struggled to identify at all for months before finally seeing a therapist).

And I’ll be perfectly honest – the current events we’ve seen since the start of 2017 have not helped. It’s been a real challenge to not only maintain a sense of sanity as I try to keep up with those current events – being a world history teacher to students who also see this stuff and constantly ask “WHY?”, I don’t have the luxury of ignoring them or even just perusing a shortlist of what’s happening around our planet. I actually ended up taking an unintentional media fast during the last couple weeks of school, and when I finally resurfaced I felt like I’d missed a boatload of imperative information that just stressed me out more. The kicker with keeping up with those current events is that needing to know, and the inundation of constant “what NOW?” moments, almost kept me from completing the first draft of HE TAKES THE CAKE.

It’s incredibly hard to write lighthearted romantic comedy when you feel like the country and the world is falling down around your ears, and your anxiety is on overdrive because of stuff you have absolutely no control over.

I digress – a little – but the point in this ever-lengthening venting session is that one day, I looked in the mirror and realized how ignoring my own self-care has slowly whittled me down. My willpower, my self-image, my confidence, my energy level, my ability to be present to the people who need me to be present.

Now to come up with a plan…

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