I had my first anxiety attack when I was in my late 20s. I felt breathless, my arms and legs tingled, and I had the strangest sensation to run, yet I was paralyzed in fear. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I tried to tell myself over and over to get back in control and get a grip. I was at work, tired, emotionally exhausted, and dealing with a tremendous amount of stress. It wasn’t long after that day that I realized I had to stop ignoring the effects stress had on me, and start practicing self-care.
Stress has long been proven to have very real and serious effects on our bodies and our minds, yet, we still write it off as “just” stress. Some seasons of life bring us more stress than others, and that stress has a real impact. Relocating, new jobs, our relationships, our family, and our health can all bring crazy amounts of stress into our lives. For me, it was all of it. The last year has been the most stressful year one could imagine. My husband and I moved, had big changes at work, bought a new vehicle, and had a new baby all in the span of a few months. The last year has been mindblowingly difficult. Our baby passed away due to a congenital heart defect, and we’ve been navigating how to do life while grieving. In order to survive this insanely stressful season of life, I’ve had to remind myself again and again to prioritize my mental health and my heart. Here are some important reminders for practicing self-care in those most stressful times of life.
First, be forgiving of yourself. Didn’t make it through your to-do list or achieve that goal you set for yourself before life got crazy? It’s okay. Unrealistic expectations only perpetuates the negative feelings you’re feeling. Stressful seasons of life are times when you have to be kind to yourself and recognize your own limitations. I had huge goals to complete an extensive professional development program for work and my husband had planned to start on his doctorate this last year, but we pushed it back. I felt such freedom when I gave myself permission to say I’ll focus on that later.
Give Yourself Permission to Feel
Know that the emotions you have are legitimate. The last year was so, so hard. I felt so many emotions – anger, sorrow, frustration, panic. I finally gave up trying to fight them away, and started acknowledging those feelings to simply be what they were – feelings. It’s okay not be fine.
Be Okay With Asking For Help
Be brave enough to ask for help from family, friends, or even a therapist. There’s zero shame in seeking help, and it’s about time we applaud one another for stepping out.
Make Time For Things You Enjoy
Prioritize time to do things you enjoy. My husband and I both really enjoy being out on the water, paddle boarding or kayaking, and we found it to be therapeutic and healing. Even when we had a million things to deal with, we made time to get outdoors and just be. It soothed our hearts and helped us cope.
Nurture Your Relationships
Pour into your relationships. Times of stress are not times to draw away from friends who love you. When a friend calls and asks to grab coffee, say yes.
Find a mode of self-expression, be it music, art, or writing. If it helps you get your emotions out onto something tangible – do it.
Focus on Activity
Stress weakens the immune system and can lead to headaches, digestive problems, and hormone imbalances. Staying active can combat these affects. My husband got back into running, and while it seemed at first to just take up more time and energy when we were already wiped out, he quickly noticed the improvement to his mood, his productivity, and his overall health.
Treat Yourself Well
Do good things for yourself. Get the spa package. Plan the weekend away. Go out for ice cream. Some days, that might be as simple as an extra-long bubble bath or wearing a favourite outfit. Seek simple and meaningful ways to bring happiness or contentment to your day, especially the extra hard ones.
This season of stress won’t last forever. Know that you are bigger, stronger, and more powerful than whatever life as thrown at you. When the panic is rising in you and the emotions are wearing you down, build yourself back up through practicing self-care. Doing so can help turn your most difficult times into times of deep triumph and personal growth.