We’ve all been there. There can be days and weeks when the stress of life bears down on us for whatever reason. We lose our healthy routines at these times out of choice and sometimes necessity. Even taking a vacation and other happy occasions like weddings can knock us temporarily out of balance. It’s life my friends and it can be difficult. But with a little planning and awareness - nothing crazy, we can learn to surf the waves of life with grace and ease.
Recently I very suddenly became caregiver to a family member after a surgery. I needed to be there round the clock to administer medications, prepare food, even help with dressing and bathing. I cleared my schedule and mentally prepared for the task. I confess though that I was surprised to find that at the end of the two weeks I was exhausted, hadn't eaten a decent meal in days and really needed a run! I didn't have the luxury of time to plan for my own self care. During this short period when I was caring for my loved one there was little time for me. It was reminiscent of having a newborn. I got little sleep, had to plan to get a shower, and my eating and exercise routines went by the wayside. This was my choice to take on this task, and it was a joy, but still it was a stressful time.
A few months back I worked on a film for a few weeks. If you have ever worked on a film set you know that days start early and there can be a lot of tension. There is an effort to get things done well and in short time and there are a lot of strong personalities on the scene with different jobs to do. Everyone wants to do their job well and sometimes tempers can be short. Here again, I needed to adjust my regular daily healthy routines to make space for this creative and challenging opportunity.
These are just two examples of situations where self care became important to me so that I could maintain my energy and focus during challenging situations. I realize that there are more dramatic and serious things. We are deployed, face life threatening illness, loss…But what I am suggesting here is a plan for the more common events that come up during a full life that require us to step it up for a time.
How do we stay in balance when under short term pressure and stress? It takes a little awareness and planning but we can do it. Here’s my recipe for thriving during challenging times:
1. Sleep when you can. Sleep allows the body and mind to come back to it’s factory settings. Get it while you can. Conversely, don’t stress over losing a few hours. It happens.
2. Keep your meals simple but healthy. This is no time to let go of your healthy eating plan that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. (Nor is it a time to start that new diet!) Try to eat at regular intervals to keep your blood sugar levels consistent and your mind sharp.
3. Drink plenty of water. It might seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes we forget about water. Hydration keeps the body and the brain functioning at optimum levels.
4. Move the body at every opportunity, especially if you are temporarily sedentary. Even seated, you can flex and point the toes, lift the arms and stretch to the side, fold over your legs and find an inversion, twist from side to side. Get up and walk around, out-of-doors if possible. If available, find a yoga video like this one and practice.
5. Find moments to just be. Close the eyes and notice the sounds and smells around you. Feel the body you inhabit. Notice the temperature of the air, the sensation of the fabric of the clothes on your skin. Bring your focus to the breath and slow it down. Try to make your inhales and exhales about the same length. Feel the breath fill up every nook and cranny of the body, replenishing and rejuvenating the cells of the organs, muscles, blood and brain. For a sweet eight minute centering practice, click here.
6. Take a moment to cultivate gratitude. Pray a prayer of gratitude. Journal about everything you can possibly be grateful for, even if it is just the opportunity to take a deep cleansing breath.
7. Ask for help. Lest you think otherwise, asking for help is a sign of strength and wisdom. Do it!
This is a simple list that is easily attainable for all of us during temporarily challenging situations. I’d love to hear your suggestions.
For more about Connie visit her website at www.conniebowman.com. Read her book, Back to Happy about her journey through grief after the loss of her daughter here: www.backtohappybook.com or on Amazon. Listen to the Happy Healthy You! podcast here: http://conniebowman.com/happyhealthyyou/