October 4, 2014

7 Ways to Look After Yourself During a Life Crisis. ~ Naomi Arnold

Naomi Arnold. beach, girl

On the very same week that I launched my website and blog, I received some traumatic news: my otherwise healthy Dad was diagnosed with an incurable and aggressive brain tumour.

The day following Dad’s neurosurgery, while we were still waiting for a diagnosis, we sat in the park opposite the hospital. We laughed about silly things and cried about serious things.

Then we laughed about how we were crying.

On the walk back to the hospital, my parents led the way, while I trailed behind, soaking up their presence. I had felt strong up until this point—trying to stay positive and focusing on one step at a time. As I watched my parents walking together, the reality of the situation started to sink in.

The fear began to bubble to the surface. My wet eyes threatened to reveal my secret. I felt weak, vulnerable and afraid.

I started to think about my blog where Me Time and self care was the focus of the first month. In my moment of weakness, I started to question myself and my authenticity. Here I was publishing blog posts on Me Time and self-care, when I wasn’t actually currently practicing my own suggestions.

So many of these things seemed like a luxury now. A facial? Journaling? A daily meditation practice? Going to the gym?

These were the last things that I wanted to do.

Like many bloggers and life coaches, I place extreme value on being authentic, honest, and genuine. It is important to me that I practice what I preach. It therefore disturbed me deeply to be questioning my authenticity in the very first week of launching my blog. I had just published a website called Project Healthy Happy Me, when behind the scenes I wasn’t feeling my healthiest or happiest.

Was I a fraud?

Suddenly, in that moment, I remembered the importance of ‘context’ —actually, this was something that my Dad had taught me. Context is defined as ‘the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood’.

What I would usually do for self care when I was otherwise well—just busy juggling lots of balls and maybe occasionally stressed or overwhelmed—was completely different to what I should do for self care when my family and I were going through the toughest period of our lives, learning and adjusting to the the reality that our loved one was approaching death.

Me Time and self care was still important to me, but it meant something different now. The context had shifted dramatically. As I reflected on this, I realised that I was doing much more than I gave myself credit for to look after myself throughout this challenging time.

Listed below are seven ways in which I looked after myself during this period. I hope that they will be of use to others who are also experiencing crisis.

1. Make a conscious effort to eat (primarily healthy) foods.

Upon learning that my Dad was ill, I had zero appetite. Despite this, I forced myself to eat and generally make healthy choices. Having said this, I also didn’t beat myself up for that night where I ate lemon meringue pie and ice cream for dinner!

2. Make a conscious effort to stay hydrated.

When I am stressed, I sometimes forget to drink water. Whilst at the hospital, I deliberately carried a water bottle around with me to ensure I stayed hydrated.

3. Be creative about taking short breaks.

When I was at the hospital, I didn’t want to leave Dad’s side. Then when I got home to my friend’s place where I was staying, I didn’t want to be rude and not make conversation. However, I also knew that I needed a quiet moment to myself every now and again to ‘fill the tank’.

At the hospital, I did this by taking an extra five minutes after a toilet break to do some breathing and relaxation exercises. When I got home, I’d say I was going to bed twenty or so minutes earlier than planned so I could read or just ‘chill’ for a bit before going to sleep.

4. Listen to your body.

I was so emotionally and physically exhausted that my usual exercise regime was too much for me. Instead, I listened to my body and moved it gently by going for walks and doing light stretching.

5. Ask for help.

One of the biggest things I did to look after myself was to consciously think of ways that I could ask others to help me. They wanted to help anyway – so it was actually doing us both a favour!

6. Give yourself permission to say no.

Saying “no” has been something that I’ve been working on at the best of times. During the week at the hospital, however, I made a conscious decision to say “no” to others and “yes” to myself more. For example, I turned down requests for dinner and rescheduled sessions with clients so that I could spend time with my family and rest in between.

7. Give yourself permission to feel and to talk about your feelings.

During traumatic times, it can be so easy to swallow how you’re feeling. To focus so much on being strong, that you don’t give yourself permission to feel your vulnerability and weakness.

It can be a tricky balance to be helpful, strong, and reliable—but also true to how upset you are. I made a conscious effort during this time to give myself permission to feel. To cry. To laugh. To cry some more. To talk to others about how I was feeling. This is definitely something that I identified that I could do more of, and I will continue to consciously make an effort here.

The above seven ways of looking after yourself might not seem like much to someone who has a beautiful self care routine. That’s where ‘context’ comes in. During a time of crisis, like what I’ve been experiencing with my family, these seven self care ‘rules’ have been my lifeline. Without them, I would not have been able to support myself, let alone be there for my family.

So if anyone reading this is struggling—is going through a period where just putting one foot in front of the other feels so damn hard, let alone meditating or vigorously exercise—please know that I hear you.

Remember the word ‘context’. Remember that we are all different. Don’t beat yourself up. Take small steps. Acknowledge your vulnerabilities. Find a new way of looking after yourself. Do what works for you, right now in this life context.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Author’s Own

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