Have you ever asked yourself why you get so irritable?
When, all of a sudden, you feel so annoyed, or angry, or maybe upset that you could scream, cry. Tell everybody around you to just Fuck off.
It comes out of nowhere. Ambushing you without warning.
One moment you think you are fine. The next you could strangle every person who wants something or dares to even talk to you.
The pressure in your chest chokes your breath and your brain screams: “Everybody just shut up!”
And it’s not like you at all.
You don’t usually snap at people. Or hurt them. You aren’t always so over-emotional or hyper-sensitive.
And you sure as hell don’t normally swear.
But, in this very moment, you can’t help it. It feels like you are possessed. It’s surreal.
And afterwards, when the short-tempered storm has passed, you feel so embarrassed. So guilty for being awful to the people in your life. For fighting with your partner, making the kids cry or causing your co-workers to retreat with this look of judgement in their disbelieving eyes.
You lost it.
Now you have to deal with the damage. And the shame.
You feel like you can’t live with yourself. You beat yourself up for being a terrible, emotionally unstable person. Lay awake at night seeking an explanation for your mood swings. Wrecking your brain.
Why do you become so irritable, out of the blue, without reason? What is wrong with you?
When the answer is: Nothing. Nothing is wrong with you.
You are just neglecting something essential.
We are all so busy. Rushing from one appointment to the next. Scrambling to accomplish all the tasks, responsibilities and chores on our lists.
We aim to please, don't want to let anyone down. Are desperate to meet expectations. Be good enough.
Our work, partners, children, friends, pets, the household all compete for our attention. And time.
But time is our most limited resource.
And the more we stuff into our day, the more difficult it becomes to get me-time. Until we struggle to even fit in eating, sleeping, showering.
And we find ourselves in a work meeting, battling to control our overfilled bladder. Because we didn’t have one spare minute to pee.
Think about the insanity of it! And the tragedy.
Day in, day out, we are supportive friends, reliable workers, dedicated parents and loyal partners. Always doing whatever we can (and more) to help out. To be there for everybody else.
But we utterly neglect the single most important person in our lives.
Simply because we don't have enough time. We need to prioritise. We must tackle the most pressing issues and tasks first and then proceed in the order of importance.
And we are always at the bottom of our never-ending list. We are always our to-do-list item with the lowest possible priority.
And that’s a massive problem.
You see, the human body evolved to expend tremendous amounts of energy. For example when hunting, searching for food, racing to escape danger or, well, guaranteeing the survival of the species.
It can withstand stress, adrenaline rushes and exertion without damage to its vital systems.
IF...big if here...the times of stress are interrupted by regular periods of rest.
Our body needs rest to release tension, regenerate, repair. It will only function to its best abilities if it gets downtime for maintenance.
Without rest and relaxation, our health will suffer. And it's not a matter of whether our body will malfunction, but when.
Rest is vital to the body. And, as such, it cannot be optional.
But it’s not just the body that suffers. A constant state of stress and overwhelm will increase the internal pressure in our energy body and put the mind into overdrive.
This is especially true for introverts.
And excessive internal pressure and a manic (and overtired) mind result in sudden irritability characterised by emotional imbalance, anxiety, anger outbursts or crying fits.
It’s your mind screaming: “Enough already!” Because it cannot cope any longer without downtime and silence.
So, rest is an essential prerequisite for health and emotional balance.
But answer me this. When do you ever get me-time? Or rest?
So, if you tend to get irritable and emotional without apparent reason, from one minute to the next, it’s because you never get me-time to rest and reset.
Your body and mind aren’t demanding by the way. Thirty minutes a day are enough to prevent irritability, overwhelm and emotional instability.
But I know what you’re thinking.
Rest sounds nice. And I would love to have some time to myself. But I hardly manage to shower in the morning. It's just not realistic. I have to push through now. I will have time to rest again when the children are grown up, the work project is finished, humans colonise Uranus, etc.
And I get it. I really do.
There is always so much we have to do. And when we do get a few minutes to ourselves we have hundreds of things we’d love to do but never get round to. Maybe go for a run, hit the gym, write the next page of the novel we started six years ago.
