(or are just having a really tough time)
Self care can be elusive – it often gets last priority over the rest of your endless to do list. It doesn’t seem important… until it is. Until there is an unexpected crisis, until things build up and you realize you’ve been firing on all cylinders and you’re out of fuel. So, if you find yourself in that position, how do you bounce back? Here are a few tips to prevent yourself from getting to total overwhelm or to bounce back if you’re already there.
1. Take Care of Your Body
Take care of your body – If you are taking care of yourself, you will be less prone to illness and mood dips and better able to deal with stress in daily life. This means getting enough sleep (7-9 hours a night), limiting alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, getting regular exercise, and fueling your body with healthy food. This tip may seem obvious, but sometimes the most basic self-care can be the first to go. When we’re stressed out, it’s easy to rely on caffeine to make up for lack of sleep, sugar to deal with stress and lack of energy, and skip exercise to “relax” in front of a screen instead. But those habits are a quick fix for underlying problems, will just make you feel worse in the long run. By focusing on self-care and being consistent with it, you will be more resilient when times get tough. And on a deeper level, taking care of your body is a symbolic gesture to yourself – it shows that taking care of you is worthwhile and that you value your own health and well-being, which can feel good in it’s own right.
“To stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future… is precisely the present moment”
2. Take a Moment to Slow Down
Often what causes us to feel the worst is our own inner critic getting out of control. Other times we get so caught up in everything we need to do in the future or everything that went wrong in the past that we forget to be in the present. spend some time with your pet, take some deep breaths (my favorite is the 4-7-8 breathing technique to calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety), or get outside and take a walk.
If you take a moment to slow down and focus on the current moment, you may find that nothing is wrong. Ask yourself: Am I alive and breathing? Does my body still function to keep me alive? Is there someone in my life that loves me? Do I have a home to live in and food to eat? If the answer is yes to all those things, then your basic human needs are met, which is a good place to start to feel grateful. Taking a moment to connect with the present moment may help you realize that your “problems” are just things made up by your mind to fool you into suffering. That doesn’t mean they’re not real, it just means that you can choose to place less value on them. This can be difficult to do when you’re used to engaging in that negative thought loop all the time, but even refocusing yourself for a couple of moments can help shift your thought patterns over time.
3. Ask for Help
Western culture tends to value individualism, independence, and a do-it-yourself mentality. All those things have merit, but being an island can be awfully lonely. In a society where needing or asking for help is often equated with weakness, it’s difficult to swim against that tide and speak out for your own needs. It’s easy to ask for help moving or pet sitting, but the times when we need the support most, we may feel paralyzed or ashamed. We imagine we’re burdening our friends and family, or that people may think of us differently if they knew we were struggling. But the wonderful thing is that when we share our burdens they aren’t as heavy as when we’re carrying them alone. People you care about may be more open and responsive than you think.
That being said, not everyone knows how to respond to raw emotion – often those who care about you will want to offer solutions in an attempt to “fix” the problem because they don’t want to see you in pain. Try to identify what might make you feel better and ask for it specifically – e.g. “I just want someone to listen, please don’t offer solutions,” or “can you relate to this at all?” or “I’d like any advice you may have.” This will take some practice, and some trial and error, since, at first, you may not know what you want or how to put it into words. But in the long run it will help you in identifying what you need and what is helpful, and it will help your loved ones know how to help you out of a funk in the future.
If all else fails, call your local crisis line. No problem is worth harming yourself over, and there is someone just a call away that is willing to help. If you live in the Portland area, click below or call 211 for assistance with finding additional mental health services in Oregon and Southwest Washington: