Today, self-care has become a part of my routine, but it did not start out that way. It has now been three years since my husband died. For me, my first year as a widow was full of numbness. The journey really started out second by second, then minute by minute, then graduated to hour by hour. Eventually, day by day. He died in the month of September and it wasn’t until the following January that I remember “waking up” out of my initial fog. He and I had a tradition of setting a family theme, or a motto, at new years for the upcoming year. I had enough presence of mind to sit down with my 1-1/2 year old son and find a theme for our year. He is a happy go lucky, full of energy, loving boy. At that time, he did not really understand death and really just wanted to play. There is a lyric to a song by the rap duo OutKast that came into my memory. In the chorus, they say “you need to get up, get out and get something, Don’t let the days of your life pass by, You need to get up, get out and get something… ” “…How will you make it if you never even try, You need to get up, get out and get something, ‘Cause you and I got to do for you and I”
How will I make it, if I never even try!! My son and I need to look out for each other and I need to try my best for my son. I was inspired thinking about that song. So, the theme for my son and me that year was to “Get up and Get Out!” Just, getting up and getting out. I felt I could at least commit to that. Luckily, he mostly just wanted to play, so we could literally go outside on a walk and he would have a blast. Being outside, explaining nature, looking at bugs, playing with sticks as swords; this gave me a break from thinking. This gave “my sad” a break as my son made me smile. It ultimately gave my brain new things to think about because I know very little about bugs and trees. As the year went on I expanded to local kid events or play areas. My husband loved culture and the theater so I found jazz concerts for kids in the park and we took a Children Theater class that my son seemed to enjoy. We were getting up, getting out and also I felt like I was introducing our son to activities that his father enjoyed too. Even if it does not inspire a shared love for those activities, I’m happy to expose and give a connection in getting to know his father’s interests.
By the end of the year, I was proud of all the “getting out” that we accomplished; Saturday morning soccer, then transitioned to swim classes, traveled to a different city, and visited our local community center for activities. By the end of the year, I felt that we accomplished that goal of “Get up and Get out!” With all my pride of maintaining “living life” with my son, I realized that I really did not do anything for me. I didn’t take time out for me, in any sense. Nothing on the long list of activities was about my needs or wants. I enjoy my son. I love my son. I like my son. I laugh with my son. I smile at my son. I was living for my son. I was exhausted and I needed to do something so I would not lose it. I did not like my alone time because it was just oh so lonely. Year two of being a widow began with me locating a widow support group, attending their monthly meetings, and joining a gym. I had met a personal trainer years before and always kept in touch with her causally. It was comfortable to reach out to her and slowly start working out with her. What I realized, after beginning to regularly work out, was that for me, exercising was a stress relief. I was living to make it day by day, any stress tipped me into overwhelmed right away. I liked the release that a workout gave me; even if just 10 minutes on a treadmill. It was like a mini escape for me where nothing was crowding my mind and thoughts. In my second year, I felt like I began to be able to breathe. I attribute most of that to the additional steps toward self-care. Finally, I could start to think clearly. I started to get comfortable with the idea of taking a break. Then, work asked me to go out of state for a conference. I did not want to pass up this opportunity. Fortunately, I have a mother and a sister that were eager to help with childcare so I could travel on my first out of state conference for four days. I had the best sleep in two years in that hotel suite by myself. Oh, and did my mention that I was in Las Vegas!? Since it was work related, it alleviated that pressure of “having fun” which was nice for me because “having fun” was still difficult for me at that time. But, what shocked me was that I was ok. I was too exhausted from all the activities and slept so well that I sat and enjoyed the seat on my balcony each morning. When I returned home, everyone was alright. My son was happy and my mother and my sister bonded in that time with my son. From that day forward, my mother keeps my son one night a week.
Find a compromise to take a break. Even if you do not leave the house, take a break. I think that can start your journey of self-care. It makes you better. Wherever you are in your path, there is always an opportunity to be better, feel better, do better, act better. You can do anything you want, whatever you want to call a break is a break! –even if it’s just breathing without thoughts. Sometimes resources are right in front you, begging to help you out. People still reach out to me asking to babysit, or they say, “let me know if there is anything I can help you with.” I never reached out and never asked for help and I didn’t know how tired I was until I took a break. Now, I appreciate my breaks and make the most of them, sometimes they are very short and sometimes they are all night long. Is there anyone in your life that is reaching out as a resource that you have overlooked? Would a friend, neighbor, or loved one sit with your child for 15 minutes while you decompress? Can you think of one thing you can do today for your self-care? Would can you commit to doing for yourself? Once a day? Once a week? Once a month? The below image has a few ideas too.
Please share some of your ideas or what you do for your self-care in the comments.