Staying in the equation when the going gets tough
The challenge & importance of self-care during times of emotional struggle, crisis & pain
My beautiful sister (age 51) had a massive stroke last week. I was out of state for business and couldn’t do much to help from afar, except get home. The stress and family dynamics are tough. Emotions come and go, but mostly flood in as we each in our own way try to let reality set in.
Last night, I ate an entire pizza and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. This, of course, was not on my healthy-living, Lori-in-the-equation plan. However, just like old times, I used food to cope with my emotions and then felt guilt over it.
Today, I RESTART!
I know the way. I have successfully found my way back a hundred times in the last five years. I know I can do it and that’s the gift. I also know that self-care and keeping Lori-in-the-equation is the only real way to help my sister and her family.
So today, I’m not beating myself up. I’m not obsessing over it. I am accepting that I’m going to stumble, screw-up and occasionally fall off the Lori-in-the-equation wagon. And then there’s only one thing to do — get Lori back in the equation.
Why am I writing this in a blog for the world to read?
In part, because it’s how I hold myself accountable with the restart. In part, because I know there are so many others who struggle with self-care during challenging or emotional times. And there are those, including many in my family, who have trouble silencing the old tapes — those gremlin voices in our heads of self-doubt and self-destruction. And, I want you to know you are not alone.
I write in part because the very best thing I’ve learned through my now five-year transformation process, is that I can (and will) screw up, forgive myself, name it, feel it, and move on. I have changed those destructive tapes and found new tapes of self-love, forgiveness and acceptance. This is how I stay on the path of living well. It’s how I keep off the 200+ lbs I lost, and honor and nurture my inner self. Yep, I know I’m not perfect, and it’s okay.
As I write this, I am claiming a 100% all-in restart and, at the same time, accepting that I will need support. I will need to be gentle with myself because being in the equation during times of crisis or emotional pain looks quite different than it does on a day-to-day basis when things are going well and I’m in the zone.
Here are some of the ways I will practice self-love, self-care and get back on track so that I can be strong for myself and for my sister.
Lori’s tips for practicing self-care during a crisis:
- Eat regular and well-balanced meals. This means, not skipping meals all together. Not resorting to starchy and sugary carbs — like pizza and ice cream! And, making sure I’m carrying healthy snacks with me when spending long days at the hospital.
- Get exercise. Even if that simply means taking a break and walking to get coffee. Walking from the far end of the hospital to the parking lot. Or, when I can, taking walking breaks to get outside and get some fresh air. I’m hoping to take my niece for a workout in the hotel gym this weekend — something that would be good for both of us!
- Drink water. Hospitals are dry and in so many ways suck the life right out of you. Staying hydrated makes me feel better. I’ve found that carrying bottled water with me and making sure that I get enough water throughout the day is key.
- Take breaks from caring for others — even if it’s stepping away for a short walk outside, stepping away to call a friend, or checking in with work. That short break ensures a reconnect to the outside world and that can be a key refresher.
- Lower the expectations on what you think you should be doing — in your regular life and in the crisis situation. I have to constantly remind myself that I won’t be as productive so it will take longer to get work projects done. And, it’s okay to just sit if I don’t feel like doing something.
- Let yourself cry and feel the emotions. This is key. Bottling it up has never worked for me. I have leaned on my friends big time for this one.
- Keep a routine, if possible, when possible. I chose to make the 90-minute drive back to my home in the middle of the night earlier this week just so I could sleep in my own bed for a couple of nights and wake to my regular routine. Later today, I’m doing my routine walk around the lake with a close friend. This is important, even if it only happens for a day or two between long care-giving stints. It helps me stay grounded and connected to my regular life.
- Take one day at a time. It’s tempting for those of us who are planners, to try to plan out the future. But in situations like this, the one moment, one day at a time approach is helpful. Expending energy other ways is usually wasted.
- Control only what you can control — you. This one is definitely a work in progress for me and the area I get most frustrated. I know that I can only control my actions and how I react. But when someone I love is is sick, in trouble or hurting, my natural instinct is to want to fix it. And when everyone and everything around me is in chaos and emotions are running high, I so easily get knocked off my game and into a place of turmoil. Mindfulness is helping me work this one. It’s a hard one.
- Have patience with yourself and others — especially during emotionally charged times. I’ve honestly been failing at this one all week. It will be a key part of my restart.
If you have self-care tips for times of challenge or crisis that I missed, post a comment here. I’ll admit that this blog is for me. For my family who is in crisis mode now going on 8 days. And hopefully it’s also helpful to many of you.
Here are some related blogs on the topic of restart: