“You are worth the quiet moment, you are worth the deeper breath. You are worth the time it takes to slow down, be still, and rest.” ~ Morgan Harper Nichols
I want to talk about overwhelm, which is something I suspect I’m not alone in dealing with, especially given our current global situation.
Even before the pandemic struck, I was on the edge of overwhelm. I live with two autoimmune conditions—rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia—both of which cause me to have health issues when I’m stressed out.
I started the year completely stressed out, thanks to a new health condition that reared its head: some irregular tissue was growing inside my duodenum, affecting my digestion. On my first visit to a specialist to try to remove it in February, it turned out to be far more extensive than expected, and I had to be rescheduled for a far more involved procedure.
Then COVID hit, and I was deferred for a bit. To say that I was struggling is an understatement: we were isolating at home, my health was in jeopardy, and while we believed that the tissue wasn’t malignant yet, it was definitely the sort of tissue that was trying to become cancer.
I found it difficult to do my usual tasks, and I was decidedly fatigued and somewhat short-tempered from adding all this additional stress and uncertainty into what was already a fraught situation.
Not knowing what else to do, I fell back on some serious self-care practices. I’m not talking about face masks and bubble baths, though I did increase the number of baths I took using Epsom salts, since they soothed the aches and pains that came with my increased stress levels.
I spent far less time than usual on social media, in order to avoid “doomscrolling”: that’s where you keep scrolling through social media to find the latest, most upsetting information on whatever catastrophes are occurring. To my husband’s consternation, it also meant that I stopped watching the nightly news with him; instead, I would read a book, or watch something light and happy on my laptop.
I made sure to get outside every day as long as the weather permitted, in order to allow nature to do its thing and make me feel better. I set and met a goal to exercise at least five days a week for twenty minutes or more, and I made sure to drink a lot of water and not skip meals.
I also returned to my meditation practice, which had lapsed in prior months, as it sometimes does, and established a bedtime routine to set me on a path to successful sleep
Here are my takeaways from that time period.
If you need time away from it all, take it.
If you need to establish boundaries with those around you in order to protect yourself, your emotions, your mental health, and/or your energy, it’s fine for you to do so. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so it’s important to take care of yourself.
Give yourself permission to step away from the noise of the world.
Specifically, you have permission to:
- Turn off the news, or reduce your intake
- Reduce your time on social media if it stresses you out
- Unfollow social media accounts that are too negative for you
- Reduce your contact with negative individuals in your life by setting boundaries
- Put yourself on time out if you need it
- Take a mental health day
- Say no to things you don’t want to do (even if you already said yes)
It is 100 percent okay for you to take a break. It is okay for you to need time out, or time off. It is okay for you to prioritize your self-care.
Prioritizing your mental health and your self-care are two of the best things you can do for yourself and the people around you, as I learned again this spring. With things the way they are in the world right now, many of us are shaken up and need to boost our physiological needs and shore up our feeling of security.
While I’m not a psychologist, I am familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is usually shown as a pyramid. At the base of the pyramid are basic human needs such as shelter, sleep, food, water, and exercise. The next tier, which is also pretty large, is safety and security, and it includes things like employment and health.
The pandemic has rocked our worlds in ways that have shaken that pyramid. It’s hard to work on any of the higher-tier stuff, like romance, dreams, and plans, and spiritual matters, when the foundation of our personal pyramids need shoring up.
That’s one of the reasons I returned to basic self-care for myself. Exercise, hydration, nutrition, and sleep were on my list. Those are all from the base level of the pyramid.
Turning down the noise from the outside world, while remaining informed in small snippets, allowed me to remain connected to what was going on without spinning myself into a stress ball.
Being on a more even keel allowed me to move through that time period without completely losing myself to stress and anxiety.
And as for that adenoma? I was operated on the day before my birthday, and though it turned out to be a bigger procedure than anticipated, the biopsies came back clear. One less worry to move forward with.