Self-Care, When Grief Bubbles Up
How can the words self-care seem daunting?
Self-care, they are kind and nurturing words! In today’s world where we push ourselves to perform at a higher level, strive for perfection, and are always looking to get ahead – it’s hard to hear that it’s good to slow down and take self-care, when grief bubbles up for ourselves. Some people say, “Great, one more thing on my to do list!” or they may feel the burden of not automatically feeling ten times better after doing one self-care practice. Or how about the fact that social media makes it look like self-care always has to be something amazing like a weekend getaway or a luxurious bubble bath!
For so many of us, these are unattainable goals. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to feel like I’m “failing” at something. So…you can’t fail at what you don’t do, right?
Let’s reframe self-care for a minute. The basis of self-care, when grief bubbles up, is the idea of doing something to help yourself feel cared for. While we may wish that a weekly massage, a shopping spree, or a decedent 5 course meal would become our norm, let’s start a little slower.
Here are some basic self-care, when grief bubbles up, practices that you can do every day:
- Feed yourself at least 3 times a day. We need to fuel our bodies and brains so they work to their full potential. They may not always be the healthiest meals – but we can keep working on it! Let’s start by caring enough to nourish ourselves.
- Take a shower – Morning, noon, or night. Whatever works for you! Let’s get rid of the toxins, stress, and whatever else seems to be holding on. It’s amazing what a little soap and a lot of water can do for our mood.
- Stretch! Do you know how much tension you hold in your body? The answer is LOTS! Stretching doesn’t just have to be a post-workout routine. Try gentle stretching even at work, during class, or in bed.
- Just Breathe – Taking a few minutes at different times throughout the day to focus on taking a few deep breaths can help to reset your system and get the oxygen flowing again. Breathe in slowly while counting to ten, then exhale slowly to the count of ten. Do this three or four times. Feel your body relax and your system recharge.
- Water yourself – Did you know that water makes up 55-60% of our bodies? Cool, right? But this water is easy to lose through stress, activity, or just being. Our brains and bodies function better when we stay hydrated throughout the day so stop at that water fountain or fill up that bottle!
- Connect with a friend or family member. Thanks to technology, connection is literally right at our fingertips. Take a moment to call, text, Snap, etc. someone important to you. Let them know you are thinking about them, share a funny meme, or just say a quick hello. Or, set up a visit with a friend, share a meal, or take a walk together and enjoy one another’s company. Humans are built for connection with others (even our furry 4-legged friends) and it can be too easy to isolate ourselves during stressful times.
We could give you tons of self-care practices, but not everyone will work for everyone! You have to find what feels right for your life. So, here’s the audience participation part … what do you think would work best for you? Maybe start with focusing on just one practice, or maybe you start with 3. Just remember to begin slowly, enjoy the little successes, and be gentle with yourself if you forget.
Feeling ambitious? Let’s up our game by adding some activities you can do here and there:
- Spend time outside. Recent research from the EPA shows that most Americans spend around 93% of our lives indoors. It’s called the great outdoors for a reason people! Whether you take a walk, a hike, a swim, join a community garden, or just take some time to sit outdoors – you’ll gain the benefits of some natural vitamin D, fresh air, and so much more!
- Try something new. Have you ever had your eye on a new hobby? Did you know that our brains are still actively growing until around age 25? There’s always time to learn something new and fun. Take the plunge and try that art class, rock that climbing wall, or crush those ukulele lessons! Don’t want to do it alone? Ask a friend to go with you. Sharing experiences with those around us helps us to step outside our comfort zone and can provide some good laughs along the way!
- Host a Netflix marathon. Let’s face it, there are times when staying in pajamas, cozying in with our favorite blanket, and tuning out for a while is just what we need! Whether this is some much needed alone time or you invite some fellow movie lovers, taking some time to “binge” on your favorite shows can be a good thing!
- Get your hands dirty. Ever try gardening? Baking or cooking? Art? Building? There are so many ways to work with your hands that have nothing to do with technology (hint: we are asking you to unplug yourself for a while). Working with our hands has been shown to help reduce stress. Do something you already love or delve into something new that could become a fun new skill!
- It’s time to play! So many of us believe that play is reserved for kids. Other than being a source of fun, do you know what else play does? It helps our brains process the tough stuff. It’s time to remember that the term adult really just means, “big kid” and play in your own way! Are you a creative player? A team player? Or do you need to re-learn how to play? Don’t worry … it’s just like riding a bike!
- Get active. Sometimes we feel like our grief brain can slow us down. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to learn that it’s ok to slow down, but strive to keep Actively Moving Forward® at whatever speed is right for you. What kinds of things did you like to do before your person died? Here are some ideas to kick it off: kayaking, workout classes, swimming, walking, biking, hiking … now it’s your turn!
- Helping others, helps us. Once again, the trusty old research shows us that volunteering is shown to increase all of those feel-good chemicals in our brains to help us feel happier! So pick a cause that really matters to you and find out how to get involved. This is like a BOGO (buy one, get one) deal for your brain!
- Pamper yourself. This means different things to different people. Maybe you go get a haircut or it can be as simple as taking the time to shave. Try a nice face mask, paint your nails, or learn how to do some simple reflexology on yourself. Have you tried just laying a face towel soaked in warm water on your face? It sounds weird, but it’s pretty relaxing! When you feel great, you look great.
- Life is better with books. Do you remember the last time you read a book for fun? If so, good for you! If not, you are not alone. It can be hard to find time to read for pleasure. Choose a book that piques your interest and find little opportunities to read it throughout the week. Ever think of replacing your before-bed screen time with a little old fashioned page time? Perk: reigniting our imagination while reducing harmful blue light, just in time to sleep a little better.
- Express yourself. This is something so many of us would benefit from doing on a regular basis, but it does take time to incorporate it into our routine. There are so many different ways we can express ourselves. Have you tried music, writing, art, movement, or talking? These are just some of the ways we can let our thoughts be heard. Expressing ourselves doesn’t just have a brain benefit, it also has a body benefit. When we keep things bottled up, it can affect how our bodies function. So do yourself a favor – find an outlet that’s right for you … and then use it.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to self-care, when grief bubbles up, but we hope that it’s helped you to mentally highlight the great things you already do, add some fun things to your self-care practice, and re-evaluate some of your more unhealthy coping skills (yeah, we all have them) and how you can turn them into more helpful opportunities! Here you can find more traditional ways to find support.
Reminder: Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect your self-care to be either. It’s all about taking it slow and steady to build these skills and practices into your life. Just remember, it’s easy to tell yourself that you can start tomorrow, but your brain, body, and soul will appreciate any little start you make today!