Choosing Between Helping Others and Helping Myself

Anyone who has been keeping up to date with my story knows that within the past two years I have worked incredibly hard to overcome my struggles with depression. In 2019, I went from wanting to die to feeling like my best self, and I established goals that would allow me to continue on a path of personal growth. I felt so proud of my accomplishments and level of motivation, and I felt inspired to continue working toward feeling mentally and physically healthy.

Fast forward to now, and I have to admit that I have reached a small speed bump in the road. In December 2019, I excitedly accepted a promotion from outpatient therapist to crisis intervention specialist at the agency that I am employed. I chose to continue seeing several outpatient clients part time, because I experienced some difficulty letting go and thought I could handle the workload. This means that I am currently working about 12 hours per day, 5 days per week. While I love what I do and often feel inspired through helping others, I am also ready to admit that I am finding myself increasingly frustrated.

I have always excelled at time management and have taken my professional responsibilities seriously. Throughout the past few years, I have been passionate about balancing my professional responsibilities with my personal needs, and I actually got to a place where I was incredibly happy with myself. I felt mentally health, focused, and determined to continue working toward becoming my best self.

Let us first acknowledge that progress is not always a forward motion and that we are almost guaranteed to experience back slides (after all, we are all human….. I think). The Wellness Warrior is a space in which I want to share my growth and be transparent with my struggles, and I wouldn’t be doing this site or myself any justice if I didn’t express my own frustrations.

I think within the past several months, I have slightly lost track of my main goal: To feel wholly healthy. I have been so focused in being there for my clients that I haven’t been present in my own life. Lately, I am mentally exhausted to the point where I’m having trouble focusing on personal relationships and interests. I’ve done minimal work toward my previously established goals and have not indulged in many of my preferred activities (as some may notice from my minimal updates to this blog).

Yesterday, I found myself calling out of work just so I could go outside for a hike and enjoy beautiful weather, and that is when I truly realized the severity of the issue. If I am working so much that I’m feeling I can’t enjoy my life without calling out of work, that is a huge issue.

I haven’t been taking the time to practice as much meditation, and I’ve noticed how my own thought patterns have reverted. My mind has been spinning out with my first reaction to events, which often times is irrational. I am less patient with others and with myself.

With all of this being said, I am struggling between choosing to help others and help myself. I love the work that I do, but I also have to acknowledge and consider when I am giving too much of myself to others and not enough to myself. I am finally ready to admit that I need to take a step back from my professional endeavors in order to better focus on caring for myself and being an active participant in my own life.

And this is where my Wellness Warriors coming in, because I have always struggled to say no when it comes to my career. What tips do you have with establishing professional boundaries? How can I empower myself to advocate for my own needs? How can I remind myself that, where my clients want to work with me, they don’t need to work me to achieve their goals?

Creating My Happy Place

This week, I had one goal: plan and create a mini oasis in my tiny, tiny backyard (or backcloset, as I say). This would be a place to read, meditate, drink wine, and relax. The ultimate self care corner!

This is what my little backyard space looked like before the project:

I started the week religiously geeking out over IKEA, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart trying to map out the perfect outdoor space. Trying to find a way to utilize the small space was tough, but well worth the time spent brainstorming.

When the weekend rolled around, I started my Friday night with Goodwill in the suburbs. If I was going to take on designing a small, relaxing space, I was going to do so on a budget. If you’re near Philly, you know that the suburb thrift stores are where the goods are, and it truly did not let me down. I left feeling like I’d hit the jackpot, uplifted by that thrift store adrenaline rush. Here’s what I found (photobombed by a curious, handsome fluff):

Saturday morning, I got started bright and early at my happy place: IKEA. I spent two hours stuck in the euphoria that is Home Goods Heaven, and another two hours back and forth between Home Depot and Walmart.

I slowly hit a point where I was both satisfied with my purchases and anxious to get back home and out of the Saturday store scuffle that many people experience in the city (too many people for a considerable amount of time truly tests my patience!!).

