Archives for posts with tag: basic self-care

One moment of many.

Time shrank, stretched, and snapped back, today. I got home feeling I had simultaneously done much more and much less than I had planned to do – more than I expected to get done, less than I urgently needed to get done, and certainly enough actually got done. Time can be peculiarly malleable, and sometimes I think I’ve almost got the hang of doing it at will. (That would be quite amazing.) 🙂

At some point, I realized I needed a couple things from myself. I was feeling fairly pressed for time, pretty frazzled, and I was overwhelming myself with details, and small frustrations. When I started getting close to that very special moment – you know the one? That moment just at which not having some sort of horrific tantrum or untoward meltdown would just no longer be possible? That fairly strained moment of longing and regret-in-advance? (Is that just me?) I could see it there, just ahead of me… the snarled remark, perhaps, got my attention – and a moment of appreciation that although I’d spoken aloud, I was seated alone. I paused, and listened for just a precious second of limited time – really listened – to me – and I recognized unmet needs. Simply that. I heard me. I needed recognition that I’ve been sick. I needed better self-care. I needed to slow down a bit, really focus, and be patient with myself. I needed a healthy meal – a real, actual, cooked-with-care, meal, prepared from fresh ingredients that meet all of my dietary needs. (I’ve been sick, right? Cooking takes some effort, more than I could manage for a couple days, so it’s been… broth. lol Mostly just broth. And coffee. Tea. Fizzy water. Cold medicine.) I looked at the clock and acknowledged to myself how very human I am. I reset my expectations, and moved my workload around a bit. I reset the expectations of others, with consideration, with care, and as firmly as I know how to do graciously. I finished the day with a plan.

The commute was okay. Rainy. I was pre-occupied with my own thoughts, so less frustrated with the shenanigans of other, less skilled, drivers (I know they are less skilled, because… did you see that shit?? You did not. I did, though. lol). I picked up some healthy ingredients on the way home and made myself a small London broil (although I rarely eat beef, if I am at all a risk of anemia, or have recently been ill, it definitely perks me up to have it), some steamed broccoli, and homemade yam steak fries. I cooked. I enjoyed a solitary evening meal, listening to music, thinking my thoughts. First day back to work is tough on me after being sick, so I take things pretty easy this evening. I want to do more, and look at my “to do list” with a certain purposeful yearning, although I definitely do not have the energy for all that (or even most of it, or… yeah… none of it at all, actually, not tonight). An early night will be the thing, then. Maybe some quiet time reading? Meditation. I’ll write (hello!). I’ll meditate. I’ll call it a night.

Of course, the internet grabbed my attention pretty quickly – it was hard to tear myself away. A couple rounds of being annoyed with myself, followed by a reminder, again, of how human I am… the evening continues.

Self-care does not come naturally to me, in any way I can tell. I really work at it. I sometimes seriously suck at it, but it needs to be handled, and generally, it needs to be handled skillfully – or I am doing little more than hastening my own demise through neglect. :-\ So, tonight I practice self-care practices. Gentle verbs. Verbs that nurture. Verbs that heal. Verbs that soothe and tend and care for.

Tomorrow is soon enough to begin again on all the other verbs. 🙂

I woke feeling well-rested and content, and  I got a great start to my day – even on the professional side, or so it seemed, initially.

Like most people, I am not universally skilled at all things – personal or professional. It’s been pretty well confirmed over time that if my symptoms flare up (PTSD), or my brain injury gets in the way of getting things done, like dominoes falling in sequence more challenges begin to pile up, emotionally, cognitively, and socially. This morning, a ‘what the fuck?’ moment of frustration quickly developed into the sort of challenges I can’t easily manage in the office, and I made the choice to get out of the challenging environment, head for home and take care of me. I knew as I walked home in the chilly autumn sunshine that I would be more easily able to support myself in the quiet safety of my wee place, surrounded by green and contentment.

Home.

Home.

There’s been some construction in the community. My windows were recently replaced. Then a tree was removed – part of a ‘drainage improvement’ project. Not easy experiences – but I got over it, and the overall look of things has remained substantially unchanged… (You know where this is going, right?)

Today, when I get home, things are very different indeed.

Today, when I get home, things are very different indeed.

Speechless. Also just at the edge of becoming enraged by frustration, and a feeling of being actively undermined – professionally and personally – at every turn, if not by the willful intent of human beings, certainly by circumstances. This is hard. Frustration is my kryptonite, and I’m not even super.

