While I have always been quite reflective about improving my practice as a dietitian, I’ve rarely reflected on my personal self-development. Time for that to change! These are three life lessons I’ve learnt in 2016.
With 2016 about to slip past it’s a natural time to reflect on the good and not-so-good things that have happened this year. It’s been another big year for me. I’ve qualified as a sports dietitian, completed an Ironman, gone back to uni and countless other achievements. At the same time, I’ve ended up doing 80-90 hour weeks, running off 4 hours sleep for days on end, eating sporadically, isolating myself, been chasing my tail and felt constantly behind to the point that now two days before Christmas I am literally exhausted beyond measure.
Through this I’ve gained some valuable lessons for the future.
Learning how to say no
I am a bit of a people pleaser. I love helping people, really hate letting people down, and often feel like saying no is letting those down around me. As my schedule has gotten much busier this last 6 months in particular I’ve HAD to say no to projects due to the lack of time.
But sometimes I’ve gone back on my No, even though I know I didn’t really have the time because I wanted to help. By taking way too many projects on, I over committed myself, stretched myself to complete utter exhaustion, given sub-standard work and let people down. The complete opposite of what I set out to do.
I’ve always tried to live by the phrase let your yes be yes and your no be no. If I say I’ll do something, I want that to mean something, to be reliable and trusted. Rather than saying yes to everything that comes my way, I’ve realised that I need to focus on saying yes to opportunities that I’m most passionate about, that align with my values, beliefs and that ultimately make me happy.
Lesson: I need to say NO sometimes in order to give my YES 100%
Learning to chill
As someone who is almost always on the move, being still and relaxing has never come easy for me. I’m lucky enough to be living with my friend Sophie who has the ability to sense when I’m stressed, anxious, over worked and over-tired, call me out on it and encourage me to take a step back, stop being so hard on myself and hold situations lightly. I’m learning. Slowly.
When I’ve been exhausted and talking about ‘having’ to do something or go somewhere when I physically don’t have the energy to, she challenges me. She’ll ask me what going would achieve if I’m not 100% committed. Quite often at times she has literally ordered me to get in the bath and relax, filled the tub with bubbles, lit candles and handed over her ipad to watch a movie since the only way to get me to stay still in there for longer than about 5 minutes is to give me something to ‘do’. As a result I’ve had more baths this year than I’ve probably had in my entire life!
It’s in those quiet moments that our brain has a moment to catch up and process everything that’s going on in our lives. Rather than thinking I’m wasting time, it’s about giving my head a chance to breathe, rest and catch up so I can give 100% the rest of the time.
Lesson: Always being on the go ends up leaving me stressed and anxious
Learning to put me first
With all my running around this year trying to do a million and one things, I’ve ended up putting myself last in so many situations. This has impacted my health, sleep, quality of work, concentration and time with those who really matter to me.
Take my Ironman for example. As a sports dietitian I KNOW how important it is to get your nutrition plan sorted out and practiced well in advance. However with all my rushing around trying to do things and help others, I left my plan to the last minute. I mean I’d sort of roughly figured out what I was going to do on the day, but only really wrote it down and planned it out properly about 2 days before I raced. Not ideal. It was fine on the day, but still, failing to plan is like planning to fail. How much better could I have been if I had given the time to put myself first and sort it out?
Lesson: If I don’t look after myself, I’m not able to help others the way I want to
So, what do I propose to do differently in 2017? I’m planning to do less, not more. Cut back on the non-essentials and focus on doing the things that truly make me happy, spending time with friends and family that build me up rather than drain my energy, explore more of this amazing world we live in and continue to make myself a better person one day at a time.
What lessons have you been learning this year? I’d love to know.