During my recent journaling excursion I re-read this entry and it made me realize the importance of self-awareness and flexibility when it comes to taking care of yourself. Sometimes changing your mind is an important form of self-care because you just might not always know what you need right away.
I experienced this “changing my mind” thing recently through the perspective of grieving a loved one, but I believe the same concepts of self-awareness and flexibility can apply to so many other situations when it comes to your health and well-being.
Here’s a quick guide to changing your mind:
1. Life sucks sometimes.
A few weeks ago it was my Dad’s birthday. It’s the third one we’ve had since he died and the 6th one where he felt gone because of the a-hole of Alzheimer’s.
It was the hardest one yet for me and I don’t really know why it was, but I cried. A lot. I was irritable and short with my kids. Nothing was accomplished on my to-do list.
2. Try to find ways to make it suck less.
The thing is I had every intention to do what I did last year – my kids and I got all dressed up, hopped in the car, took a short cruise, and cranked up the volume a little too loudly listening to California Sun by the Riverias on repeat. We stopped and grabbed some delicious donuts before visiting my dad’s gravesite to say “happy birthday”.
My kids were so excited for this and for many reasons. 1.) They love getting dressed up, 2.) They love donuts (and know my love of donuts is deep), and 3.) My 4-year old son was convinced that we needed to try an “experiment” where we would put a donut on top of the gravestone and my dad would be able to come back. 😭😭😭. When he told me this I fought back tears and attempted to explain the impossibility of this experiment, but he was adamant and joyful so I shut up and I told him, “Okay, it’s worth a shot.”
… But then a part of me wanted to be like, “Haven’t you seen Pet Sematary?!”
Anyway, I had this donut tradition in my head and ready to go when I woke up. It felt so nice last year to be out and about and celebrating my dad. I had to do it again! It was going to be a tradition. Donuts + my dad = amazingness.
But this year I was a mess. And my kids were totally absorbing it. My son was being rude and secretly mean. My 2 year old daughter was clingy. This is not how they normally act.
3. Get real with myself: letting go and changing course
As I was dealing with the mess of my mind (and honestly, my house) I made the decision I was not going do my tradition after all and I would have to deal with the emotional weirdness I felt about it. Maybe even worse yet, I would have to deal with the meltdowns of children being told there would be no donuts or dress-up or weird bring-the-dead-back-to-life experiments.
But, as soon as I made the decision I felt, well, better. I still felt sad, but a little less overwhelmed. I sat down and had a cup of coffee. And maybe because I was taking care of my self and my stress wasn’t radiating out hardcore, my kids calmed down and actually played beautifully with each other. They shared. They took turns. They giggled. Little halos began to appear above their heads.
Those little halos soon burst when a pinching or screaming fit exploded, but it gave me a moment to breathe and feel what I needed to feel. The rest of the day had some rocky moments (for me and the kids), but we got through it. In fact, they even handled the change of the day okay. We made other plans for later that involved the same type of ingredients for the good day .
4. Choose real (meaningful) self-care
I realized that because I choose a tiny piece of self-care for myself it made the entire day better for myself and my kids. I could have done what I had in my head and forced us to get out, but I think I would have been angrier, sadder, and less patient/present and my kids and I would be the worse for it.
Here’s an interesting read from “What’s Your Grief” about the dangers of keeping busy when you’re grieving. The thing that resonated most with me in this article was the reminder of the importance of expressing or feeling how you really feel and not letting being busy get in the way of that. On the hand, I also think being busy these past few years has allowed me to not get swallowed up in my feelings. So I suppose it’s all about a balance.
Side note: The site above also has a nice list of self-care ideas for grievers.
Whether or not you’re grieving the lost of someone or something (maybe even an opportunity, experience, or city) – it’s important we realize what’s working and what’s not – and changing course when we need to.
Today’s self-care challenge – stop and think of something you do that’s no longer serving you and let it go. Even if it’s something small it’s still powerful and it’s still important.