And rest and relaxation slip to the bottom of our priority list.
Because we cannot find the time.
And even worse. We also feel guilty when we do! If we aren't hustling, stressing and rushing, we feel like lazy, selfish slackers. Which, in society's eyes, makes us worth less.
We associate busyness and stress with a feeling of worthiness. Because we contribute, we achieve, we please. So, the more worthy we want to feel, the less we can allow ourselves to slow down. Which is why we struggle to give ourselves permission to rest.
So, let me help you with that.
I know you want to prove yourself. You worry about letting others down if you prioritise yourself. You fret about displeasing, disappointing, upsetting them. And fear their judgement if you do nothing (for a little while).
But resting isn’t any more selfish than eating or breathing.
And 30 minutes of rest every day are not self-indulgent but vital. Because a short nap, a bath, snuggling up on the sofa in silence with a good book, some yoga or meditation will maintain your health and prevent irritability.
It’s essential that you give yourself permission to rest.
You deserve it. You don’t have to prove your worth by being busy. Or convince others of your worth by being indispensable.
You ARE worth. Personified. Worth is the essence of your Being. You can never be worthless.
And if you don’t allow yourself to rest, your body will produce illness to force you to slow down.
So, as a health scientist, energy healer and your friend, I herewith issue you a permission, nay, a prescription for rest:
This is your official permission to prioritise rest at least for half an hour a day. Because your health and wellbeing depend on it.
Your body deserves a break. Your mind deserves peace. And you deserve me-time. So, take it.
Because you ARE worth. Whether you are busy or not.
Rest is essential for body, mind and emotional balance. We’ve established that. Great.
But, let's face it. If you just squash 30 minutes more into your overflowing diary (even if it’s to rest), it adds another task to now even less time.
And the result will be more stress.
Your me-time will be forced, anxious and utterly unrelaxing. Because you spend it worrying about all the other jobs you still ought to do before you can collapse into bed.
Until you start to resent what should be a welcome, beneficial break. Because it takes time away from everything else that's going on in your life.
Every day is limited to 24 hours. If our schedule is jam-packed, we must get rid of something before we can add something new.
So, before we can enjoy our daily dose of rest, we need to first carve time out for it. To make it fit into our day without increasing stress.
And there are two crucial ways to achieve this.
I know it isn’t easy to get rest when life is trying to swallow you whole. When you have bills to pay, a family to care for and daily battles to fight.
But rest and me-time are essential. You must prioritise rest if you want to maintain your health, restore emotional balance and eradicate irritability.
At least 30 minutes a day (and 7 to 8 hours a night, no cheating here by pinching the 30 minutes off your sleep time).
And you only really have two options:
Say “No” to some things. And “Yes” to others.
Every toddler knows how to use the word "no". With unbridled conviction and presumptuousness.
But when we grow older, we learn to put others first. We start to believe that we are only worth as much as we achieve and please.
And we stop saying "no" altogether.
Because we fear rejection and judgement. We don't want to disappoint others or make them angry. And we are terrified we may lose other people's love and approval if we appear too selfish.
But, if you want health and emotional balance, you have to rest. And, if you want to rest, you will have to re-learn how to say "no".
Without guilt, shame or conflict.
Whenever somebody asks us to do something for them, our first instinct is to say "yes". So, it's important to buy yourself some thinking time. Tell them you will consider it and get back to them in a couple of hours.
And then think about how the additional tasks you are asked to fulfil will impact on your day. Will it gobble up your me-time? Will it cause more stress? Do you even want to do it? Or would you just do it because you don't want to risk displeasing the other person?
Helping others can be wonderful and fulfilling. Showing your boss that you are willing to “go the extra mile” may be good for your career.
But if we have no time, would have to neglect ourselves because of it or would only do it to please (or avoid conflict), it's time to politely decline.
And the best way I found is with what my boss calls "the smiling brick wall".
Instead of saying "no" (which can come across a bit argumentative and harsh), smile and say: "I would love to help you out with this. If I only had more time."
I've not met anybody yet who could argue with that.
