Updated: Dec 1
Nowadays, life can feel really overwhelming and it feels like it’s getting worse. Burnout, instead of being treated as the (mental) health issue it really is, is rather becoming a badge of honour.
If you feel like life is flying past you, that you don’t have any control over your time and everyone wants a piece of you, you’ll probably be advised that self-care is the best way to address this feeling. But what does self-care actually mean and can it be used as a way to reclaim yourself?
The idea of reclaiming oneself is a powerful one. We have become accustomed of living our lives according to others' demands and their needs. Our boss, partner, kids, parents, friends and even random strangers on school Whatsapp groups seem to call all the shots.
What does it mean to reclaim yourself?
The Merriam Webster dictionary has one of these definitions for the word reclaiming - a : to demand or obtain the return of or b : to regain possession of.
These are powerful verbs that describe the process of once again finding yourself. Reclaiming yourself means that you make the conscious choice to follow your own life path. You no longer seek others' approval of your choices and you actively decide you are no longer going to be distracted by things that don’t serve the journey you’re on.
Reclaiming your life means that you realise it’s up to you to create your own happiness. It means taking ownership for the choices you make in your life and what you allow for yourself.
You have one precious life and if you feel it’s out of whack and that everyone else has a piece of you, it’s time to reevaluate your values and priorities. It’s time to take a step back and try another way of living life… This time on your terms and within your boundaries.
Reclaiming yourself is the journey we all go on, especially as we reach midlife, where we become more aware of our limited time on this planet.
We realise that some things are no longer working for us. If they haven't already been addressed in therapy, they’re now coming to the fore.
Your body may be communicating with you, telling you to slow down or take better care of it. Your family may be worried about the amount of work you have on your plate (or they may even be demanding more than you can give).
How long does it take to reclaim your life?
The process of reclaiming yourself can’t be done in a weekend. You can’t time-block this out and expect to have it done and dusted in a few days. It’s an ongoing process and journey, and sometimes when we feel lost or we can’t see the wood for the trees, it’s good to remember there are a few things we can do to see clearly again and reconnect with that voice within.
Reclaiming your life is like sculpting a masterpiece out of chaos. First, acknowledge burnout isn’t a personal failure; it’s often the system failing you. Start with boundaries—solid, firm, and non-negotiable. Weed out the unnecessary, then nurture your passions. Remember, self-worth isn’t tied to productivity; it's in the joy of being. Seek support, set achievable goals, and build a life that whispers, "This is me, unapologetically." It's about reclaiming your narrative and rewriting it with empowerment, grace, and fierce determination.
10 practical steps to start your journey of reclaiming yourself
Here are 10 practical steps you can take in the next few weeks to help reclaim yourself and your sanity.
1. Go to bed early
This is a simple action to take, yet few acknowledge its importance. It may feel like the nights after the kids are put to bed are the only times you get to have to yourself, but going to bed earlier and at a consistent time can do wonders for your state of mind.
If you feel like you need some alone time, why not wake up earlier in the morning and sit in silence?
2. Declutter your space
You may be feeling overwhelmed because wherever you look around you, there’s a build up of clutter around you. This doesn’t help clear thinking and can keep you stuck in a particular pattern.
Block some time out during the week to clean your office and desk or over the weekend to declutter your bedroom or kitchen. Anywhere really that you need to have calm and organisation.
Have calm conversations with other family members and explain how the clutter and mess is making you feel. Ask for their cooperation and help to find a solution or help clean up. Donate what you don't need and feel good about helping other people.
3. Switch off the news
The news today is particularly depressing. Whilst we can’t be unaware of what’s going on in the world, news channels make their money out of keeping you hooked into the drama, like an addict to an intravenous drug.
Make the choice to limit social media and surfing news sites, switch off your notifications and enjoy feeling more positive and in control of your news feed.
4. Time-block your calendar
Make a list of the most important tasks draining your energy and keeping you awake at night. Tackle these by blocking out time to address them. If they are really large tasks, break them down even further and dedicate at least an hour every day to making them go away or by resolving issues. This will help you feel less overwhelmed and more in control.
5. Stop seeking validation from others
It’s exhausting trying to keep everyone around you happy. As a mom especially, much of our identity is wrapped up in solving other people’s problems or helping others. When we rely on others to make us feel good, we give away our power and our self-esteem dwindles.
When you start to feel the familiar feeling of resentment come over you because you never got the reaction or the validation you expected from someone else, take a pause and get curious about what it is you’re expecting and what you can do in future to ensure you are not taken for granted. Learn to verbalise what you need and be clear in your communication with others.
6. Reconnect with friends
The pandemic really has altered the way we socialise and connect with people. So many of us were affected by the isolation from being in lockdown, unable to see people face to face. As we are coming out of this long 2-year period, it’s good to start reconnecting deeply with people that matter. Plan time every week to reconnect with at least one person who you haven’t seen in a while. Spend time with only people who fill you up and want the best for you.
7. Go away on a solo retreat
We’ve spent so much time at home being cooped up with family or worked so hard that getting away from routine and family could be a godsend. Take yourself away on a mini solo retreat, even if it’s only for a weekend. Give yourself permission to sleep late, eat what you like and do exactly as you please.
8. Get moving
There is a proven link between leading a sedentary lifestyle and depression. Even if you go for a walk or do a workout in front of the TV, get moving. You’ll find that as soon as endorphins start flowing, you’ll feel better and you’ll gain perspective, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed. Get moving consistently and you’ll realise the benefits of weight-loss, anxiety relief and overall positivity.
9. Set new goals
Maybe it’s time to re-look your goals and see whether they still excite you or how far you’ve come towards achieving them. Maybe they need a total overhaul?
Maybe they need to be smartened up (SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely).
This process may spur on other ideas and thoughts and get you excited again about where your journey is taking you.
10. Try something new
If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, the solution could be to try something new.
Have you always wanted to learn the piano? Buy a course online! Why not? What have you got to lose?
Want to get out in nature? Join a hiking group and meet new people.
When we introduce novelty into our lives, it kickstarts creativity and positivity.
What have you always put off because of some or other excuse that you could now feasibly entertain?
And if you’re hesitant, journal about the reasons why you may be scared. You’ll be surprised that once verbalised, your fears might not be so relevant after all.
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