I took about ten days out from my usual volunteering and daily activities recently. I'd been very stressed and was feeling pretty run down. So I needed a break. Break from the slog of all the things I do. A break from the expectations others have of me "Oh, Emma will do that." And most of all I needed a break from the pressure I put on myself to do everything and always say yes because I feel like I should. It's the downside of doing voluntary work - it's very hard to say no. Especially with all the pressure and expectation from society that we should be working in paying jobs full time and pulling our own weight.
I was very clear to everyone what my plans were. I was going to a workshop in Birmingham and to London for two days. And I was going to see a friend. Other than that in the inbetween times I was going to laze around reading, watching TV and knitting. Several people said that sounded wonderful and they wished they could take the time just to be at home and relax. At least one person when told I wouldn't be available at that time got the impression I was going away for the whole time. I didn't disabuse them of that notion because them thinking that suited me.
I enjoyed it and it was very useful. But getting to the point where I could take this break and put myself first for a few days was difficult. And even a few days before I nearly backed down - I could hear a conversation going on around me how someone was needed to do something that week. They weren't sure how it could be done. It was one of my usual days and I didn't have anything planned so for a few seconds I felt like I should speak up and offer to go in as usual. I didn't though. Because I knew that actually I'd do better long term and be more useful to them if I did take some me time and recharge my batteries.
After ten days I felt better. Still tired but less stressed and run down. I'd done almost everything I wanted to do. If anything I could have done with it being a few days longer - I didn't feel ready to go back to my volunteering this Monday!
Going forward I think that's something I probably need to do much more often. I need to carve out that time (which I'm not too bad at doing) and stick to it (I'm terrible at that). But more than that I need to find a way to manage the expectations others have of me and get better at saying no to people when I need to. Me time is fantastic and so important. Fitting it in all the time rather than boom and bust like this is more important.