Grief, stress, and unexpected life changes in general can wreak havoc on the body. Physical and physiological effects are typically the most noted stress signs: heart palpitations, heart attacks, headaches, strokes, injuries, sweating, breathlessness. Behavioral changes can also occur: sleeping patterns are affected (lack of sleep, always sleepy), eating behavior changes, fidgeting, nail biting. Emotionally, you can be a wreck: mood swings, depressed, anxiousness, more easily frustrated. Lastly, mental health can be greatly affected by change: lack in concentration, forgetfulness, anxiety, depression, PTSD, even panic attacks. The list can go on for each of these categories. The body is a well functioning machine; when something malfunctions, the entire machine cannot operate properly. It’s imperative to listen to your body.
Ironically, when I was a wellness consultant, I preached this sermon to my clients incessantly, but practicing what you preach is easier said than done. My self-care techniques were pretty basic in early 2015: exercise, spend quality time with loved ones, pray, music, and travel. Later that year, when I lost my grandfather and baby within 2 months, I hit rock bottom. Self care was a foreign concept to me. My main focus at that time was “survive,” and that was difficult in itself. I did what I had to do: Work. Pay bills. Sleep. Repeat.
I became a shell of myself.
Fast forward to 2016, when my hubby and I returned to North Carolina and renovated my grandfather’s home. My new foci were renovate the house, work, pay bills, sleep, repeat. This was still an unhealthy move on my part, which raised concern among my loved ones. If you would have asked me what I was up to in early 2016, I would quickly respond, “trying to survive.” It became painful to do anything else; if I engaged in some social activity, I would need at least a day or 2 to rehab from it. This usually involved me lying in bed, crying and/or sleeping during the day.
Thankfully, I slowly began to return to my self-care regimen. Writing became my healthy outlet to express my emotions. Poems, short stories, songs, whatever method allowed me to release that pain, I used it. Those pieces are pretty dark and murky to wade through, but they were my mode of release. Obviously, I still write, but it’s a bit lighter…
I returned to willingly praying and seeking God. Losing my grandfather was extremely tough and rocked my core. I have always and will always be a Papa’s girl. A day after his funeral, I was rushed to the emergency room. There, my hubby and I learned we were expecting; we took it as a sign of Job 1:31. This baby was to be a new blessing to heal the family. Keep us whole. When we learned 2 months later that our baby had passed and I needed emergency surgery, I had no heart. It was completely shattered. I had a very, very hard time talking with God at that point. I had the other part of Job’s story: he loses it all; or rather, I literally had a Job 1:21 moment: the Lord certainly takes away. My trust in God to take care of me was broken. I questioned God over and over again, asking Him why. Why take these two key people in my life away? Why take them away like that? What’s the lesson here? He has only partially answered me, and while that is partly frustrating, I have to trust in Him and His plans. I returned to seeking Him and trusting in His plan for me. I now have a “Give it to God Jar,” where I write and place my concerns and relinquish that to Him to handle. I will not worry about it.
Later in 2016, I attended a self-care workshop which was an eye-opening experience. While I had made progress in self-care, I had a long way to go. I wondered, why haven’t I returned to reading for fun or music therapy? I was engaging in various self-care activities but followed them inconsistently. Our workshop leader encouraged the group to write a self-care task on 10 note cards and place in a cardbox; I was to draw one card out every month and complete that task within the month.
Since attending that self-care workshop, I have developed a healthy self-care regime and have become more open to trying new activities as well. Of course, some days are harder than others to provide self-care, but it has now become a priority of mine.
Here is my routine self-care list:
- Recite personal mantra daily to set the tone for my day
- Talk to God throughout day
- Music therapy
- Journaling/creative writing/send letters to loved ones
- Exercise 3 times per week
- Read for fun
- Gratitude calendar
I’ve also tried other activities to assist in my self-care. These have been helpful for me over the past year:
- Grief counseling
- Hand lettering
- Enjoying nature/walking
Stay tuned for future posts addressing these self-care activities individually. Are you practicing self-care? Share with me your favorite self-care activities!