7 Ways to Look After Yourself During a Life Crisis. ~ Naomi Arnold

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Naomi Arnold. beach, girl

On the very same week that I launched my website and blog, I received some traumatic news: my otherwise healthy Dad was diagnosed with an incurable and aggressive brain tumour.

The day following Dad’s neurosurgery, while we were still waiting for a diagnosis, we sat in the park opposite the hospital. We laughed about silly things and cried about serious things.

Then we laughed about how we were crying.

On the walk back to the hospital, my parents led the way, while I trailed behind, soaking up their presence. I had felt strong up until this point—trying to stay positive and focusing on one step at a time. As I watched my parents walking together, the reality of the situation started to sink in.

The fear began to bubble to the surface. My wet eyes threatened to reveal my secret. I felt weak, vulnerable and afraid.

I started to think about my blog where Me Time and self care was the focus of the first month. In my moment of weakness, I started to question myself and my authenticity. Here I was publishing blog posts on Me Time and self-care, when I wasn’t actually currently practicing my own suggestions.

So many of these things seemed like a luxury now. A facial? Journaling? A daily meditation practice? Going to the gym?

These were the last things that I wanted to do.

Like many bloggers and life coaches, I place extreme value on being authentic, honest, and genuine. It is important to me that I practice what I preach. It therefore disturbed me deeply to be questioning my authenticity in the very first week of launching my blog. I had just published a website called Project Healthy Happy Me, when behind the scenes I wasn’t feeling my healthiest or happiest.

Was I a fraud?

Suddenly, in that moment, I remembered the importance of ‘context’ —actually, this was something that my Dad had taught me. Context is defined as ‘the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood’.

What I would usually do for self care when I was otherwise well—just busy juggling lots of balls and maybe occasionally stressed or overwhelmed—was completely different to what I should do for self care when my family and I were going through the toughest period of our lives, learning and adjusting to the the reality that our loved one was approaching death.

Me Time and self care was still important to me, but it meant something different now. The context had shifted dramatically. As I reflected on this, I realised that I was doing much more than I gave myself credit for to look after myself throughout this challenging time.

Listed below are seven ways in which I looked after myself during this period. I hope that they will be of use to others who are also experiencing crisis.

1. Make a conscious effort to eat (primarily healthy) foods.

Upon learning that my Dad was ill, I had zero appetite. Despite this, I forced myself to eat and generally make healthy choices. Having said this, I also didn’t beat myself up for that night where I ate lemon meringue pie and ice cream for dinner!

2. Make a conscious effort to stay hydrated.

When I am stressed, I sometimes forget to drink water. Whilst at the hospital, I deliberately carried a water bottle around with me to ensure I stayed hydrated.

3. Be creative about taking short breaks.

When I was at the hospital, I didn’t want to leave Dad’s side. Then when I got home to my friend’s place where I was staying, I didn’t want to be rude and not make conversation. However, I also knew that I needed a quiet moment to myself every now and again to ‘fill the tank’.

At the hospital, I did this by taking an extra five minutes after a toilet break to do some breathing and relaxation exercises. When I got home, I’d say I was going to bed twenty or so minutes earlier than planned so I could read or just ‘chill’ for a bit before going to sleep.

4. Listen to your body.

I was so emotionally and physically exhausted that my usual exercise regime was too much for me. Instead, I listened to my body and moved it gently by going for walks and doing light stretching.

5. Ask for help.

One of the biggest things I did to look after myself was to consciously think of ways that I could ask others to help me. They wanted to help anyway – so it was actually doing us both a favour!

6. Give yourself permission to say no.

Saying “no” has been something that I’ve been working on at the best of times. During the week at the hospital, however, I made a conscious decision to say “no” to others and “yes” to myself more. For example, I turned down requests for dinner and rescheduled sessions with clients so that I could spend time with my family and rest in between.

