Living with bipolar disorder since 2006 has presented challenges to accomplishing New Year’s resolutions year after year. The fluctuations in my moods – especially crippling depressive episodes – puts a huge burden on the discipline it takes to accomplish goals.
For many years I have tried to wake up early to avoid the frantic weekday rush to get ready for work, fight traffic for an hour or more and make it to work on time, bright eyed and eager to earn a paycheck. I tried and failed so many times. Countless days, months, even years in a row I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed and face the day early enough to avoid the mad dash through my frantic morning routine before work. I have called in late to work more times than anyone else I know.
In 2021, that all changed. My resolution in 2021 wasn’t to wake up early and exercise or wake up early and work extra hours. My 2021 resolution was to simply wake up early enough to do something nice for myself first thing in the morning. That has looked different depending on the day, but it has worked and paid dividends!
Some days I wake up at 5 a.m. before my alarm and I have four hours to myself prior to the start of my workday. (As a person who struggles with mania, I do not allow myself to get out of bed before 5 a.m.) Other days, it’s just a quick 10-minute meditation before the chaos begins.
I don’t have children yet, so this time is all for me. I have spent it reading, treating myself to deep conditioning hair treatments, soothing facial masks, taking long, luxurious showers, practicing yoga, walking in nature, jogging, listening to music, meditating, sipping tea, enjoying donuts and coffee, writing for my website, making entries into my gratitude journal, talking to my sister, praying and today I even wrote out several Christmas cards.
I also sometimes still sleep in! There are days you just need to. The difference is now sleeping in is my choice because I am tired, not because I am avoiding the responsibilities of my day in a dread filled escape of repeatedly hitting the snooze button.
As I reflect on what this me time has done for my wellbeing in the last 365 days the benefits are too numerous to count. These three are worth mentioning.
Increased Inner Peace
I now know and have proven that taking care of myself is a priority. I have the space in my life for the hobbies I want to pursue. It is completely my decision what I do with the me time in my mornings. Most days I do a combination of things. Having the freedom to choose brings me comfort. I am in control of this part of my day before the emails, voicemails, Teams messages, needs of others and disruptions outside of my control begin to attack my space and peace of mind.
The increased inner peace and control I have developed because of this me time practice gave me the courage and confidence to commit to writing a book in 2022 and to apply to graduate school.
We’ve all heard you cannot pour from an empty cup. Filling myself up first every single day has made me more joyous. As a happier person I can give more of myself to my partner, family, friends, clients, and colleagues. I have experienced my relationships growing stronger because I am able to contribute as a healthier more complete person.
In the Psychology Today article, 6 Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. writes, “By spending time with yourself and gaining a better understanding of who you are and what you desire in life, you’re more likely to make better choices about who you want to be around.”
The most obvious benefit is just more time to do what I want. For most people four hours probably isn’t realistic, but 30 minutes before the kids wake up or you must begin getting ready for work might be and that is enough to make your entire day better, then your week and month adding up to improving your entire 2022! After all, 30 minutes a day is 182.5 hours a year of you time!
If you have guilt or resistance making yourself a priority, Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D also wrote this piece for Psychology Today, Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Stealing a Little Time for Yourself. I love this section, “taking care of yourself is something that you should never feel guilty about. It not only models healthy behavior for the ones you love, it also keeps you happy, healthy, and strong so that you can continue doing what fulfills you; and if that’s taking care of others, then you’re in an even better position to do that.”
Modeling Healthy Behavior
I have been trying to conceive for a little about a year and a half and many of the things I do are about trying to become a better person so I can be a better mother. I want to teach my future children, my younger sister, and the junior colleagues I mentor in the workplace that self-care is good for the whole person and every life that person touches.
This New Year I encourage you to make the time to care for yourself a little bit more. I hope you’ll be surprised by all the good this small change can bring into your entire life.
May you have a wonderful, healthy, and prosperous 2022 filled with plenty of you time!
Dayna was 27 years old when she first experienced a two year spiral of mixed manic and depressive episodes, including six inpatient hospitalizations, a suicide attempt, and the threat of a three year commitment if she did not become medically compliant. Today, Dayna maintains a close relationship with her psychiatrist and is thriving in her career and home life with the help of prescribed medications. Dayna lives in the Washington, DC metro area with her partner of 18 years. Together they share their home with two cats, Latte and Donut, and Butters, their corgi. They love to travel the world and have spent time exploring three continents and over two dozen countries.
Dayna writes about her bipolar journey and story on her website,
Connect with Dayna on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaylightandDarknessDayna
and Instagram: https://instagram.com/Day.lightandDarkness