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Wednesday February 14, 2018

Self-care is often an overlooked aspect of your needs when you are caregiving and grieving your loss, respectively. You may have been so busy that you didn't give self-care a thought. But now as your life is changing and the pace is slowing down, you may be experiencing some clues from your body, mind and spirit that it is time to pay attention to yourself. 

Some of us neglect self-care due to fear that we're being selfish and guilty. It is not selfish at all to care for yourself. If you don't, you will soon find yourself unable to care for anyone else due to health conditions taking their toll on your body and mind. 

There are six important components of self-care, to evaluate whether you have life balance. Let's start with spiritual. Spiritual well-being is not the same as being religious and going to church. Holding religious beliefs and attending services may be an important part of your experience, but most people report that it also consists of quiet time that they may spend in reflection, prayer, or meditation. It is often in these quiet times that we feel the peace and calm that our souls crave. Some other ideas may be going into nature, playing in the ocean, or taking classes. This component of self-care is important to our overall well-being because it helps us cope with stress, allows us time to reflect on ourselves, and provides safe space to express thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that are central to our own worldview. 

Our emotional state during this time is generally very fragile. We seem to feel on edge, as if our nerves were on the outside of our skin. Just as babies learn to self sooth and go to sleep on their own, we as adults must learn again to self sooth and attend to our emotional needs. You may need to allow yourself a time to cry, scream and rage, which is okay. Follow up with a time during which you express self-compassion, love and forgiveness. If your self-esteem is hurting, practice positive affirmations. Make sure to take time to rest. Daytime naps may be necessary. 

Psychologically, you've taken a hard hit. You've likely had a very traumatic experience. You may find it helpful to engage in counseling for assistance in processing your experience with grief. You may also find it helpful to keep a journal, read books about grief and loss, draw, paint, garden, or do other creative activities. Find an activity that allows for creative self-expression, as it will exercise your mind and de-stress. Also, practice asking for and receiving help. 

The physical component of a good self-care routine incorporates all aspects of your life that affect you physiologically, such as diet, exercise, and the quality of your sleep. It is important to see your family doctor for a good physical examination. If given the go-ahead, begin to incorporate some form of exercise into your daily routine. Not only will it improve your strength and physical condition, but it will release chemicals in the brain to boost your mood and decrease depression. Follow a healthy eating plan as directed by your doctor as well. It takes so much energy to grieve that we are left exhausted and don't feel like doing these things, but if we push ourselves and maybe find a partner or group, we can develop new, healthy habits. In addition, many people report difficulty sleeping during this time. Your doctor may prescribe something for you; however, you may find that once you have addressed all of these areas of good self-care, your ability to sleep improves. Getting a massage and taking a bubble bath are also good ideas. 

If you are still working, your professional life is also affected by your grieving process. Talk with your supervisor and let your company know what your needs are. Often, it's hard to concentrate on projects or deal with the public. However, it is okay to ask for help and even step back until you feel you have regained your ability to be fully present. Maintain healthy boundaries more than ever, by taking your lunch breaks, finishing on time each day, and utilizing your sick/vacation days. Many companies have employee assistance programs that offer counseling and other resources. 

Personal care is the last component of healthy self-care that I will discuss in this article. It is challenging to meet one's needs in this area, as most of us go through life without thinking much about whom we are as an individual. Many of us identify ourselves as someone's parent, spouse, employee, or community member. You are forced to learn who you are and to figure out what you want in life. To help with this task of grief, you might talk with a counselor, make a vision board, explore and try new things, or attempt something that you had always wanted but never had a chance to do. It is in this transformative process that we evolve, and like the butterfly, we find our wings to fly!

—Stacie Adams, Kids Path Counselor

Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers free grief support to the community at large. For more information, contact us today toll-free at 1-888-789-2922.

Tags: Grief Support