"The proper use of imagination is to give beauty to the world..." Lin Yu-T'ang

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What Being A Care Giver Taught Me About Self Care

"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."  ~Emily Dickinson 

Back in November of last year, I wrote in my journal: 

I'm experiencing the restlessness, irritability and general malaise resulting from inadequate self-care and lack of creativity in my days. I can do well for a little while but then I find myself tired and getting caught up into just doing work and caring for D. At that point, I find myself slipping into that lack of creativity cycle and then the angst-y, irritable, frustration/depression kicks in. Ugh. 
I get so frustrated with taking care of D. Her care requires so much of me. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle and the stress wears us all down. I can find myself feeling frustrated, unmotivated and sometimes I just want to throw in the towel. But of course I can't and I won't. I'm just tired exhausted! I made her a promise at the beginning of all of this that I wouldn't leave her in this darkness. I intend to keep my promise. But finding the line between helping her and losing myself can be a bit challenging.  
The positivity that I was experiencing during the last several days has seemed to wane. This week I will make self-care my top priority and creativity my second and see how it goes."

In the last several months, I've been adding to my learning about self care and self love, particularly in challenging and stressful times. I allow myself to have more of what I need, I understand & evaluate my needs more clearly, I'm more honest, I experience far less shame & guilt (and I find myself, oh, so much happier without that last one). I find that the best thing to do for myself when the angst-y, irritable, depression monster is rearing it's ugly head, is to get myself up and go for a walk. This gets my body moving again, my blood circulating, helps me get some air (angst-y irritable, frustration/depression can be suffocating) and clear the tangled cob web of thoughts in my head. Then I need to step back into my self care routine, immediately. Which is doing my basic, everyday, self-care, maintenance things (i.e.: take a shower, brush my teeth, wear clothes that make me feel put together and happy, shave my legs) as well as making time for one self care hour a day to do whatever I want. Sometimes, I think that an hour is too much, if it really is, I just do what I can. Taking care of D is very time consuming and some days I just don't have an hour. But I've come to realize that an hour isn't a luxury for me, it's imperative. It's vital to my own health and without my own health, I can't adequately take care of D let alone enjoy any part of my own life. Sometimes, I have to tell myself that I need to practice self care (i.e.: take a hot bath, go to yoga, get together with friends for coffee, schedule that dentist appointment, put jojoba oil on my legs) just because they are things I need to do, akin to cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, scheduling maintenance on my car and paying my bills. Then I don't have to rely on "feeling motivated" to practice my self care because let's face it, if you are depressed or stressed, there is really no such thing as "feeling motivated" and no matter what you do, no matter who you listen to, or what you read, you just can not conjure it up. So I don't even try. I just do what I need to do because it is what I need to do. As for creativity, I can certainly make a case for it being self care for me, and I think it is, but it's also my work, my hobby, my leisure activity, my learning curve. So, I find that it's best to make priority of my self-care again first and then work creativity back into my days. (more about creativity later)

How do you keep yourself healthy during challenging and stressful times? How do you not lose yourself in the challenge? I found it so tempting caring for an ill child to want to give everything to her. I want to fix it. Make it better and then say, brushing my hands together, "there" and move on. But life doesn't work like that on most days, does it? And "normal" has a way of morphing into a "new normal" in both sudden and gradual ways that can really rock your foundations and change how you live your life, either temporarily or permanently. How do you keep steady? What are your favorite "anchors" or centering practices that you rely on?


  1. I find simple handwork like crochet, knitting or embroidery to be really important self care when I'm stressed out or depressed. It satisfies the need to be creative without requiring as much mental energy as some of my other creative pursuits. Plus I find the quiet repetition very comforting.

    1. Nikki, I enjoy knitting and agree that the quiet repetition is very comforting (and the soft yarn through my fingers too!).


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