Self care isn’t selfish, it’s an act of love

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I’ve experienced anxiety most of my life.

As a child I often felt jittery nervousness, I had learning difficulties and found it difficult to sit still.

As a teenager into early adulthood, I would burn the candle at both ends until I’d burn out.

As I matured, being a high achiever, I traded that lifestyle with work.

My hours were long, my training regime tough, my mantra “go hard or go home.”

This cycle played out for more than two decades until I was forced to stop and look at how I was showing up.

There was so much going on back then, my mother in-law had recently passed away.

She had mental health issues that led her to being in poor health.

My father was diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

Dad had a range of complex mental health conditions with maladaptive coping mechanisms.

He was a SAS soldier who, for many years, lived with undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

After Dad left the Army, he worked for the Department of Corrections.

In three separate incidences, he was faced with prisoners who had taken their lives.

He retired at 55 totally and permanently incapacitated.

Mum was caring for my father and grandmother, she spent most of her days in chaos with carers fatigue.

My wife Sunny and I were amid a financial crisis, working long hours to make ends meet, drinking daily to “wine down.”

Our life was stressful, and work was sedentary, we ate poorly and had no energy.

Thanks to the wonderful work of science, we now know intergenerational trauma plays an important role in the health outcomes of those impacted by trauma and their families.

Through my studies, I could see this cycle playing out within my family.

I remember one day looking around and thinking “I’m surrounded by people not taking care of themselves, and I’m one of them!”

I knew change had to start with me.

It was time to rewrite the story and create a new mantra.

My new mantra became: ‘Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s an act of love for those you lead.’ – Rebecca Hannan

And so, the journey began, with my drafted map, I set off on a trail of discovery.

I met many mentors and guides along the way.

They shone a light when mine grew dim, showed me the way when I felt unsure, and walked with me as I stumbled along.

I’ve spent more than 30 years in the Health and Wellness Industry so the only way I knew how to do this was to get moving again and draw on my coaching experience.

Being active gave me a sense of purpose and a reason to get up and moving. I joined various fitness groups and started making new friends.

Running and yoga quickly became my choice of movement.

Trail running enabled me to explore Margaret River in a new way while expending my nervous energy.

Yoga taught me to slow down, relax and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

At times I was so uncomfortable, I wanted to stomp right out of those yoga classes and never come back. I persisted and am so glad I did.

I started eating fresh, whole foods again and I replaced coffee and alcohol with water and herbal tea. I also sought professional help.

Working with a psychologist helped me to untangle the threads of life that had become a giant knotted and messy clump.

Things became less overwhelming, made more sense, and equipped me with invaluable coping strategies. For over a decade I lived anxiety free.

Life still threw curveballs, but I moved through them with ease and an element of grace.

However, this year unwanted events hit hard like yet another bomb, blowing my life apart.

Initially I sank into despair, feeling raw, empty, and in a bottomless pit.

My heart and body ached.

Fortunately, I know from previous experience I will survive.

I’ve built resilience from previous challenges.

Again, I’ve had to dig deep into my toolbox to put the shattered fragments together again.

I’ve sought calm, partly through stepping away from stressful situations and people: Listening deeply to my body.

Now, I’m going slower, allowing myself to fully experience and welcome the waves of emotions that rise and fall with unpredictable force.

But I know that with time, focus and patience, this too shall pass.

MINDFUL Margaret River is an alliance of professionals, agencies, community members and the AMR Shire working to promote health & wellbeing.

REBECCA Hannan is a Workplace Wellness Writer, Speaker, and Trainer. She is also a Yoga, Mindfulness, and Meditation Teacher.

Specialising in Mining and Construction, Rebecca helps FIFO workers and their families stay connected, work safely, and manage stress.

Rebecca has lived in Margaret River with her wife and three children for 20 years.

First published in the Augusta Margaret River Mail 13 September 2021

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