Exploring ‘Me Time’ by Dawn Gibson Winder
Written by: Dawn Gibson-Winder Recoverer
I joined the Chrysalis program initially because I wanted more for myself and my family than managing my chronic fatigue symptoms, I felt I had done everything to get fully healthy and needed some support. It wasn’t until I began working through the program I realised it was possible to make a full recovery, to live a life where I would be ‘thriving’, not just surviving. Each week on the program, I uncovered more about what steps I needed to take to make this happen.
Having an ‘A’ type personality I am always looking to achieve an end goal or a result, so when I looked more closely at my life I could see that my days were spent in ‘work mode’, even though I was no longer running my business, I was running my life like I still was, everything was urgent and important, and I filled my days with jobs, even when I was fatigued and knew I should give myself a break.
Once my two kids were at school, I got on with the various projects to complete. Even when I had a hobby or interest, I’d make sure it had a dual purpose as my entrepreneurial side took over. From a hobby, I would begin creating new business concepts, or I’d ensure the new interest was going to be part of my ‘Continued Professional Development,’ so this would benefit my career.
It suddenly hit me, I wasn’t doing anything for fun and recreation anymore, I’d lost my creative self! I hadn’t seen this as a problem until I started working on the CE program, I thought it was ok to be continually achieving something and not wasting time ‘creating’. However, this behaviour was one of the key reasons why I had found it difficult to maintain my wellness and had continually experienced periods of burn out and fatigue. I didn’t realise while I’d been ‘on the go’ I had been fire fighting my symptoms and not realising my entire mind and body was running on overdrive.
The days I spent running around managing my life, I was in a constant active mode. My cortisol levels were ramped up, and my sympathetic nervous system was activated. I learned the key was to take a step back and to break the cycle with a rest and relaxation intervention.
I began the process of slowing down by carving out specific ‘Me Time’, which was at least one hour each day where I could stop and do something that calms and relaxes my nervous system.
Like many people, my usual way of creating ‘me time’ was to be on the sofa watching TV in the evening, as it was all I felt I had the energy for. I learned the relaxation time I needed was an activity which didn’t involve screens. At first, switching off from everything was hard, I felt I was being lazy and that I needed to ‘get on’. I began to look for activities that I previously enjoyed which were creative, and I had stopped doing, due to the guilt of not being productive. I soon got hooked, and an hour didn’t feel long enough!
Below are some of the activities and approaches which have enabled me to feel more relaxed but also find a new lease of life and vitality over the last few months.
When I first started colouring, it felt as if was I cheating and that I ‘should’ be creating my own original artwork, as I had done in my twenties when I was an interior floorings designer. I soon realised that it wasn’t about the results it was for fun and an expression of my creativity. Colouring mandalas have been my favourite form of mindfulness colouring. I enjoy creating colour palettes and finding ways to make the patterns dance. Sitting at the kitchen table with my favourite music on, I feel my active mind becomes slower, things become clearer as I relax into the process of colouring precisely within the lines and to find joy and calm in the moment.
Another passion I had from my college days was photography, I used to carry around a bulky Olympus 35mm film camera. I take many photos, never knowing what the results would be until they returned days later from the developer. I’ve now gone back to my old school ways with modern-day technology of my iPhone. I now take photos for the joy in capturing something special in the moment. I do this only for me not to share, and this makes the time mindful.
I started looking around for beauty in the ordinary, that was when I began to see the world in a new way. From looking up and cloud watching, to looking on the ground beneath my feet, iPhone photography has got me to slow down and be in the present. I started to notice my environment more vividly, I became more engaged in my surroundings and began to take out my phone and captured images on the screen that inspired me. Textures and patterns, blocks of colour, beginning to connect with the world around me has been inspiring.
The one thing I have managed with consistency over the years while living with fatigue was writing my life story, it was something that I could do with a passion, and it made me feel alive, and that I had a purpose. Making time to write each day is a process that helps me heal, this is the journaling I do. However, it is also important for me to make time to be creative with my words and write in a way that takes my jumbled up thoughts and insights and puts them into a meaningful story. I have been exploring the subject of ‘Writing self’, which has included Memoir and Personal essay writing. This process has given me a voice, a way to explore my experiences and creatively express myself. I still have a lot to learn, but I love the process and going to classes is one way to keep it fun and to keep learning at the same time.
By giving myself permission to take some time for myself, I can see a big difference in my health, the more time I have, the more I want, I am calmer more present, and alive.
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