As I write about the things that have helped this year, it could arguably all be classed under self care. Over the years, I’ve watched people work themselves until their bodies quit under the emotional strain. I recognize these tendencies in myself, and know how easy it can be to do when your work is something you are passionate about. So I have resolved to learn about and practice good self-care over the last few years. I’ll be no good to myself or anyone else if I work myself to death.
I couldn’t eat the day Beatrix died. I didn’t feel like I could eat the next day, either… but I knew that for my heart and brain to deal with reality, I would need fuel. So I made myself eat something – I managed to get down some rye toast. And since then it has been a daily fight to put nourishing food in my body. To come up with the energy to prepare it… when I would much rather just consume a bag of chips.
I’ve went for massages occasionally. This is a ridiculous extravagance to me. But when there is nothing I can do to alleviate the emotional pain – at least I can get relief for some of the ways this pain is showing up in my muscles.
Self-care has meant going outside, and moving my body. I go for lots of walks. This usually has the dual benefit of getting me some exercise and having some time in nature. My friend Dave says that after just 15 seconds among trees, your brain chemistry (and emotional state) is changed for the better. (And he has a masters degree that has to do with our interaction with the natural world, so I believe him… In this area, anyway. 😉 )
Sleep has been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember. And I know that getting a good sleep can be a major factor in mental health – so again, I have worked hard over the years to have good “sleep hygiene” (basically, a regular going-to-bed routine that doesn’t include screens, I don’t work in the place where I sleep, and a regular bedtime). Going to bed early and not being tempted to stay up doing nothing is the hardest part… but so important this year, because I just stay up late and get melancholy, miserable, weepy, and because I’m tired I just sink and sink.
And grace: recognizing that there are days when I. just. can’t. Not beating myself up when I’m too tired to make the initial effort, to do the thing that will make me feel better. To receive forgiveness, pick myself up and try again on the days when I use maladaptive coping methods.
These things are all difficult because they have little or no immediate benefit or results. And it has been so much harder because of our nomadic lifestyle this year. But little by little by little, I have been able to see the way that working to take care of myself in these very basic ways has paid off.