7. Give yourself permission to feel and to talk about your feelings.

During traumatic times, it can be so easy to swallow how you’re feeling. To focus so much on being strong, that you don’t give yourself permission to feel your vulnerability and weakness.

It can be a tricky balance to be helpful, strong, and reliable—but also true to how upset you are. I made a conscious effort during this time to give myself permission to feel. To cry. To laugh. To cry some more. To talk to others about how I was feeling. This is definitely something that I identified that I could do more of, and I will continue to consciously make an effort here.

The above seven ways of looking after yourself might not seem like much to someone who has a beautiful self care routine. That’s where ‘context’ comes in. During a time of crisis, like what I’ve been experiencing with my family, these seven self care ‘rules’ have been my lifeline. Without them, I would not have been able to support myself, let alone be there for my family.

So if anyone reading this is struggling—is going through a period where just putting one foot in front of the other feels so damn hard, let alone meditating or vigorously exercise—please know that I hear you.

Remember the word ‘context’. Remember that we are all different. Don’t beat yourself up. Take small steps. Acknowledge your vulnerabilities. Find a new way of looking after yourself. Do what works for you, right now in this life context.

 

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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Author’s Own

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anonymous Oct 7, 2014 1:08am

Naomi, this post is so beautiful and so well written. I am continually inspired by you putting yourself out there and taking every opportunity to help and guide others. Congratulations on such an amazing post. (You rock).

    anonymous Nov 8, 2014 4:06pm

    Hi Katherine. I responded to your comment a while back, but it seems it didn't push through. So sorry about that! I just wanted to say thank you so much for your support and kind words. You are amazing. A million thank yous.

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 6:58pm

Thank you for your comments.I lost a child 12 years ago and what you have written still has so much meaning. Sometimes time gives a perspective that you don't have in the moment.

    anonymous Oct 5, 2014 3:41pm

    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and share your heart-breaking experience and connection to what I have written. I have not lost a child myself, but as a mother, can only imagine how it would feel – I suspect that it would be something that would stick with me forever, that perspective would change over time, and that I'd need to make a conscious effort to take care of myself when times are harder. Having said that, I don't think anyone truly knows until they go through it themselves. Thinking of you and hoping you've had lots of support and love throughout the past 12 years.

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 6:11pm

Beautifully written Naomi, I can relate to so many of your 7 ways of looking after yourself. I've been going through fertility challenges for the past 3 and a bit years and there have been times after failed IVF cycle after IVF cycle that I have struggled to lift my head off the pillow. Thank-you for sharing and love and healing light to your dad and family xox

    anonymous Oct 5, 2014 3:31pm

    Thanks so much Rachel for sharing your experience and for your kind words. I can only imagine how emotionally and physically draining going through failed IVF cycle after IVF cycle must be. I really hope that you've managed to find your own way of looking after yourself throughout those times – and that you remember to give yourself permission to accept that it's okay to struggle to lift your head off the pillow sometimes after such a traumatic time. Thinking of you and wishing you all the best xo.

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 5:19pm

Oh Lily, thank you so much for your comment. I hesitated about posting this article given its personal nature – but ended up doing so out of hope that it would help someone else experiencing something similar. I'm so happy to hear that it has helped you in some way. xo

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 4:36pm

Thank you very much for what you have shared here. It reached into me at a much needed time and made me see things differently.

It’s also helping me see some past events in a new light, realising that, given the awareness of context, certain actions of others weren’t actually hurtful. Their focus had narrowed down to the very basics out of necessity and they were literally unable to act differently than they did. Now I can retell the story in my own mind and feel less pain. This is a real gift you have given me. Thank you sincerely.

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Naomi Arnold

Naomi Arnold is an award winning Business + Life Passion Coach, writer, speaker and human rights activist. She works with big hearted, creative and mission driven people who want to make a difference in the world. Through her coaching, writing, and award nominated Freebies Library at her website, she helps people embrace their uniqueness and live their version of a passion-fueled and purposeful life.