But, does this mean that others need to pick up your slack? Do you need to feel guilty for letting them down?
Because you aren’t slacking. You are already doing the maximum that is humanly possible. Rest is not a self-indulgent luxury. If you don’t get me-time, your body, mind and emotions will crumble.
And that wouldn’t help anybody now, would it?
A lot of our stress comes from trying to avoid other people's judgement.
I used to spend days scrubbing the house like a maniac before the in-laws came to visit.
But still, they would bring their own pillows because my covers weren't ironed properly. Still they would criticise the lacklustre level of cleanliness of my windows. And get up early to sneakily clean the inside of my dishwasher.
And I felt judged. And ashamed.
Because they were implying that my efforts weren't good enough. That, despite all the stress I was putting myself through, I was found wanting. I wasn't perfect.
But you know what?
Nothing and nobody will ever be perfect. And other people's opinions about us (or our dishwasher), change nothing about our worth. We ARE worth. No matter what others think about us.
Judgemental people will always look for things they can condemn. Whether you stress out about it or not.
So, you might as well spend the time resting. Much better for your health.
When my daughter was born, life became chaos overnight. Like every new parent, I was hit with a myriad of new, unfamiliar tasks. Everything took forever as I tried to find my feet.
Feeding, bathing, changing, soothing. The amount of work was never ending. And, despite ignoring the midwife's advice that I should sleep when the baby was sleeping, the household spiralled out of control.
Until I broke down crying and my husband found me huddled in a pile of dirty laundry in front of the washing machine.
Looking back now, I can only blame myself (and low self-worth) for this mortifying episode. Because, even though I struggled and was almost on my knees, I did not ask for help.
For two very different reasons.
When our workload becomes overwhelming, and we have tried everything to reduce it (e.g. by saying no), we only have one option left.
To ask for help. To either delegate or outsource work to other people.
After my breakdown, my husband implored me to get a cleaner once a week to help with the household. And I cringed. Resisted. Squirmed.
Because, to me, paying for help was like an admission of failure.
It meant that I wasn't good enough. Not strong enough to cope with what life threw my way. With what seemed to be my responsibility, my tasks.
But, once I thought about it, I realised that it made perfect sense.
I had money, but no time. And out there somewhere, was a person who had the time, but needed the money.
Accepting help is not a sign of weakness, but one of self-love. We don't fail if we can't cope. A lot of the time it is just too much. And outsourcing some of our tasks not only helps us, it also supports other people.
Sure, at first I cringed at the thought of paying for things I could do myself. But, to be honest, my health, my emotional balance and my me-time are worth much more than this.
My husband is a willing helper. But he is chore-blind and needs to be instructed. And he does things differently to me.
The same goes at work.
I tend to take everything on myself. Because I feel that the time it takes to instruct somebody, oversee their work and then deal with their mistakes is more than what it would take me to do it myself.
Sure, we all know how we want things done. But who cares how things are done as long as they are off your list.
Yes, my husband loads the dishwasher and folds the laundry in a different way. My colleagues write reports that sound different to my own. But does it really matter? As long as it gets done?
I used to re-load the dishes and re-fold the T-shirts. I used to spend hours editing other people's writing. Which is completely insane, if you think of it!
We cannot control everything. It’s just not healthy.
Nothing will ever be perfect. I am not perfect. My husband and colleagues aren't perfect. You are not perfect.
And we don't need to be. We ARE worth. Just as we are. With all our perceived faults and weaknesses. Even if we outsource and delegate. Because there is no shame in admitting that we reached our limit.
That we need help.
Your body, mind and emotional balance need rest. It’s non-negotiable.
So, get declining and delegating. Outsource. Give up control. Hand work over to others. And breathe.
You are not a failure or a disappointment because of it. You are not taking advantage or don’t pull your weight if you carve out 30 minutes every day to rest.
But make sure you spend the freed-up time on yourself.
You ARE worth. You deserve to get me-time.
And just think about all the time you’ll save if you don’t have to apologise for being irritable. If you don’t have to beat yourself up for being an emotional wreck. Or worry about what other people may think about your fragile emotional state.
It will be bliss.