Now I’m home… my feeling of safety is destroyed by the continuous sound of the voices of strangers shouting over machinery – on all three sides of my apartment (3 different work crews: painters, a pipe crew with a ditch witch, and a crew of…well…carpenters on the roof, or roofers doing carpentry). My sound sensitivity increasing rapidly to the point where sounds will actually seem… psychologically painful. (Is that the right phrase for this experience, I wonder?) My ability to sooth myself is shattered by the combination, and the tears I will no doubt cry sometime soon are beginning to queue up waiting for the next thing I can’t take more of. Just fucking great, right? I come home to take care of me… and… now what? Please tell me – now what? I’m even completely alone, no reassuring hug from my traveling partner, or anyone else, unless I want to step outside and start randomly asking construction guys for hugs. There is no human comfort to be had until I have to force myself into the world to get to my therapy appointment on the other side of town – using mass transit – at which point I can pay another human being a lot of money to spend an hour with me at arm’s length.

Sorry. You’re ‘seeing me’ at what is my current near-worst. I hope you understand that, for the moment, being heard is the best thing I can do for myself – even if it is the being-heard-at-a-distance of writing words that someone else will read from far away. It actually counts for a lot, so… thank you for being here. So…what else can I – what else will I do? Things. There are things to do that will help – the harder part is accepting that each thing may only help some tiny tiny seemingly insignificant amount, and that it is critically important to go ahead and do each and every one to get to the best possible self-supporting outcome. It’s harder than I’d like it to be in the moment.

  1. I’m going to put on some music to mask some of the background noise; I choose Squarepusher, and turn it up louder than I might ordinarily, because some of the noise of the machinery will tend to blend in and fool me into perceiving more music than noise.
  2. I make a soothing hot beverage (no stimulants, though); the heat of the cup in my hands is comforting, and enjoying a cup of tea requires me to slow things down and take a minute for me.
  3. I make a point of alerting the construction crews politely that I am at home, and ask that they be courteous about the noise as much as possible; given a chance, people are frequently fairly kind and accommodating when they are aware that a veteran with PTSD is struggling nearby.
  4. I sit down to write about my experience, without determining in advance whether this will be ‘for publication’ or not, freeing myself to ‘get it all out there’, and leave spelling, grammar, syntax, tone, clarity, and intent to be reviewed afterward. No self-censorship. No self-criticism. Just words.
  5. I review my self-care checklist and verify that meds and basics are handled, making any adjustments needed.
  6. I put the writing on hold for some little while, to meditate if I can (it’s really really noisy around her today), but that may have to wait for the work crews to go to lunch at noon.
  7. Yoga helps me relax my body – and right now every small bit of ease I can provide to myself is going to have value.

I’ve done what I can for now. Soon I’ll be leaving for my appointment, anyway. So far, step by step, practice by practice, I have dialed down my stress enough to feel calm and mostly okay. I am okay right now; it’s important to notice and reinforce the awareness to help build more positive implicit emotional memory, and emotional self-sufficiency.

Today is a good day to be a student. Today is a good day to practice the practices. Today I’m okay right now.

My coffee this morning is less appealing than most mornings. I slept poorly, when I slept last night, at all. I woke feeling groggy and stiff, and reaching for the alarm in slow motion. It seemed to beep an infernally long time. I started to fuss at myself about each detail that felt irksome, or disappointing, a choice that holds the potential to derail both the morning and the day, given an opportunity to do so.

I considered basic needs, instead, and the difference between wants and needs – real needs, basic needs. Is a bad cup of coffee actually such a big deal? Is having a really first-rate cup of coffee in the morning a ‘need’? I do enjoy it. It’s a high priority in the morning to have coffee, both for the ritual and routine of it, and for the pleasantness of the warmth of the cup in my hand. Does having that moment rise to the level of a ‘basic need’? Hardly. Does it, however, ‘meet needs’? Sure. Does my rather average, almost actually bad cup of coffee this morning meet my needs? It does.

If the need being gratified by my cup of coffee in the morning can be so easily gratified even by a bad cup of coffee, and if having a cup of coffee is not, itself, a ‘need’…what is the underlying need met by my cup of coffee in the morning?

The flowers may be lovely, but life's needs must be met before they blossom.

