I want to tell you all a little story. One of those classic “aha” moments that I’ve carried with me since.
It was a cold Autumn morning. The type of morning where the sun is shining but you have to pull your jumper up over your nose to keep it warm. The type of cold that seeps into your socks and chills you to the core. The type of cold that you somehow can’t escape no matter how hard you try.
It was a Sunday. I’d organised to see my mentor at a cute cafe in Kirribili. Every month or so we’d meet up over eggs on sourdough and check in. See how my mental health was tracking. What I was doing well and what I had to do better.
We found a table close to the water. It was a stunning morning. I remember looking out and seeing the sun hit the water. It’s the kind of beauty you really have to be there to appreciate. But in that moment, looking out on Sydney Harbour all I felt was exhaustion. And dread.
You see, I had organised to meet my mentor for breakfast earlier so that I could get home before 10am to study for the 30th consecutive day.
Enjoy this while you can, I thought to myself. The rest of the day you’re really going to have to focus. You’ve got so much to get done.
We started chatting. We ordered. Our food came. I think he could see that I was deeply unhappy and exhausted. Or both. I think everyone who knew me at the time knew that. I was burning the candle so hard at both I would have nothing left at the end of the week. But somehow I kept moving. Because perfectionists don’t quit. Perfectionists don’t rest when there’s work to be done.
I don’t know how the moment came about, honestly. I can’t really remember. But for some reason I asked him whether he ever took time off when he was at uni. We’re talking about a man who was doing a double degree in Law, working, volunteering. and still managing to get fantastic results. I assumed he, like me, was working every day and was just used to it. He, like me, was a perfectionist so surely he didn’t take too much time off? Maybe an afternoon here and there. But a full day? I couldn’t phathom that was possible.
“Oh,” he said. “Soph, I take at least a full day off a week.”
I remember my mouth pretty much falling open.
“Even when you were at uni?” I asked.
“Even at uni.”
“And…and you’d suggest I do the same thing?” I asked him.
That was the “aha” moment. Someone who I trusted, respected and admired, someone who was highly successful, had told me that I should be taking a day off to reboot and recuperate. Like him.
I can’t even explain the relief.
Every week of every month I take one full day off. Off uni readings and assignments. Off my training. Off pretty much everything.
That day, for me, is really important. I need it to keep myself steady and sane. I also need it so that when I do work during the week I can actually give it my full attention.
We hear alot these days about “self-care Sundays”. Your mind immediately imagines someone sitting with a green smoothie in their lap whilst meditating and wearing an organic face mask. But that’s not what it’s about for everyone.
Self-care for me, is sleeping in (until just after 7am, because let’s be honest we don’t want to waste the whole day). Self-care for me, means not doing a hard-core gym session. Maybe going for a walk if I can be bothered and if I can’t, I don’t. Self-care, for me, means sitting on the couch in the afternoon and watching the AFL with a nice cup of tea and a digestive biscuit. It means not checking my emails. It means eating something my body’s really craving. It’s checking in on Sammy Robinson’s YouTube videos or reading a few articles on the Sydney Morning Herald.
It’s just a day where I can take time to reward myself for working hard the whole week. It’s something to look forward to. My self-care Sunday is sacred and I need it now to operate to the best of my ability for the next week.
So if you’re someone like me, who struggles to travel any slower than a million miles an hour and burns their candle aggressively at both ends, this is something you should try. I was surprised how much more productive I was throughout the week when I took a full day off to reboot.
But I wouldn’t have been able to take that Self-Care Sunday without some external influence. Without someone who I respected telling me it was okay to take a break. So, if you want or need some external influence, this can be your permission. To embrace the self-care Sunday with the force a thousand suns.
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