When animals hibernate, they do so to conserve their energy.
And this winter I found myself in hibernation and contemplation.
Earlier this year, I was pulled in many different directions. This left a sense of overwhlem by all the ‘duties’ to attend to. As a mum, lawyer, wife, friend, daughter, business owner and sister.
As a strong advocate on the importance of wellbeing, I knew that one of the key proponents to wellbeing was to practice self-care.
Discernment about the way I use my time and energy was crucial if I was going to get through all the demands placed on me.
The strategy was simple: focus on the things that matter the most.
I stopped monitoring and engaging on social media. Personal emails weren’t checked as often. And I stopped responding to emails with a sense of urgency like I used to.I made sure to carve out white space in the calendar. Meditation occured at least daily.
Creativity was embraced through hobbies like drawing. And spending time reading anything other than a contract or something to do with work was essential.
Soothing rituals were also added to the routine when I bought some exquisite bath bombs and had a regular luxurious bath.
Despite all this self-care, I still felt drained.
So much so, that I fell ill four times. This is a record for someone who has previously gone for years with an almost unblemished sick leave record. As I hibernated and embraced introspection, reflecting on what my body was saying, I awoke to a massive life lesson.
Self-nurture means so much more than making time for yourself, or disconnecting from the world.
It also means speaking your truth and being faithful to your needs and wants. And it all started with having the courage to speak up and set new boundaries around what I was honestly feeling and needing.
I found the courage not to attend every family function or social gathering, which was a huge turning point. Previously I would attend a function out of obligation or not wanting to offend anyone.
Being able to simply state that I wasn’t going to attend because I preferred a relaxing weekend at home instead felt so liberating. Similarly, having the courage to ask for and create more flexibility at work was empowering.
The ability to truthfully ask for what I need, and to honestly share what I am feeling or what I am thinking, has always been such a foreign and terrifying thing to do.
There are a myriad of reasons why this is so.
- Wanting to avoid conflict at all costs.
- Being afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings.
- Being too consumed with the worry of how someone may change their opinion of me.
- Feeling undeserving.
The list goes on…
This led me to thinking about how at odds this is with my work as a lawyer.
Lawyers are adept at putting rules and boundaries in place for others to comply with. We know how to create contracts which articulate the needs of our clients. We find it easy to speak on our clients’ behalf, and fight for their rights.
- But how good are lawyers at articulating their own needs?
- Setting their own clear boundaries?
- Speaking their own truth?
Having spoken to many (mostly female) lawyers, I believe this may be an issue that permeates the profession.
I know many lawyers who still haven’t found the courage to ask for flexible working arrangements. Who find it hard to push back against unrealistic timeframes and billing targets. And who would never dare to say ‘no’ to a client or to a manager, even though it means another weekend at the office, or going against their own values.
If this resonates with you, it may be worth reflecting on whether you need to set boundaries to protect your wellbeing.
To respect your valuable time. To respect what your body is telling you. To respect your own needs by speaking up to ensure they are met.
Learning to set boundaries and speaking your needs will surely take a lifetime of practice to master.
Yet one thing you can be certain of, as Winter passes into Spring, is that when you find that voice, you start to feel empowered. And you tend to have more energy.
This is exactly what living authentically means.
By being true to your own needs, you will bring the best of yourself to every area of your life.