The flowers may be lovely, but life’s needs must be met before they blossom.

What is a ‘basic need’? Without checking references at all, I define ‘basic need’ myself as those needs that, left unmet, result in poor emotional or physical health, perhaps worsening until death may be an outcome. I mean…that’s the definition I tend to force myself to accept in difficult times, when a lot of other needs are unmet; it helps me get by until better times to tell myself I ‘have everything I really need to survive’. Is this extremely short list (food, water, sleep) really all there is to ‘basic needs’? I don’t really think so, myself, because those survival basics don’t do more than offer the most basic opportunity to wake up again to try another day. If I want to thrive, rather than simply survive, my list of ‘basic needs’ expands a bit to include things like shelter, appropriate clothing, sex, acknowledgment and internet connectivity (hey, it’s my list! lol). It gets complicated [for me] to understand, for example, that while I genuinely do see sex as a ‘basic need’ as an adult…my need doesn’t impose a demand on anyone else. That may be true of all needs, actually. My own individual needs do not constitute a demand or obligation on any one other human being, unless we share a specific contract – like the one human beings share with each other in marriage, or that we share as a society with our government. An interesting thought on a Friday that quickly takes me to the question ‘What do I feel obligated to do for my fellow human beings to ensure their basic needs are met, and what more can I do to build a world where we all see mere survival as an unacceptable minimum standard of life for humanity?”

Subjectively, I need this cup of coffee in the morning… It’s clearly not a ‘basic need’ in any sense. (I’m no expert, these are simply my own musings about needs, and your results – and opinion – may vary.) I go to great lengths to ensure I have it, however, and the feeling of having it satisfies in the way feeling a basic need met also satisfies. What’s up with that? I’m back to ‘what is the underlying need being met?’

We are connected, related, interdependent, and reliant upon each other for survival. How do I balance my needs, and wants, versus those of the world?

We are connected, related, interdependent, and reliant upon each other for survival. How do I balance my needs, and wants, versus those of the world?

Do you know what you really need in life? Are the most ‘important’ needs in life truly the basic survival needs? Once we’ve got survival going on…what then? What do I really need as a human primate, a creature of both emotion and reason, to thrive – to be the best of who I am, to become the woman I most want to be, to enjoy the many facets of living in a way that really satisfies?

What do I need to thrive?

What do I need to thrive?

Today is a good day for questions. Life’s curriculum doesn’t take a day off – and the quiz is always an ‘open book test’. Today is a good day to ask ‘what do I need from my life’? Today is a good day to find joy in whatever answers – or experiences – there may be.

I’ve got a solo weekend. I slept well, and comfortably, and even slept a couple more hours after waking at the usual time, taking my morning Rx, and returning to bed. It isn’t always  possible to return to sleep, and this morning it was lovely to wake slowly, much later, and enjoy the slow unfolding of body and mind as my consciousness booted up for the day. My coffee is delicious – a medium Americano, at 203 degrees, no sugar, no milk – just hot, smooth, and rich. No headache this morning. Rain pouring just beyond the partially open window; I love listening to the falling rain and smelling the freshness of the air outside. It is a very nice Saturday morning so far.

Oregon winter, stormy, and mild.

Oregon winter, stormy, and mild.

I am alone this weekend. This is not significant, it simply is. I enjoy solitude, generally, and I am feeling content and satisfied with my solitary state.

I am in a lot of pain. This is significant, not because it is unusual, but because it is an element of my experience that is pretty typical, day-to-day, varying in intensity far more often than ever really going away. This morning, I am in enough pain that at other points in my life the entirety of the first paragraph could not have existed side-by-side with the pain, itself. I’ve learned a lot more about taking care of me, and over time I am building self-care practices that even stand up to the departures from routine that sometimes result from things like … having a weekend alone. Oh yeah. It wasn’t so long ago that having a solo weekend would result in over-indulging on favorite treats, not sleeping well due to staying up late to read, watch movies, or wander, overlooking timing on timing-sensitive medications… just generally completely letting myself down with regard to actually taking good care of myself. Wallowing in self-indulgence is not self-care. That’s a pretty important understanding.

