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How to Take Care of Yourself During Tough Times

“Have respect for yourself, and patience and compassion. With these, you can handle anything.” ~Jack Kornfield

Several years ago, within a matter of months, I experienced the death of a parent, the breakdown of a committed relationship, and the death of a treasured animal companion.

I'd been doing okay with “normal” life tension, but when all that crap hit the fan… Wow.

I handled it okay. Just okay. I'm not sure it was a time to expect myself to be amazing.

Life is much better now.

One of the biggest lessons I learned going through those experiences was that I really had no idea how to take care of myself.

I'm great at taking care of others. I, like many of us, could give you loads of examples of how wonderfully supportive and understanding I can be. However, I'd neglected to take the time to understand me and what sorts of things helped me to feel nurtured, supported, and cared for.

I’ll skip the “yoga, getting enough rest, and chocolate” portion of the list (since you can find those kinds of self-care tips here). They’re super important, and the fact is, I already knew about them, but on their own they weren't cutting it at that time in my life.

Here are some lessons I learned that I hope we can all benefit from when we're going through a tough time.

Stay out of other people's business.

It's really easy to get wrapped up in the situations and emotions of those we care about.

When our partner is having a difficult time at work, we tend to feel their frustration and disappointment. When a loved one is going through a divorce, we may get caught up in their stories about how they've felt mistreated or how their spouse is being unfair.

While doing these things is very common and considered a normal part of friendship, it's not the time. These behaviors can be draining to our own energy. Listening to the emotions of others can cause those emotions to be stirred up in ourselves, especially if we relate to the situations they're talking about.

It's simply not the time to use our energy reserves feeling other people's emotions. We have our own to harmonize.

Accept ourselves.

Yeah, we know this one already. But how many of us are actually doing it?

Here's the thing: We can absolutely accept where we are at any given moment, while also holding space for wanting more; for being more compassionate; for having a better education, a more successful business, or for meeting a loving partner.

Accepting where we are at doesn't mean we don't have goals, or can't visualize a different, presumably even more fulfilling life. It means that we recognize there are times in our life where we won't be amazing (see above). That there are times when we'll do the minimum to get by, because that's all the energy we have.

Sometimes, that's just how it's going to be.

Accepting where we are at is always a priority, but particularly in times of intense strain. No beating ourselves up allowed.

Recognize what helps us feel good when we're stressed.

Again, seems like a no-brainer. However, when I was going through these experiences, I assumed that having coffee or drinks with a good friend would help me feel better.

Normally, I really enjoy this and find it relaxing.

Surprisingly, I found I was not enjoying these get-togethers. It wasn't that my friends weren't sympathetic. It was simply that I needed me (and me alone) time to process and heal. The very greatest friend simply could not offer me what I could offer myself at that time.

We're all different. Some of us will find great comfort in surrounding ourselves with friends; others will benefit from immersing ourselves in our hobbies or in our work. There's no right answer here. It's a matter of paying attention to our own needs and what works for us, not what general opinion says that we need.

This is also not a time to cave to social or family obligations if we don't find them to be nourishing. If the weekly family dinner is fun and supportive, go for it. If it's more of a “dredging up the past” fest, then let that routine go until you're feeling stronger.

Re-learn how to focus.

Many of us feel busy, busy, busy. And it's true—we are busy. That said, taking the time to really assess our Internet and social media time can be enlightening.

If I'm honest, I spend one to two hours of a “work” day cruising Facebook and Twitter, checking and answering email, and reading posts on different news outlets.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with this. It is, for some of us though, a behavior that has “trained” us to not be as focused as we could be.

Instead of sitting down and spending an uninterrupted two hours on a particular task, getting sidetracked online can cause that same task to take me three to four hours (or more!).

Great focusing skills also apply to our “me” time. It’s not just useful when working or studying. Focus can also help to optimize the time we do spend relaxing or self-nurturing. I can't tell you how many times I've “intended” to meditate or nap, and have found myself obsessively checking email instead.

Using apps to limit one’s access to social media can be a great way to start the process of shifting our online habits.

In times of stress, compassion for self, in the manner that is the most soothing and fulfilling for us, is a priority. To be present in our lives, and for our loved ones, and yes, for ourselves, this self-care is imperative.

What do you pay attention to when you're in an intense period of self-care?

About Maria Moraca

Maria Moraca is a conscious integrated channeler. She and Zurac (her “entity dude”) work in tandem; Maria encourages empowerment and Zurac offers insight and clarification to life path questions. Her website and blog are at mariachanneling.com.

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  • Sue

    I wish that this article was available when I was looking after my parents who both got diagnosed with cancer in 2012. Everything I read and everyone I spoke to said “you must look after yourself” you must eat right and exercise and go for walks. it was all about things that I should do – but at the time I was already doing more than I was actually capable of and looking after myself just seemed to add more stress to an already stress filled life. I wish someone could have told me about all the things that I didn’t have to do and didn’t have to feel guilty about letting go of. Don’t worry about cleaning your house – take a bubble bath instead. Don’t worry about visiting the in-laws, send your husband on his own (it is his family after all) and stay home and read a good book. Stop feeling like you have to do it all or feel guilty if you let someone down! Focus on the important situation at hand and let everything else go (at least for awhile) stop beating yourself up! Great post!

  • Kathy B

    Really good advice !

