Is self-care possible during a crisis?
I am currently living in a crisis. I found out last week that my youngest daughter is in her third fight with cancer. I could write pages about how much this sucks. I could write about how my heart is broken into so many pieces that I fear it will never be whole again. But today, I want to focus on another topic.
I want to counter the notion that when crisis strikes, we must automatically fall into the abyss with it. If you are dealing with personal crisis, you might understand the draw to choose any behavior that numbs the pain, fear, and anxiety. For a parent, we can easily give ourselves permission to forgo all behaviors that are “for us” and give all our time and energy to our child.
I’ve come to believe that how we behave in these hardest of times is how we define who we are. Our relationship with our God and those we love have the opportunity to be deepened or totally obliterated by a crisis. That goes for our relationship with ourselves, as well.
This takes me back to the original question I asked. Is self-care possible during a crisis? Many will immediately say no. Many moms (like me, so I get it) believe that self-care during a time of crisis is selfish. Many others (understandably) turn to comforts during times like this…but actually serve as the opposite of self-care (drinking, binge-eating, sugar, stimulants, drug use, numbing, not sleeping, sleeping too much, etc).
During these times when we are hurting so deeply, choosing acts of self-care can be deeply nourishing to our souls. This is likely when we need that kind of love the most. While it might seem selfish to go out of our way to choose these behaviors, they actually pay dividends to those around us.
So what does this look like? I am not trying to project that all of us dealing with crisis should drop what we’re doing and go spend the day at a spa. What I do suggest is deliberately folding small acts of self-care into your daily routine. For me, this includes:
Exercise as often as possible. My CrossFit community and the exercise we do gives my brain the reset that it needs. I intentionally scale down my intensity during these times because I know that my body has a harder time recovering when I’m under extreme stress. But, I still try to show up as often as possible (props to my hubby for pushing me out the door, even when I don’t want to go.)
Eat real food. We spend a lot of time at the hospital and a lot of time off our schedule. This leads to choosing food when “starving” from sources I would not usually (big surprise, hospital food is not the best). Even though I don’t want to, I still cook. When friends bring us food, I ask for plenty of veggies (I have awesome friends). And, I have go-to choices at the hospital that are better than the Panda Express that is calling to me when I’ve slept (okay not slept) at the hospital and I’m just looking for comfort wherever I can get it.
Prayer and journaling. For me, this is non-negotiable. This is where I go and release all my thoughts and feelings that are too much.
Supplements. I take some specific supplements geared toward supporting my body during stress. It ranges from a B-complex to an assortment of herbs.
Sleep. I’m not saying this is easy. Hospital sleep is almost non-existent and sleep at home can be equally as challenging. I make an extra effort to protect my sleep (keep a consistent bedtime, not staring at my phone late at night, not eating sugar close to bedtime, no caffeine late in the day, diffusing lavender oil next to my bed).
Manage my use of stimulants. By this, I mean I try not to drink too much coffee and I stay away from too much sugar. I’ve noticed that too much of these two can stoke my anxiety a scary amount. Since I’ve made this realization, it makes it easier to say no.
I give thanks, seek out joy, and offer grace (to myself and others).
I’m not perfect and wouldn’t want anyone to think that I’m trying to project that here. Along with everything that I typed above, I still sometimes have that second cup of coffee (that I normally wouldn’t), don’t generally turn down an expertly baked chocolate chip cookie (you know who you are, expert baker), and I carry my prescription of Xanax with me wherever I go.
My personal goal for my self-care routine is to have more of myself to give. It’s not selfish for me to do anything of these things. Once I made that connection in my own mind, I was able to carry out these acts. I encourage you to seek out your own acts of self-care next time crisis strikes.
With love, Jennifer