As we approach the New Year and resolutions, I believe that it is important to make space for taking care of yourself. However, when your world has been turned upside down due to a loss, finding the time to take care of yourself might be the last thing on your mind. This is normal and to be expected. Give yourself permission to take small steps towards taking care of yourself.
Focus on the basics.
● When we are grieving, our sleeping pattern is often disrupted. Whether you find yourself unable to get a good night’s sleep or perhaps escaping through increased sleep, be creative in finding ways to regulate your sleep. Make small changes to help regulate your sleep; initiate a bedtime routine that calms your body, limit your screen time prior to bedtime, or create a soothing environment for sleep.
● Relaxed breathing is designed to calm your nervous system. If you find yourself on high alert and carrying high levels of anxiety, spend some time focusing on your exhale. The goal of the exhale is to calm your nervous system. Find a calming breathing pattern that works best for you. Remember that if you slow your breath down, your mind has to follow.
● Start small, but find a way to move your body. Even if it is just getting up and walking around the house. Find a way to move. Work up to going on a walk, even if it just five minutes. Go outside and breathe in the fresh air. Yoga is great because it incorporates breath with movement. Find a way to move that works best for you.
Give Yourself Permission to say “No”
● It’s okay that you aren’t able to do all of the things that you did before your loss. Remember, your number one job right now is to grieve. Grieving takes a lot of energy and a lot of time which means that you will have to learn to say “No” to things that used to be a part of your everyday life. Give yourself permission to do this and surround yourself with people who support this.
Awareness of Unhealthy Coping Strategies
● Begin to explore your unhealthy coping strategies. What does this mean? Anything that you turn to in order to not feel falls within this category. Remember that our goal for grieving is to find ways to work through all of those big feelings associated to your loss. One of the best self-care strategies you can take on is to begin to understand the ways that you are avoiding feeling. Maybe you aren’t ready to give these strategies up, just yet, but you can begin to understand if they are helping you versus causing you more harm. It might be helpful to explore your coping strategies with a counselor who can help you figure out what is best for you.
Take it one day at a time and, perhaps, one strategy at a time. Above all else, please remember to be gentle with yourself this year.
Joanna Majka, MA, LPC