I love, for example, gummy sweets. I don’t much care if they are bears, drops, fish, worms, fruits, or healthy… I love gummy candy. They are now what they must be (for me) – a rare treat, in very very small portions. I don’t respond well to quantities of refined sugar. (Your results may vary.) I also tend to overdo it on gummy sweets – I know that first hand. I also know that even casual use of refined white sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, or any similar sugars quickly increases my emotional volatility, sometimes correlates to unexpected tantrums, moodiness, and a basic feeling of not being ‘well’.  Good self-care means I continue to avoid gummy sweets when I am enjoying time on my own, just as I would en famille – accountability can’t be the sole driver of self-care (at least for me; it just doesn’t work.) That was a hard lesson to learn.

I practice good practices, even when I am enjoying a solo weekend, these days; I am capable of learning from my mistakes. Last night, feeling restless on a mild night, I walked 5 miles in the evening air rather than walking the aisles of the nearby grocery store looking for exotic treats for an evening nosh. Instead of indulging in a rich meal of favorite treats that do me no good, I enjoyed the healthy simple fare I generally do these days. I meditated. I did some yoga. I did more of the good things that care for my body and spirit, rather than fewer. Isn’t that really the thing? Investing in my own needs when I have more time to do so is an effort best spent on what really nurtures me – rather than childishly revolting against the sensible limits and restrictions I have chosen to place on myself to meet my needs over time, simply because ‘no one is watching’.

I wish I were so perfectly perfect that I didn’t need reminders, or could simply rest gently on what I have learned, confident my good practices would never fail me… I am not so perfect. I start fresh each morning, and do my best each day. I acknowledge missteps along the way, dust myself off when I stumble and keep on walking. I got here, because I make progress over time – and the journey isn’t finished. I invest will and study in gaining perspective, finding balance, and learning good self-care practices that nurture and heal me, over time. There are verbs involved. There is no ‘easy’. There is no ‘finish line’. There is no ‘win’ that amounts of finality and acknowledgement. Those aren’t criticisms, or something to be blue about; they are my endless opportunity for change, and for improving on what is, to become the woman I most want to be, and to find wellness and meaning along the way. Choices are right there to be chosen…choosing well, and following through on intention with will, and action… well… sometimes that requires a sticky note, or an alarm, or a calendar reminder, or something planned with a favorite friend. That’s okay too; this weekend, I am practicing my best practices for taking care of me.

Brunch with a friend; a very nice way to stick to a self-care routine. :-)

Brunch with a friend; a very nice way to stick to a self-care routine. 🙂

It’s a very purposeful and to-the-point title, is it not? 🙂

I spent last evening out, on a rainy night, and there was rather a lot of walking involved. I went out with my camera, and thoughts of taking some very interesting pictures at a time of day I am rarely downtown. It rained, and it rained pretty continuously. It rained too much to have my phone out all the time; my phone is my primary camera, these days. (Unpaid endorsement: camera on the HTC One M8 phone is amazing!) The time wasn’t wasted; I walked, considered things, observed things, and remained present and engaged in my experience as a practical exercise in ‘free-range mindfulness’.

Very busy primates, building things and chasing away the starry night sky.

Very busy primates, building things and chasing away the starry night sky.

I reached a point, during the evening, when I suddenly felt disenfranchised, alone, disappointed in life, discontent, and cross with myself in a vague way that had me looking for causes. My brain immediately started pointing out all the small things in life that aren’t ideal, and highlighting any moment of doubt, or insecurity. This seemed, at the time, headed for a familiar outcome. I could feel a future fight or argument sort of percolating within my consciousness, although moments before I had been enthusiastic about my evening, content, eager to walk on and see the night… why the change?

Differences in the way my evening began really had me off to a good start, so I took a step back and did some ‘taking in the good’ exercises, and almost out of  habit I made a point of giving myself my full attention; how did my body feel right now, rather than just noticing the content of my thoughts and the flow of my emotions? I was warm and dry, because I had remembered to wear weather-appropriate clothing, and had even zipped my raincoat before I left the building. I had worn comfortable, waterproof hiking boots, because I knew I’d be walking a lot. I had taken care to manage my calories well over the course of the day…and realized I was hungry, and that it was dinner time – was my blood sugar low? That would explain some measure of irritability, easily. My ankle was aching from all the walking, even with my cane, but I had also been attentive to pain management all day long…oh. It was past time for my medication – that’s not good for my level of pain, which can drive a lot of unhappiness, discontent, and discomfort, but it also affects my mood when I don’t take it on time (one of the consequences of yielding to the need for an Rx pain reliever). So…hungry…hurting…and late with both calories and medication. Yep. That definitely stirs up some random emotional bullshit and discontent.

