I haven’t made an entry into this blog for a few months due to a series of personal and family struggles. Some of the issues are now resolved while others are ongoing. As I continue to navigate the waters of grieving the loss of my mother while caring for my husband during his ongoing battle with cancer, I have learned some valuable lessons about what it takes to stay healthy in crisis situations. I would like to share what I have learned with my readers hoping that it might help someone else.
I have had numerous people inquire of me over the last few months “are you taking care of yourself?” I took those inquiries to heart and made conscious efforts to avoid caregiver burnout by adopting some simple strategies to keep myself healthy. Let me preface what follows with recognizing that it is the grace of God and the caring and prayers of others on my behalf that are getting me through these tough times. That said, I do feel that there are steps you can take in times of crisis, particularly if you are a caregiver, that will help you to stay healthy.
1.GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Sleep deprivation in and of itself is a stressor on the body. Lack of sleep and chronic stress can cause elevations the stress hormone cortisol. This wrecks havoc on your immune system, increasing your risk of becoming ill. It is wise to establish a good sleep routine and stick to it as much as possible during stressful times.
2. FIND WAYS TO BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE DAILY
I am sure that most of you have heard of the “runners high” which is the sense of well being that comes from the endorphins that are released by running. Well, you don’t have to be a runner to tap into that natural mood elevator. You can get it from any type of activity that you truly enjoy. That can be anything from a stroll in the park to dancing around your house to great music – as long as you are moving your body with purpose, it will make you feel better and will help ward off depression. Even during the grief process, movement is medicine.
3. DON’T EAT YOUR FEELINGS
As a lifelong emotional eater who has now adopted a healthy lifestyle, I can report that the temptation to run to comfort foods in times of crisis never really goes away. Being comforted by sugary or starchy foods is embedded in our DNA. From the time we are infants, our parents and caregivers respond to every cry with a bottle or breast! It is no wonder that most of us feel a primal urge to eat in times of stress! If you choose to try to be your healthiest self in a crisis, you must continue to make healthy choices with your eating. Continue to choose real whole foods over starchy and processed convenience foods and drink plenty of water. The same is also true for those who find themselves losing weight when they are grieving because they neglect to fuel themselves properly. Eating foods that are healthy for you over the junk you may be craving takes a conscious effort. If you are spending extended periods of time with your loved one in the hospital, for example, pack a healthy meal so you will not be at the mercy of vending machines! Don’t let time pressures be your excuse to eat poorly, Even fast food restaurants and grocery stores now offer salads and other healthy foods. A healthy you will be much better equipped to be caregiver for your loved one.
4.CARVE OUT TIME FOR PRAYER AND MEDITATION
There is nothing that nourishes a struggling spirit like a strong prayer life. Often the comfort and security you need can be found in daily quiet time communicating with God and meditating on His Word. Taking the time to meditate on the things you still have to be thankful for even in the worst of times can also help to lift your spirits during a crisis.
5. STAY CONNECTED TO OTHERS
The last thing you need to do in times of stress and grief is to isolate yourself from friends and loved ones. There is strength to be found in sharing your situation with family and close friends. You should continue to participate in your community of faith and engage with your work family if you are still working. You might also benefit from joining a grief and/or caregiver support group or seek out individuals who may have already walked through what you are going through.
6. BE WILLING TO ACCEPT HELP!
People do not usually offer to help you unless they mean it. They do, however, need for you to be specific about what help you need. If, for example, you struggle with making it to your loved one’s doctor appointment due to work, ask a trusted friend or family member to provide transportation. Recognize that you cannot do it all and tap into the resources of others when you find yourself overwhelmed. A few hours of “me time” to focus just on yourself can make all the difference in the world. Taking time for a little self care is not selfish but is necessary to your overall well being.
Yvonne Moore, MD
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit”
3 John 1:2 (NLT)