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Self-Care During a Crisis, by Heidi Barrett

There has been a lot of talk about self-care over the last couple of decades. I viewed self-care as something for young single people with tons of extra income who were not in the thick of raising small humans while working and juggling life. Who has that extra time, not to mention the extra cash to spend on something as frivolous as self-care? I am good! Besides isn’t that what Mother’s Day is for? A day of pampering, munching on half-cooked pancakes while lounging an extra 15 minutes in bed?

As time marched on, and our life got a tad bit harder with multiple hospitalizations for multiple children, even our routine day, I would venture to guess, looks nothing like most people’s average day, I had an epiphany. Or to be exact, God reached down from Heaven and smacked me in the back of the head while rolling His eyes at me. I needed to take care of me. It is a hard thing to say those simple words, I need to take care of me. But I resisted. "Nope, not me I don’t have needs whatsoever, I can take care of everyone and everything," I thought. "Don’t you worry about me. I am F.I.N.E.!" So humbling, right? But when I said it out loud, it pretty much summed up nicely into, "I have a godlike complex" -eek! Get the duct tape, we need to fix this. Not only do I have to take care of me, in a crisis, but I also have to take care of me first, gulp!

I know there are people right now demanding that I turn in my motherhood badge for saying I need to take care of me first but hear me out. Just like on an airplane when the oxygen mask drops down, I have to put mine on first before I take care of anyone else. On any given day, this sounds hard to me but throw in a crisis and I freeze. It does not come naturally to me to put on my oxygen mask first. I want to be the one who is helping everyone else and putting myself last. It is my love language. It is how I show love to others. When I hit crisis mode, I have to deliberately think, "How am I going to move forward and make sure my needs are being met, while simultaneously meeting the needs of my family?" Because in crisis mode, the last thing I want to think about is me.

My sister Arlene passed away suddenly in September. She was only 58 years old. I woke up one morning after Arlene’s death and gave myself a pep talk, "You've got to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, stop wallowing in self-pity, move on, this is not healthy for anyone, yadda, yadda, yadda." It was great motivational self-talk but there was only one problem: my sister had only died four days prior. I soon took a deep breath, chuckled at the absurdity of the situation, and commenced making a list of what I needed in my life right then that would take care of me. The thing with self-care during a crisis is that it does not need to be permanent. My list covered what I would be doing for maybe a couple of weeks or a couple of months. It was not a lifetime change.

I got busy putting my life in order. You would think the top of my list would be prayer. But here's the thing about me in crisis; I am constantly praying. It is how I put one foot in front of the other and make it through the day. I often imagine St. Peter and God shaking their heads and wondering, "Does that woman ever shut up!?" My list in crisis mode consists of things that make me happy.

  • Number 1 on the list (after pray), drink coffee, and read. I make sure each day no matter what, I would make time for reading while sipping on a great cup of coffee. This in and of itself can fuel me for the rest of the day.

  • I also needed on my list to eat two balanced meals a day. Often when crisis mode hits, I don’t make time to eat and if I do eat, it is chocolate. I could write a whole treatise on why chocolate in itself is a balanced meal and encompasses four food groups. My science on chocolate is solid.

  • In crisis mode, I need the endorphins that one gets from exercise. Like most people, I have to drag my behind to do it, but once I do it, I am glad that it was done. I have to put it on the list or I will not follow through.

The key to list-making for self-care in crisis mode is that the list can only have a small handful of things on it. Too many things and you have defeated the purpose of the list. I feel accomplished in completing my self-care list each day. It renews my spirit. I can tackle all the nastiness of life during this time. But even with self-care, there are days where nothing else happens. I have given myself permission to be in the moment, curl up on the couch, watch a movie with the family, and do absolutely nothing. I am Catholic so the amount of guilt I would have felt for doing nothing all day is unmeasurable. I have mastered the art of

feeling guilty. But by permitting myself to feel sad and do nothing outside my list, it takes away the guilt.

It is okay to have emotions, to feel everything from joy to sadness to anger. It is only a problem if you dwell in one place too long. This is not the new and improved me, this is me making the most out of a cruddy situation. It is not a lifetime change. It is what I need for self-care right now. Your self-care does not need to look like my self-care.

You do you Boo. Maybe running is your jam, and you would never think of adding it to any list as it is something so natural. Terrific, I won’t judge. The key take away is you need to figure out what will keep your well-being going during a crisis. Everything is game except burying your head in the sand. If that was a thing, we would all be doing it. Survival mode during a crisis is a crappy place to live but with a little bit of self-care, you just might find yourself smiling on the worst day of your life.

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