I took time for dinner, and enjoyed it without rushing. I made a point of carefully choosing for nutritional content, and appropriate calories (which in this case, meant eating somewhat less than half the portion served, the remainder I very neatly boxed up and gave to a homeless guy at the transit center rather than have it go to waste, he made interesting conversation and appreciated the hearty meal). Getting off my feet for a few minutes helped reduce my pain. I took my pain medication, and reminded myself with a glance at the time that it would be about 70 minutes before it was fully effective. Warm and dry, well-fed and nourished, rested and medicated, I walked on about an hour later. The wait staff at the restaurant was very kind; it was just past dinner rush, and I made a point of letting the hostess know I would want to linger for about an hour because of the pain I was in. She seated me such that I could, without inconveniencing business, in a small booth for two somewhat out-of-the-way. My waiter must have been tipped off, the service was both exceptional and very supportive. Communication for the win!

I made my way here and there, and eventually headed for home, earlier than I’d planned. The rainy weather wasn’t a good fit for the notion I’d had for the evening. Once home, I had a warming hot shower, and made a mug of chamomile tea, and connected with my partner, who was surprised to see me home, and welcomed me eagerly, and with love. It was all quite lovely, and sweet, and warm.

How we care for ourselves is actually a really big deal. I still have to make a point of acknowledging it very specifically when it comes up, because I am very prone to taking the emotions that come up due to poor self-care and making them ‘about’ other things entirely. This morning, too. I slept poorly last night, not falling asleep until sometime past one, and not managing uninterrupted sleep at all, waking every 90 minutes or so. I made myself get up, at one point, when I woke near to the time I usually get up for work, and took my morning medication, had a big drink of water, and went back to sleep for another little while. Self-care: the timing on some medications matters a lot. Taking this step ensures that I am at less risk of mid-morning nastiness from taking my meds off schedule. That’s an easy one.

Making my way home on a rainy evening, smiling, and content with the night.

Making my way home on a rainy evening, smiling, and content with the night.

I woke up, at last, fairly grumpy, and very nearly stumbled over the self-care issue in spite of the evening considering it; I was somewhat terse with my partner – who was making me a latte (surprise!). I’m pleased that I quickly recognized that this was another self-care related incident; sleep matters that much for our emotional balance, resilience, and good cognition. We exchanged loving words, and I went on to write this post and sip on this tasty tasty latte. (My traveling partner is not a barista, however he makes a very good espresso beverage, and most particularly his lattes and mochas are quite smooth and wonderful.)

The practical details matter. Are you having a shitty day? Have you checked in with yourself?

  • Did you get adequate good quality rest?
  • Are you in pain? Have you taken appropriate steps to manage that?
  • Do you take emotion/cognition altering medication? Did you take them on time?
  • Are you in good health? If you may be ill, are you taking symptom relieving medication?
  • Is your symptom relieving medication potentially emotion/cognition altering? (many are)
  • Have your nutritional needs been met, including quantity of calories appropriate to your needs, and food choices appropriate to your health?
  • Are your clothes uncomfortable? (no kidding, it matters)

So often when I am on course for a bad mood, or a bad day, if I attend to the practical basics of self-care I can turn it all around*. It’s the details that matter, and not attending to my own needs quickly results in all sorts of crappy negative emotions that aren’t really about anything, but can quickly become so. I’m learning to refuse my own attempts to make events out of fleeting emotions. It’s a nice change.

Today is a good day to take care of this fragile vessel. Today is a good day to heed the only warning system it has to alert me of needs – feelings. Today is a good day to support myself, and make choices that meet my needs over time. Today is a good day to change how I take care of me. Today is a good day to be mindful that each of us faces these same needs. Today is a good day to change my perspective on the world.

*There’s still a ton of verbs involved, and no matter how good the ideas, practical self-care requires actual practice, and actual action. There was some irony in that the morning following writing this post took a turn for the worse, although not in a permanent way, and did so because I allowed myself to be distracted from my awareness of time, and timing, and wound up not taking care of morning calories, and afternoon medication in a timely fashion. I don’t write because I have answers; I write because sharing the questions has value for me, all on its own. 🙂