Five Steps to Take Out the Overwhelm
If the last couple of years taught us anything, it’s that caring for ourselves is essential if we are to care for others. The pandemic also highlighted how difficult it is to care for ourselves when a crisis disrupts our routines, rituals, relationships, finances, and professional lives.
Since the inception of the global pandemic, people have struggled to maintain their mental and physical wellness. Look at these statistics from recent Pew Research studies:
- 89% of Americans have experienced at least one negative change in their lives because of the pandemic
- 28% of Americans say that the physical or mental health of themselves or the people they care about has degraded
- One-in-three women were likely to mention physical or mental health difficulties
The Pew Research Studies also note that many Americans are grieving the loss of loved ones and feeling the indirect health impacts, including financial stress, depression, and weight gain.
Self-Care is a Concept That Used to Annoy Me
Here is the truth: Figuring out how to take care of yourself is tricky when things are going well. Increased uncertainty, grief, and unforeseen stressors magnify the difficulty. So, it makes sense if you are struggling to care for yourselves in the wake of the current crises.
In full disclosure, self-care is a buzzy term that I haven’t always liked. Why? Because it wasn’t attainable for me. I routinely adopted other people’s self-care plans to address my spiritual, mental, and physical deficits. I failed to understand that effective self-care rituals require personalization. It took two cancer diagnoses and a divorce before I figured this out.
Five Steps to Create a Personalized Self-Care Equation
To create a self-care equation that meets each moment’s needs, one must be flexible, honest, and practical.
Step One: Be Flexible
Every day requires a different kind of self-care. The ways you care for yourself during a busy work week differ from the care needed during a time of grief. Accepting this truth is essential before evaluating your state and moving to create a care equation that meets your needs TODAY.
Step Two: Get Real
Applying someone’s else self-care ideals to your life doesn’t usually work. Your situation, disposition, and needs are unique. Ask yourself, “Where am I physically, mentally, and spiritually dehydrated?” Taking an inventory of the present moment will help you choose a self-care equation that is realistic and effective.
Step Three: Create
Once you get honest about where you are spiritually, emotionally, and physically, you can answer the question, “What can I do today to rehydrate?” Listen, the keyword in this question is ‘can.’ Sure, you might want to escape to a desert island or quit your job, but most likely, those options are not possible. Instead of ruminating on what can’t happen, consider what can happen. Can you take an extra 15 mins for lunch, delegate one task or reach out to a friend for a 10 min chat? It might be the combination of a few small choices that add up to a self-care plan that targets your current physical, emotional or spiritual dehydration. Now, create the equation; and keep it simple.
Step Four: Commit
It’s time to commit. Take five minutes, review your schedule and make room for the action items in your equation. If you can’t find room on your schedule, go back to step three and create a more manageable equation. Don’t dwell on what you can’t do because that will zap your energy. Remember, small steps lead to significant change. You might find that enlisting an accountability partner is helpful to keep you on track.
Step Five: Celebrate
Whether you could complete the entire self-care plan or not, please make room to celebrate your effort and intention to take care of yourself. Many people, including me, find it easier to celebrate others’ success but never make room to indulge in the healing act of celebrating ourselves. You might say, “Vanessa, I don’t even know how to celebrate myself.” Well, you are in good company! There is no right way to celebrate your progress. Your first celebration could simply be saying to yourself, “You are so amazing for prioritizing yourself!”
Are you feeling more equipped to create a self-care equation?
I hope so. Remember, self-care that meets today’s needs is flexible, honest, and practical. The world needs more well-cared for individuals and caring for yourself equips you to care for others more effectively and efficiently, and it models a positive pattern of behavior for your family, friends, colleagues and community.
Author, Speaker, Advocate, and Adversity Coach Vanessa Joy Walker is an expert at navigating life after crisis. Her life experience includes; abandonment, betrayal, cancer, infertility, and grief. As a featured speaker and contributor for outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The American Cancer Society, K-Love Radio, Motherly, Rise Together Podcast, and The Psych Congress. Vanessa has shared her perspective on perseverance and joy with thousands of people worldwide. Connect with Vanessa at Vanessajoywalker.com and receive her complimentary educational video F.L.O.W Forward.