Self Care: How

We all know our own pet peeves, some of us even know how to step back from a situation before we say &/or do something we’ll deeply regret within five minutes and may occasionally haunt us for the rest of our lives. Even the experts are stumped at times by their own children. None of us are perfect (no matter how perfect we manage to appear on our favorite social media sites), but we each have the ability to learn from our mistakes and mistakes made by others. Life gets tough at times for everyone, so each one of us comes up with ways to cope with the direct and indirect effects of these tough times. My favorite ways to decompress, unload, recover and re-energize probably look different than what you’ve seen published elsewhere. This is a good thing since different locations and situations require different approaches.

In no particular order, here’s what I’ve found helpful for the stressful situations I listed in my last article:

  1. Yelling: Deep, slow, calming breaths. Drinking a cup of water before replying to a yelled non-emergency demand. Drinking a cup of water while sorting out how to repeat myself in a slightly different way than the last fifteen versions. Putting myself in Timeout (going to my bedroom after setting a timer for 5 to 10 minutes) to put away my clean clothes or whatever other mundane task is available for my hands to do as I mentally sort out the argument before (hopefully calmly) delivering my verdict. Play calming or fun music in the living room to reduce the tension. Adding “whisper time” to our daily activities. Hollering “DANCE BREAK!!” over everyone else and dancing in a weird, wiggly way that earns some confused looks from anyone who bothers to see what I yelled about (shakes some tension out). Give up on the day as soon as my kids are in bed, beginning my bedtime routine as soon as they’re laying down. Add a bit of focused meditation to the brushing of my teeth (meditation doesn’t actually require a specific sitting position to work). Have a video chat coffee/tea break with a good friend. Take a walk around the block (okay, so right here the closest thing to a regular block is a wonky shaped one across the street, but it works the same on emotional stress).
  2. Unkind name-calling: Stop the current train of thought by saying “Did you hear that? Would you like hearing someone else call your sister/brother what you just called her/him?” I usually follow those questions with “If you don’t want someone else calling her/him that mean name, then it’s not appropriate for you to call her/him such a thing.” A walk, tea/coffee break on video chat with a good friend, calming breaths, calling Mom to apologize again for being such an obstinate brat as a kid (or to ask how she survived the chaos of these ages with twice as many kids as I have), handing out simple chores since they’re not playing nicely anyway, going to bed within half an hour of putting my kids to bed, and adding focused meditation to brushing my teeth.
  3. General grumbling: This one is usually greatly reduced after a few days of every grumbly person going to bed half an hour early so their sleep cycles end closer to their planned wake up time. Making sure they each drink a cup (8oz) of water before, during, &/or after breakfast so they have a good start on their daily hydration (also takes a couple of days for max effect). A mug of hot cocoa & fun music (even if I’m still working, my mood is lifted).
  4. Whining: Any and all of 1 & 3, plus extra hugs, listing things I’m grateful for, eating a handful of almonds or cashews, double-checking that I drink a bit more than enough water for the day, and taking a bubble bath (even if I have to arrange babysitting with a friend or sister to get the time to myself).
  5. Forgetfulness: Carefully focus on just one task at a time, write out everything that needs to be done so I can check the list every time my mind goes blank, drink a cup of water, eat some pecans or fish, have a small piece of very dark chocolate, carry a reusable water bottle everywhere (easiest on a strap or in my bag), eat real blueberries (fresh or frozen, mixed into oatmeal, yogurt, cold cereal, pancakes, homemade muffins, fruit salad), drink a mug of tea, write out what I’m worried about at the moment and then what I’m thankful for right then, intentionally move one of my to-do items from today to tomorrow (or trade for a task that takes less mental work), start my bedtime routine as soon as the kids are laying down in their beds, hum while brushing teeth, sing a calm song (or get frisky) if sleep is elusive.
  6. Time is too fast for me: Tends to happen if I’ve been neglecting sleep & water, so the best cure tends to be drinking lots of water throughout the day and going to bed right after putting my kids to bed.
  7. Nothing I say makes a dent: Deep, slow, calming breaths. Write down my point for them to see, proof-read it before handing it over because sometimes I don’t make sense when it sounds right in my head. Take a ten minute walk. Drink some tea with my snack. Serve an extra vegetable with dinner/supper. Put everyone to bed half an hour early, including myself.
  8. Nothing really makes sense to me: Drink lots of water all day, have some fruit with breakfast, eat recognizable vegetables with lunch & dinner, take a nap if possible, wash my hair because it’s been more than 5 days, eat two pieces of very dark chocolate and a handful of pecans/walnuts/ cashews/almonds, sing &/or turn on some of my favorite music, get to bed as early as possible and bring a freshly refilled water bottle to get everything off to a good start tomorrow.
  9. I just feel like crying: A combination of very dark chocolate, hot Rooibos (African red tea, naturally caffeine free & slightly calming), tissues, a long talk with a sister or very close friend or my mom (preferably with a hug or two), an hour or so when I choose what to watch on TV, roughly 90 to 100oz of water throughout the day, praying, extra hugs at home, and an early bedtime.
  10. I’m too anxious or filled with dread to sleep well: Stretching, walking for at least 10 minutes, writing out my worries, writing out my hopes for the situation that’s gotten me so worked up, dancing it out in the living room, eating crunchy vegetables, eating almonds (or other crunchy nuts), singing, getting frisky, taking a quick warm shower, drinking a mug of Rooibos (chamomile is also supposed to help, but I haven’t tried it yet), working on a large gauge crochet project for 10 to 20 minutes (not knitting, too much potential for injury if I fall asleep on it), focused meditation (before, during &/or after brushing my teeth), lots of praying, writing out tomorrow’s to-do list (at least in part), and an early bedtime with a freshly refilled water bottle.

Simply getting plenty of water, good food, restful sleep, physical activity and personal connection, and doing a couple of things we really enjoy can make a huge difference in how we feel. Any time one of these needs gets neglected we begin to fall apart and we lose effectiveness in our work and household chores. Yet when we have these basic needs met, somehow we seem to have nearly endless energy for helping people around us. Even confidence can be rebuilt when we routinely take the time necessary for our health, sanity, and at least one good hobby.

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