  • Terri

    Thank you; as an introvert, I appreciate the recognition that for some of us, healing and strength comes from within

  • D von Wilt

    yes.

    i also find important recognizing that there is a huge physical and natural structure around us, offering us physical support. The grund beneath us, our beds, cushions, water pipes bringing us water, toilets… so much has already been done for our well being, so acknowledging that in periods of crises has already soothed me a bit. then being in nature.

    the human element is way too unpredictable. so when i am too shaken that anything is dangerous, it’s also not a very good idea to be around people (that’s for me, i know for others it’s different). But it’s good to have already realized that.

  • Nik Jones

    I’m in the middle of going through some self care. I’m generally one that puts people first, I will immerse myself in their emotions because it helps me avoid my own, then when I have a big crisis like I recently have, I crumble. So, thanks to Tiny Buddha and various other things, I’m now in the process of self love. I’m like you, I need to be on my own to get what I need from me, I’ve been doing it a few months now and I’m actually enjoying being with myself, I can’t remember the last time that happened 😀

  • Mariachanneling

    I’m always available to tell you all the things you can skip doing! 😉 I’m glad you liked the post and resonated with the message. I hope things have smoothed out in your life, and I wish for you a lovely 2014…

  • Mariachanneling

    I definitely have introvert tendencies, and completely agree! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Mariachanneling

    Sounds like you’re enjoying your relationship-building with you – that’s awesome! Enjoy your journey, so glad you found this Tiny Buddha community to partake in!

  • Mariachanneling

    Thanks Kathy!

  • onewithnature

    A much needed piece of uplifting information. Hats off to you!

  • Leah

    Any bodywork like massage, cranial sacral therapy or reflexology helps when i’m stressed. Especially when you crave a gentle touch but have no lover, and you don’t have to talk or give, just lie there and recieve. That and taking vitamins and herbs to boost me!

  • Mariachanneling

    Thanks very much, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Mariachanneling

    Yes, support comes in many variations, doesn’t it? Thanks for commenting!

  • Fernando

    excellent!

  • Candice

    Thank you so much for this. I have just been through 14 months of marriage implosion hell & just when I thought the worst was over, my mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness & I will be her primary caregiver. I am holding on by a thread thanks to posts like this. I agree with the energy sapping nature of other people’s business. I no longer have time or interest in office or other dramas. I only want to be around positive people as their energy is like oxygen to me.

  • Mariachanneling

    Thanks Fernando!

  • Mariachanneling

    Sending you energy to assist you through these times. Find your comfort where you can and take care of yourself Candice… much love.

  • Jamie Bergeron

    Maria, your perspective is very enlightening, thank you for sharing and encouraging me to be more compassionate with myself. This seems to be a real challenge for many, and practicing everyday with encouragement, like yours, is an ongoing project. Thank you!

  • Gina

    For the past 3 years, I have been going through a divorce with a loss of financial stability and a custody battle, and have also been unemployed and considering a career change which would require going back to school. I have also been a caretaker for my difficult father for the past 3 months, and my depression and anxiety have really soared. I think that the most important thing for me when I get in crisis mode is to step back and make a list of 10 things I am grateful for in that moment. It can be little things like finding a penny on the sidewalk to bigger stuff like having my smiling little girl in my Life. I repeat it through the day as needed. That one step always pulls me back into mindfulness and allows me to focus on making positive changes.

  • Jeff Kelley

    What is self care? People around me my whole life has put me in the Position that others come first. My wife can even let me have alone time to take a shower. I’m being serious when I say what his self-care.i don’t know what is . Please help me find out. I don’t expect you to answer back but it would be nice

  • Dave Nordella

    Maria, it’s clear that you are a compassionate person. What you went through was devastating. I lost my #blessed mother in July. I am starting to regain my balance now. Thanks for reminding all of us that it is OK to nourish ourselves as well as others.

  • Jordyn

    When was this written. I need to know for a project I’m working on

  • Anne

    Love you Maria. Going though a ‘rough’ patch would be an understatement to describe what my life is at the moment. I relate with SO much of whats said here and to think I was always the ‘go to’ person for some such practical and sound pieces of advice be it for friends or family until a decade earlier. Yes, a decade.

    I have been on a horrible see saw- both professionally and personally for a long time forget about growth, there is no stability, though I never show it out to anyone(bad? yeah I Know ) I’ve lost my parents in a matter of 10 months, I was the primary care giver for both, even my drive to perform and achieve,sports, on and off relation with my self esteem and belief which was otherwise never an issue, my passions, even ‘me’. Having said that, I have also gained much in my journey- valuing relationships, skills that I enjoyed developing- now latent,people, friendships, even changing cities – yes, that was nice for me. I find it hard to put whats in my mind into coherent sentences, but I tried – well, that’s good.

    Win some, lose some – as simple as it gets. Never get overwhelmed by any one a a number of incidents acting simultaneously. One thing at a time, one day at a time, one learning at a time – coming together to make that beautiful jigsaw. I believe mine and each of our lives is waiting to unravel into – we should live it if we want to see it! Don’t just give up yet – Hope springs eternal. You take care. Much love.

  • Niki

    All I can do is the bare minmum to just get by. Sometimes it’s minute by minute. The loss of my son is incredibly overwhelming. It’s only been two months. I feel like he was just here a minute ago. I don’t even like life anymore. Any joy I’ve ever felt is gone. I try to read things like this to see if possibly I might be able to help myself.