Learn Your Limits

It’s difficult to offer support to someone when you need it yourself.

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I remember my nursing instructor telling us the age old saying “you cannot pour from an empty cup” and while I definitely felt it applied to my nursing career and studies, I’ve had a hard time applying it to my life in general. I’ve spent many days feeling overworked and at my breaking point; my cup has been running low and now, well… it’s empty. I suppose I have no one to blame but myself. I watched my cup’s contents slowly dwindle down to a few spare droplets until one day there was nothing left and I was left dumbfounded when I tried to pour over and over to no avail.

Life is difficult. It’s filled with trials and tribulations that leave us battered and with wounds that require licking. When you’re in a relationship, their worries and trials become your own and you want nothing more than to make their difficult days better. You feel a bit of responsibility with regards to how their lives are going, and if not a responsibility then at least a innate desire to make their days brighter. So if you’re focused on making their days brighter while yours feel oddly dim, how can you handle it? How can you make them smile when you feel drained?

Offering support to each other is essential, but remember that while offering support, accept that you may need some too. Learning your limits and knowing when to recognize a quickly emptying cup is essential in taking responsibility for your own self-care. Sure, you love your partner and you want their life to be filled with unending joy, but when you’re feeling unable to handle your own day-to-day, the best thing you can do is admit and accept that.

Some phases of life are more difficult than others and it’s not easy to accept that you’re not always able to keep your cup full without some extensive self-care. Taking a break and refilling your tank will allow you to make it through those phases; so take breaks. Care for yourself and remember that self-care is not always about bubble baths and pedicures; sometimes it requires looking at yourself critically and accepting that there are parts of you that desperately need to change. Change how you handle situations. Change how you allow any emotion to flood freely and without control. Change how you are more prone to give up and walk away than to push through the hard phases.

Sure, take the bubble baths, long walks, and pet your cat too, but don’t forget that caring for and about yourself requires more. Sometimes it requires you to look at your life from an outside viewpoint and give yourself the harsh truth; you can’t handle it all on your own and you cannot always take the burden of another person’s troubles either, no matter how incredibly important he or she is in your life. In order to have anything to pour into their cup, you’ve gotta keep yours full. So, take a moment to fill it before it runs dry.

-LP

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Self-Care is NOT Optional

Once you’ve lost yourself, it’s incredibly difficult to be found.

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It’s too easy to let life take over and to let go of the progress you’ve made with yourself. While most people would not actively choose to forgo caring for themselves, shit happens. I’ve spent the entire year focusing on improvement and learning to love myself while making positive changes; that shit isn’t easy and it’s a long, difficult path to take, but a worthwhile one nonetheless.

Lately, I’ve been overburdened with two jobs, school, sick family members, stress, lack of a support system, and baby kittens; I’ve felt myself crumble under the impossible weight of these responsibilities and let go of one responsibility that should be my top priority:

Self-Care. 

If you’re struggling to care for yourself and you can feel yourself slipping into a downward spiral, take heart.

Things won’t get easier when you don’t care for yourself. You might feel as though you simply don’t have time to do things that make you feel better; I’ve been there, I get it. You cannot expect yourself to be able to handle everything that comes your way when you’re already feeling rather broken. It just won’t happen, or if by some miracle, you’re able to, you’ll end up in an even worse spot than where you started.

If you don’t make it a priority, no one else will. They won’t feel badly about adding more to your already full plate, because you’re not speaking out and telling them. Don’t expect the people in your life to be mind readers (even the best of them can’t know what you’re thinking), so tell them. Are you scared? Overwhelmed? Stressed? Are you nearing the point of no return? If that means an assignment goes in late or you have to call in; do it. You have to care for yourself. 

There’s no shame in taking a mental health day. So just take it. This is something I still struggle with; I feel as though I absolutely cannot call into work or take a day off from coursework, but I’m working on it. I choose to go to the gym to relieve stress before I feel like I’m losing myself instead of when I’m in the midst of it all.

The best kind of self-care is preventative care. Don’t wait until you’re already on the verge. Don’t wait until you’re so stressed out you feel like crying. Take an hour to yourself; whether you can only take a hot shower, paint your nails, sit in silence, whatever, just do it! You need it and your soul will thank you for it.

It’s not easy to find time to care for yourself, but it’s damn worth it. Write. Read. Take a long bath. Go for a walk. Find your inner peace in whatever way you can. Make time for it, even if that means you have to schedule “me time” for yourself each week. Do it and don’t feel guilty about it. You’re worth it.

-LP