When I got home I went to work building, organizing, making sure things were going perfect. That is, until a freak thunderstorm decided to rain all over my parade and all over my oasis.

When the rain cleared, I resumed my work. I set up my little hammock chair, placed my plants how I wanted them, and hung up lights. Here was the end result;

I am so happy with how it turned out! I got to sit outside last night and drink wine and relax. This is the PERFECT little Self Care Space, where I can drink tea, meditate, listen to the birds. Although my mom thinks my backcloset looks like a burial plot, and my brother-in-law joked about this being smaller than a prison cell, I am so happy with how it turned out! These are some snapshots from last night’s relaxation time during my first night of having my little oasis:

This post serves as my encouragement to design yourself a comfortable space where you can relax and recharge. And if you already have, please share! I’m always looking for interior and exterior design inspiration. Happy Sunday, y’all!!

Taking a Time Out

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I am currently on the road with Cape Cod, MA as the destination. My sister is driving with mom in the passenger seat, and I’m in the back tucked in tight between my brother and my nephew. We woke up bright and early and rolled into the car at around 6:30am. After realizing I hadn’t taken significant time from work in over a year, I set the goal to make this trip an opportunity to recharge and spend time with the people I love. I thought it might be useful to jot down a few “Self Care” goals that I’d like to strive for over this long weekend.

1. Unplug as much as possible. I’ve already spend most of the ride with my phone off, so I definitely want to make taking a break from screens a priority.

2. Reflect. I’ve been in the middle of some pretty important and scary decisions lately. I brought my journal and a handful of pens to organize my thoughts and feelings. Remembering to treat myself gently as I consider what I want and need out of like is pretty key for this goal.

3. Listen to as much music as possible. Music has always been an immediate mood boost for me, so of course this has to be toward the top of the list. I’ve been a little jittery lately thinking about the decisions mentioned in #2. My mood has not been low by any means, but part of self care is maintenance and prevention, which is where this goal comes in.

4. Relax. There is nothing like meditation to make my brain clear and calm and doing so on the beach just seems like it would be amazing. I also brought my yoga mat and sneakers, so I can run and do yoga as much as I want. I have face masks and books and everything that makes me feel relaxed to utilize.

Aside from having a blast with my family, these four goals are what I’d like to focus on this weekend. Some key themes are just being present in the moment while remembering to take time for myself. I will be sure to check back in soon with the progress made toward these goals! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Being Gentle With Myself

Since childhood, I have been a perfectionist. One of my most vivid memories is trying to build a house for my tiny Ernie doll that I had gotten with a McDonald’s Happy Meal. I spent hours with a hot glue gun, trying to piece together Popsicle sticks so Ernie could have a space to sleep. Every time I tried to stand it up, it fell to pieces again. With each fall, my body heated up and frustration tears rolled down my face, until I finally threw the failed project in the trash.

I still cry when I’m frustrated. This week, I’ve been attempting to navigate my activity schedule. Scheduling activities is a therapeutic technique that is used to treat depression. It gives the person something to look forward to, while encouraging that person to stay busy. I use it myself by sitting down every Sunday and writing a list of what physical activities I want to do that week, whether it’s running, strength training, yoga. I write a list of whatever I feel like my mind and body needs.

I’ve struggled this week to stick to that schedule. I was really excited to get more on track with a workout schedule now that my work schedule is a little more flexible, but things rarely go as planned. On days where I’d planned to work out, I got home from work too late, or had to stop at the store, or realized it didn’t fit as nicely into my schedule that day as well as I thought it would have. Several times this week, I’ve caught myself feeling disappointed and have had the thoughts, “I’m not trying hard enough.”

Through this, I’m learning patience. Things don’t have to be perfect. I have to show self love for fitting in runs and a workout throughout the week, despite my planning hiccups. Wellness is a process and a journey, and I must be patient with learning how exactly being active will fit my schedule through trial and error. I often tell clients, “We can plan all we want, but life happens sometimes,” and this week really opened my eyes to taking my own advice. I’ll be gentle with myself and give myself credit for my efforts instead of getting frustrated and throwing the project in the trash.