One of life’s many ironies is that it’s when we’re feeling rubbish, or stuck, or overwhelmed, or bored, or unfulfilled, or at a crossroads, or pulled in too many directions, or exhausted — or all of the above — that we’re least likely to do the stuff that’ll help make us feel better.
There’s always so much going on in our lives, so many changes, so many challenges. It’s no wonder that we do very often feel, well, rubbish. Run down. Done in.
Change goes hand in hand with being a middle-aged woman.
Do I still love him/her? Should I be trying to re-start my career, or find a new one, now that the kids have flown the coup? How do I juggle caring for elderly parents with a heavy workload? How do I cope with these debilitating hot sweats? I’m exhausted, so why am I awake so much during the night? Where’s my concentration gone? Why do I get so muddled up? Why am I so anxious about things I used to take in my stride? How do I cope with the pain of losing him/her? Why do I want to shut myself away?
It’s no wonder we start to feel rubbish when any one of those things (or any of the other multitude of things that mid-life throws at us) kicks in. But it’s ironic that that’s also when we tend to stop doing the things that are ‘good’ for us, the things that are most likely to help us manage those things that are making us feel a bit rubbish. Which can then lead to us feeling something more serious than just a bit rubbish.
(I do hope your mid-life muddled brain isn’t getting in the way of you following this…?)
It’s when we most need to do the things that are good for us — when we’re faced with low energy levels, time constraints, a difficult change in circumstances, a big loss — that the doing of the things that are good for us tends to drop away.
And, the thing is, we have a tendency to trick ourselves into believing that we’re ‘treating’ ourselves when we’re not doing those things.
‘I’ll not go to my exercise class tonight, I’ll treat myself to a night in front of the telly instead’.
‘I’ll not cook tonight, I’ll treat myself to take-away instead.’
‘I’m feeling rubbish. I need a treat. Pass me the tub of Haagen Dazs…’ (Totally holding my hand up to that one in years gone by!)
Now, of course, sometimes we are too tired to go to the gym, or we really don’t have time to cook. And there’s nothing wrong with the odd tub of ice cream here and there…but it’s so important that we don’t get caught up in making those choices too often, because then what happens is that what started as a ‘treat’ — missing our exercise class for a night, not going to choir, eating not-very-nourishing food, not going for a walk at lunchtime etc etc — becomes a habit, and a not very good one at that.
Rather than ‘treating’ ourselves, we end up ‘mis-treating’ ourselves, and the circumstances that led to us giving ourselves a so-called ‘treat’ become all the more difficult to manage.
So, instead of:
‘I’m not going to choir (substitute with your own hobby/exercise class/regular good thing you do) tonight because I’ve got so much on my mind, I’m tired and I can’t be bothered even with the thought of getting myself there while I’m feeling like this. I don’t have to go. I’m treating myself to another night in front of the telly instead’.
You could try:
‘I know I don’t want to go to choir tonight because I’m feeling rubbish. I also know that getting up and going is good for me, whether I feel like doing it or not. I know that going there is better for me than staying here. Pass my folder, I’m treating myself to a sing-song.’
And instead of:
‘I’m not cooking tonight because I’m feeling low, fed-up, tired and just can’t be bothered. I’m treating myself to a take-away instead.’
You could try:
‘I know I don’t want to cook tonight because I’m feeling rubbish. I also know that eating a nourishing meal is good for me, whether I feel like making it or not. I know that putting good stuff into my body instead of bad stuff is better for me both physically and mentally, and spending a wee bit of time in the kitchen pottering about with some good tunes on sometimes cheers me up. Pass the wok and veggies, I’m treating myself to a stir-fry!'
You maybe think I’m making it sound too simple. But, honestly, sometimes it really is as simple as stepping back, taking a pause and holding a different conversation with yourself.
It’s worth a try.
Because the longer we stick with — and the more entrenched we become in — bad habits, the more difficult it becomes to motivate ourselves out of them, and do the things that really genuinely are treating our minds and bodies: keeping active, eating and drinking nourishing stuff, being creative, being outdoors, being in good company etc.
So, go on, give it a go. Change the dialogue — and try turning the word ‘treat’ on its head…