Adapted with permission from the blog “Journey Bravely” by Stephanie Craig, LCSW
When the pandemic hit the U.S. last year, immediately we all had to try to figure out how to homeschool kids, work from home, get groceries without being exposed, cook more meals… and that doesn’t even cover the emotional turmoil created daily by the rising diagnosis/death tolls and constant news coverage. And if you’re a family living through childhood cancer, these challenges were heightened to a shocking degree. All of these changes came in fast and furious, so it was natural that many of us felt overwhelmed, anxious, and even forgetful. And as many of these challenges have followed us into the new year, it’s a good time to evaluate our self-care practices.
You may be focused primarily on taking care of others in your life; however, self-care is very important right now. Proper self-care helps your brain find the balance it needs to develop any new routines and rhythms required when change walks in. Self-care is not selfish. In fact, one of the most helpful and loving things you can do to make yourself healthy and available to help those you love is to incorporate some self-care into your daily life. Constant stress increases your Cortisol levels, contributes to a compromised immune system, and puts you at higher risk for poor health. Taking as little as 10 minutes a day to do something calming and loving toward yourself can make a significant difference in your mental and physical health.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care is any activity that creates a sense of calm, rest, relaxation, and kindness toward yourself. The goal is to remember that while others are important, so are you. The purpose of self-care is to get a physical and mental break from the constant busyness and stress associated with transition and crisis. There are many forms of self-care that vary widely based on the personality and enjoyment of the individual. Some common examples are:
Getting enough sleep
Eating healthy foods
Holding your pet
Talking to a friend
Playing video games
Taking a bath
Doing your nails
Diffusing/applying essential oils
Jumping on the trampoline
Riding a bike
How to Make Self-Care a Priority
The best way to make sure self-care happens is to be realistic with your expectations and set aside specific time. Be sure and let your loved ones know you are taking time for yourself and ask them to respect that time. If you are working from home right now, or have kids who are at home for virtual school (or both!), it may also be helpful right now to create some boundaries around when work and school are happening daily. This way, you can identify non-work time to schedule your self-care activities.
As you consider your self-care time, remember that others in your home need self-care too. Consider asking them what they will do for self-care and when they will set aside time so you can support their efforts to maintain their emotional health too. And as we all hopefully are able to gradually return to work, school, and other activities outside the home this year, which will bring on its own share of new stressors and challenges, be sure to continue your self-care efforts.
Stephanie Craig is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in emotional/relational health. As a therapist with 18 years of experience providing counseling, coaching, and skill training to individuals, families, and couples, she offers holistic counseling tending to body, mind, and spirit to help you feel better, improve your relationships, and move through your current stress to a more emotionally balanced and healthy way of living. You can find more of Stephanie’s wisdom at journeybravely.com.