I have a confession to make.
When I decided to write this blog, I didn’t really know what I was going to write about. I have a very full life right now, and I found myself getting increasingly anxious about not being able to follow through on my commitment.
And then I realized that’s exactly what I should write about.
Recently, I’ve been struggling with my anxiety more than usual. I’ve been dealing with insomnia, nerve pain, panic attacks, and mental exhaustion. Last week, I reached a point where I felt physically and mentally unable to continue.
I knew why, of course. I’ve been neglecting my self-care. It’s one of the only success strategies I’ve found for managing my anxiety, but because of that very issue, because of my drive to out-achieve and out-perform, it’s very easy to relegate it to the bottom of my notably never finished to-do list.
But here’s the thing:
No one is going to do it for you.
No one is going to say no for you if you can’t take on more.
No one can help you if you don’t ask.
No one is asking you to push yourself except you.
For me, part of self-care is setting and maintaining boundaries. I am extremely protective of my free time because it’s when I recharge my spiritual batteries.
I will frequently turn down invitations from friends because I know that without enough quiet time to myself, I will find myself stressed, exhausted, and struggling to function.
Self-care also means meditation, writing, aromatherapy, yoga, and (moderately) unreasonable quantities of chocolate. It means making time for the things that heal me, the things that make me feel most aligned with my highest purpose.
Full disclosure: sometimes that's watching reality TV for several hours.
When I tell people that I’m an introvert, they tend to laugh and assure me that I’m not, or even accuse me of lying. I think it’s important to clarify that being introverted isn’t the same thing as being socially awkward, just like having anxiety isn’t the same thing as being anxious. Being an introvert in an extroverted world, however, is part of what feeds that anxiety.
For me, being introverted means I am a naturally quiet person who is very sensitive to my environment and external stimuli, particularly crowds and noise. When left to my own devices, I may not speak for days at a time, but that doesn’t mean I’m not participating in immense and fantastical narratives. It has taken me years to become as outspoken as I am with other people, and it’s still not even half of what’s going on inside my head.
It also means that I find it exhausting and overwhelming to constantly perform and maintain the bubbly, outspoken, cheerful demeanor that most people would describe me as having. That personality isn’t insincere; that is who I am, but the cost of being that person five days a week is high.
I get overstimulated very easily. I spend most of my weekends in relative solitude because I have to; I have a finite amount of social energy, and I use it up (and then some) during the week.
Last year, I attended an event in Florida with hundreds of other people. It was the end of summer, and I had never experienced such punishing heat and humidity. There were people everywhere, shoulder to shoulder, all completely unaware of their space or mine. Speakers blasted a cacophony of inane, excruciatingly loud twaddle for what felt like hours.
It was too much: the heat, the people, the noise. My nervous system overloaded. I had to find a quiet place to cry.
And sometimes that’s just what life as an introvert is: finding a way to be quiet in a noisy world.
So, I will keep reminding myself to be a better caretaker of my own best interests.
I will say no when I don’t have the time or the energy to do something. It doesn’t mean I’m letting everyone down, or that I’m selfish, difficult, or unkind. It means that I’m protecting my ability to be the most reliable, genuine, and balanced version of myself.
I will stick to my nightly rituals of journaling, guided meditation, and aromatherapy. I will give myself permission to rest.
And when I falter, I will be kind to myself, because in every moment we are all doing the best that we can.
In that moment, I will be content with the absence of answers, I will sink into the quiet, and I will let it fill me until I am whole again.