When things get hard, I start looking for ways to make myself feel better, even if it's only for a few moments. I'm a walking poster child for taking deep breaths and visualizing being on the beach, which definitely helps (deep breath in...I'm in the Seychelles, in a hammock on the beach...I'm drinking mango juice with a little paper umbrella in it...I don't have cell phone or Blackberry reception...).
In addition to imagining that I'm sunning myself on a tropical beach, I realized that if I'm going to come through this time of stress and unhappiness with my health intact, I need to uber-vigilant about taking good care of myself.
The phrase "taking care of yourself" is usually associated with doing all the things we know we "should" do: eating broccoli, getting sleep, flossing nightly, etc.
All that is true -- but I also find that self-care takes many other forms.
In addition to eating loads of fruits and veggies, I've found that it's essential for me to spend some time venting my frustrations to my friends and family (or a blank Word document on my laptop). It's also crucial for me to make sure I get to the gym every day, add little pick-me-ups to my daily routine to help brighten things up, and take baby steps in the direction of the life I want.
So, with that, I present...
When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get:
1) Flowers. No joke. I know, I know -- it's not exactly "the tough get going," but I find that some pretty flowers on the table make a huge difference. Incorporating little elements of lightness and beauty into my daily routine does wonders for my outlook. They're the first thing I see when I walk in the door, and they always make me smile.
2) Baking. I have an undying love for blueberry muffins. Back in my glutinous days, I used to keep a stockpile of blueberry muffin mix in my apartment during grad school -- and damned if I didn't bake up a batch whenever midterms or finals came around. There's just something inherently upbeat and happy about a blueberry muffin, and I use them as an incentive to get through the morning. I whipped up a batch for this week, and I know I can look forward to 1:30 each afternoon when I get to have my "Hooray, you've made it halfway through the day!" prize.
|Ok, so this is a strawberry muffin -- but they're just as fabulous as the blueberry variety!|
3) Running. Nothing clears my mind and lifts my mood like a good run. The rhythm of my feet hitting the ground, as well as the confidence of knowing that my body knows exactly what to do, help me relax and release some of my pent-up stress. The runner's high at the end sure doesn't hurt, either.
4) Massages. All the stress has led to me walking around with my shoulders up by my ears (for the record, I can confirm that this is really uncomfortable). My Massage Envy membership might just be what saves my neck and keeps me from being in a permanent state of muscle spasms.
I know that it's going to be a while before things get better. However, the sustained stress that comes with situations like mine can take a lasting toll on the body.
As I was brushing my teeth one morning, I suddenly knew, without a doubt, that I needed to be careful and take extraordinarily good care of myself. I viscerally understood that if I didn't do these things, the chronic stress would do lasting damage to every cell in my body.
So, I've decided to commit to taking really, really, ridiculously good care of myself. I'm committed to daily green monsters after my trip to the gym each morning, fresh flowers each week, monthly massages, and lots of deep breathing.
This, I hope, will enable me to mitigate the damaging effects of sustained stress -- and hopefully emerge on the other side of this experience stronger than ever.