While talking to a friend recently (also Highly Sensitive) about how important it is to nurture ourselves, she raised a question that surprised me. ‘What does nurturing yourself mean exactly’? she asked.
That stopped me in my tracks. I’d been assuming (always dangerous) that how to nurture ourselves was obvious, but then I started to think about it & my friend was absolutely right – ‘nurturing yourself’ can mean different things to different people.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been kicking back, taking it easy and doing some self-nurturing. This isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but my self-enforced rest came after an unexpected overnight stay in hospital (only to be told I was absolutely fine)!
As I lay in the very narrow bed at the back of A&E getting no sleep, I had a lot of time to ponder. How did I end up here? I’d just started juicing and eating healthily for goodness sake! Still, the Universe and my body seemed to be sending me a very clear sign and I needed to take heed. After I’d run through various doomsday scenarios in my mind, (I’m never going to see my children again, Oh No! -have I made a Will?!? etc, etc.), I started to think about my values. Of course, the most important things in my life are my family. Seems obvious you’d think, but it took my overnight stay in A&E to really crystallise this for me.
It was now finally clear to me that I need to be in the best possible health to enjoy my family, and to be around for as long as possible to watch my children grow and thrive.
Which brings me right back to nurturing ourselves.
Being Highly Sensitive, nurturing myself needs to take top priority. The Highly Sensitive Person’s nervous system is on constant alert, we’re noticing more things and processing more deeply, all of the time. This can put a real strain on us, especially if we don’t take enough time out to recharge our batteries.
For us Highly Sensitive folk, basic things like sleep become a make or break part of our lives. It makes sense that as we’re doing more in terms of noticing and processing during the day, our bodies need more sleep to process and heal during the night.
I personally know that if I don’t get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, I can’t function and turn into an irritable dragon!
Quite apart from the basics like sleep, good nutrition, exercise, and relaxation, nurturing ourselves also takes the form of spending time in nature, reconnecting to something larger.
A less obvious one, nurturing ourselves also means being mindful of who we spend time with. Especially if you’re a Highly Sensitive Empath, where you can’t help but pick up on the emotions of other people, you need to monitor whether a relationship or situation is energising you or leaving you feeling as if your tank has just been drained down to zero.
Your energy and your time is precious. Be selfish with both, so that you have enough energy and time for the people and events in your life that really matter. Remember that whatever you say ‘Yes’ to means you’re saying ‘No’ to something else.
Rehearse the phrase ‘I’m sorry, that doesn’t work for me’ and use it whenever you feel you’re about to be drawn into something that doesn’t add joy to your life.
Non-Highly Sensitive People can suffer from burn-out too. It’s just that as Highly Sensitive People, we have to take care of our needs earlier than others, and it’s our responsibility to do it. We can’t rely on the people around us to notice that we’re in need of more rest and relaxation. If they aren’t Highly Sensitive, they may assume that as we’re getting the same amount of rest they are and they are clearly fine, we should be too. It’s up to us to learn our optimal levels of activity and equally how to set boundaries to stop us from going into overwhelm.
So, do your Highly Sensitive body and mind a favour. Take some time out from your busy schedule, and spend a few minutes reflecting. Be honest with yourself and consider:
- Am I getting enough sleep – do I wake up feeling refreshed and rested or tired and cranky?
- Is the food I’m eating nutritious and healthy?
- Do I manage to exercise 5 times a week?
- Is relaxation part of my daily routine?
- Am I doing something each day, however small, that feels joyful and feeds my soul?
- Are there people or situations in my life that feel more toxic than nourishing?
- If you answered ‘yes’ to number 6, what can I do to limit my exposure to them?
- Who do I want to spend more time with?
- Am I spending enough time outdoors?
- What other areas of my life would benefit from some nurturing?
If you’re feeling some resistance to nurturing yourself, maybe because you think it’s being selfish spending time and money on yourself, think about it this way: would you rather spend a little time and money now on things that bring you joy and keep you healthy, or deal with the costs associated with disease later on?
Remember what they say in the L’Oreal adverts – ‘..Because you’re worth it’!
And you know what? You really are. A healthy, well-rested, balanced you is worth so much more than a stressed-out, tired, cranky, you. Be brave – invest in yourself and watch your relationships, family life, and work flourish.
What one thing are you going to treat yourself to today that will nurture YOU? Do share it in the comments – I’d love to hear your ideas!