Two weekends ago my husband and I were in recovery mode. We had spent the first part of the week on vacation in Chicago, but our vacation was unexpectedly extended by a trip to the emergency room for our daughter. Luckily, she stabilized quickly and she was released two days later.
However, there was a lot of stress associated with this event. We were worried about our daughter. We had lots of instructions regarding what medications she needed to take after she was discharged, and she also needed to be seen at home for follow-up care. We didn’t have a place to stay; our hotel was sold out. (Luckily the hospital let us stay there in an unused overflow area.) It was uncertain how we would get home, because we canceled our flights and couldn’t re-book until we knew when she would be released. We also had to find a new place for our dogs to be boarded and coordinate for my friend’s dad to transport them to the new location. In addition to general life stress, there was also the worry of the large medical bill and the extra costs for having to extend our stay.
Even a couple days after she was discharged, when the weekend rolled around, we were still recovering from that stress. My temper was short and I was frustrated. On Saturday I told my husband that I needed to go for a run the next morning to clear my head.
I needed to take care of myself, so I could take care of the others who depend on me.
Running Away the Stress
I’ve been a runner for a long time. There are many reasons why I do it:
- Physical health – to keep my heart fit and to burn calories to keep my weight in a reasonable range
- Goal achievement – that sense of accomplishment you get when training for and completing a race
- Mental health – to deal with anxiety, and to keep my mind sharp and focused
- Emotional health – to manage stress, worry, and uncertainty.
That Sunday morning run did wonders for my emotional health. Simply put, going for that run made me a much more pleasant person to be around. I cleared my head of stressors and frustrations and came back a more patient mom and wife.
My Self-Care Bag of Tricks
Do you have a bag of tricks you can rely on when stress is mounting and nerves are fraying? Here are some things I’ve learned over the years that work for me:
- Exercise/Outdoors time: I don’t always have the time or energy to run; a simple 10-minute walk around the neighborhood can do wonders. Five minutes of stretching or yoga can help too when I’m short on time.
- Sleep: With a toddler and an old dog in our house, there have been a fair number of nights of disrupted sleep in the past 18 months. It’s become shockingly apparent to me this year how much sleep impacts me. When I have a night of poor sleep, the next day I am more anxious and less optimistic, and my ability to make complex decisions is slowed. Being well-rested is a daily goal for me.
- Nutrition: Too much caffeine, sugar, or alcohol generally makes everything worse. Healthy foods make me feel better.
- Relationships: Spending time with my spouse or catching up with friends gets me out of my head and reminds me to enjoy life.
Those things I listed above? There is very little incremental cost involved in incorporating them into my daily life. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive. But it is important to figure out how to make it a priority – especially when dealing with a stressful life event.
How do you practice self-care? Do you have any tips and tricks to share?