Committing to Self Care

imagesAs we walk through our lifetime, we will all experience something that we can qualify as ‘grief.’  As previously posted here, there is no right way or wrong way to grieve.  It is truly a personal experience.

To take that thought further, it is important to recognize that what feels “right” one day may not the next.  One day I might feel that talking with friends helps, and then when I am faced with the opportunity I am annoyed beyond belief.

The grief may present itself at the most inopportune times –out in public places, early in the morning when I am trying to get my day started…late at night when I am trying to fall asleep.   The true consistent pattern of our emotional response to grief is that it will come and go like waves of the ocean (however, often much less predictably than the ocean).

A Self Care Plan is a personalized plan for optimal health and wellbeing.  It is a rough estimate of the daily structure you would like to have; and the coping skills you might try to get through the hard times.  There is no formula to help us through this fickle time, but it is ok to try to develop a plan.  It may or may not work, or not always.  Likely, when we develop a Self Care Plan, just the action of writing it out helps to plant the seeds towards healing.  It can serve as a reference to try and clear up the emotional log jam that can occur with a loss.

My personal Self Care Plan looks like this…

Daily Structure I will strive for:

6:00 Wake up, Breakfast, slow start to my day

7:30/8:00 Walk my dog.  Walking meditation!

8:00-9:00 Try to get some exercise in.

9:00-11:00 Productive Work

11:30-12:30 Take a break. Meditate or be in a safe space to journal, exercise 30 minutes, eat lunch

12:30-5:00  Stay busy, try to do productive work, but pace myself and take breaks if I need to.

5:00-8:00 Dinner, House chores,  take time to reflect alone and practice hobbies or work on relationships.  Walk dog again.

8:30 I start to wind down, and try to do peaceful things in preparation for going to sleep.

9:30: Lay down to sleep, no electronics in bed!

The final part of a Self Care Plan is figuring out what works for you, or has worked in the past when you have faced emotional obstacles.  If I find myself having a hard time transitioning from an emotional wave of grief, here are some things I might try.

Coping skills that I will try to do when I am upset, or as daily maintenance:

1)   Sleep:  It is the start of my emotional health. If I am having trouble sleeping, do not be afraid to ask for help.  During this difficult time, quality sleep is my foundation for health.

2)   Feed my body, mind and spirit.  Eat Healthy even when I do not feel like it. Keep up exercise and spiritual activities; try new things to keep me engaged.

3)   Journaling: Don’t keep thoughts and feelings built up inside.  Write them out.  Clarify issues, look for patterns, and identify my emotional & daily functioning.  Validate and process my emotions.

4)   Avoid Self Criticism & Be Kind to myself:  Think and speak to myself as I would a kind and trusted friend.

5)   Avoid drama and negativity: I do not watch shows or movies that make me sad or scared, I carefully chose who I have in my inner circle.

6)   Practice the Serenity Prayer:  Let go of what I cannot control, and work on what I can control.

7)   Take time to think through decisions.  Ask questions to get more information, do not be afraid to say “No” or “Yes” for “Maybe” based on what feels right to me.  Do not feel pressured to take on more than I can handle.

8)   More often than not, engage in activities that are normally pleasurable, even if I am not 100% motivated.  Take breaks when I need to, but do not shy away from pleasurable activities.  Make time for hobbies or develop new hobbies.  These things can be great distractions from what is bothering me.

Word of caution, do not be afraid to live with your grief and truly experience it.  You have experienced a significant loss and you are having a natural human emotional reaction to it.  Do not be critical of yourself for not following your Self Care Plan exactly, no one can do that, we are not robots.  The purpose is truly to give us some semblance of “normalcy” and structure when the world is feeling so unstable.   However, you do need to take care of yourself to allow for the transformation to begin.  If you find yourself having difficulty meeting any of your activities of daily living, or are experiencing emotional distress that is all encompassing of your life and you are unable to enjoy any activity, it is wise to seek the help of a licensed mental health practitioner.