I used to try and push the terror away. “Don’t worry, everything will be ok,” I would repeat this phrase, often trying to tamp down the fear and lasso my panic. I would try to convince myself that everything was going to be alright. But the truth is, I like thousands of others, still wake up in the middle of the night with our hearts thumping and sweat running down our heads. Some of us rise from a “sleep” because the fiscal pressure is ripping our family fabric, while others wake because no childcare provider will take their son or daughter tomorrow. I see the working moms and dads who haven’t had a night out in years or vacationed in decades. I see the moms and dads who make a conference on medical needs, treatment, or a hospital stay a vacation. I want you to know I see you and you are not alone, that you deserve the grace and compassion of hope.
The truth is this is scary and can feel like you are all alone trying to bail out a battleship with a dixie cup. But you are not alone; we see all the other rents on this journey with you; if you are at the stage where you don’t have it figured out, welcome. If you have it all figured out, major props, please reach back and pull one of us forward.
Rents, I say this not for dramatic purposes but to emphasize we have to take care of ourselves. So can you be happy and add it to your wellness bank account? Sure, you can, and just like most things in life, it will take practice and might resemble work. I typically have a sunny disposition in life, but occasionally, I need to work on my deposits. Think about having to run or bike for days upon days without stopping. Your legs will give out, and you will shut down. Not taking care of ourselves as caregivers will result in a similar outcome.
Without further delay, here are a few things that could help add to your wellness bank account.
- Find some movement/exercise that you enjoy doing. It could be running (my favorite), cross fit, swimming, walking, or parasailing; you get the point! Studies show that just a few minutes of exercise per day can lower your stress level. Make it a habit and make space for it, not time. When you make the time, you are trying to fit it into your day, but when you make space, you are protecting the time.
- Laugh when you can. Laughter and smiling will surely increase your wellness bank account. To be sure, it doesn’t mitigate the work to clean up the mess that was made or the feelings that were hurt, but it could make it tolerable. By the way, you could also get the benefit of watching people laugh or watching a funny movie.
- Tune in!! Slap on your favorite music and just let it transport you to your happy place. Studies show that music can help you reduce your stress level and increase your happiness level.
- Get your nature on! Sit outside and soak in the sunrays. This is in addition to outdoor exercise, if possible. Sit under a tree and read or listen to a book. Nature is a powerful way to combat day-to-day debits. It can be as little as 5 minutes.
- Disconnect to reconnect. Put your electronic devices away so you can connect with other humans. Technology is excellent, but our bodies are wired for human interactions.
- Journal your thoughts, even the scary ones. Writing can be a healthy and cathartic experience. You can go old school and write in a journal or use apps like Day One (available for Apple) or any similar electronic products. I started to write daily about one thing that I am grateful for. I don’t always get to it every day, but it has been a powerful way to remain present in my life. I won’t dwell on missing a day because of #7; I offer myself forgiveness.
- Drop the judging and deposit with forgiveness. We are so quick to judge ourselves as not being enough or being a perfect parent, spouse, or partner that we are carrying that weight daily. Newsflash, nothing is perfect; there is only improvement and growth.
- Surround yourself with people who want to make the world awesome, including your world. It is better to have quality in this department. Have conscientious, honest, compassionate people who want to see you be successful.
- Meditate and become an active participant in your life. When you take time to relax your mind and be mindful of your present spot in life, it will add to your wellness bank account.
- Sleep – This one can sometimes be super challenging as caregivers we close our eyes last and open our eyes first. Take it from me; no great emails or thoughts typically come at 2:30 in the morning. I find that is where more often than not, our inner critic thrives. When you are awake in the middle of the night with worry, skip to # 9 and #11.
- Bonus Tip – Breathe; yes, I know we all breathe every day, but take time to become mindful of your breath. Breathing can be calming and help reset your day! There are several apps out there that can help.
These are just a few ideas that have helped me from time to time. Remember, it is ok to be tired, afraid, and angry, but don’t live in those states. Living a well-filled life is not the preclusion of strife or pain but instead having the ability to endure the pain. Strive to deposit more tomorrow in your wellness account than you did today!