A few days ago, our beloved dog, Andy, had a "neurological event". It looks like a stroke caused by a piece of cartilage from his advanced stage arthritis that got dislodged and entered the brain, but it could be a brain tumor and it could be something called vestibular syndrome which is common in elderly dogs. He's hanging in here still 5 days later and we are seeing signs of improvement but it's all still very tenuous and uncertain.
I've been contemplating the timing of this life event for Andy and our family and how it has coincided with the launch of my new Smart Self Care for Busy Women e-course (which begins November 4th). This is one of those times when I am reminded that we teach that which we most need to learn. Even though I've been speaking, coaching and leading retreats about the topic of self care for years, it's a practice that I am continually working on in my own life. I think it's a lot like yoga or meditation or writing or music or whatever your "thing" is... it's not something you "get" and have now "mastered"... it's a life long practice that some days is easy, flowing, beautiful and nourishing and other days makes you want to bang your head against a wall and yell "aaaaaaah!" because it feels so heavy, hard and complex. Yet, we persist because it's necessary for our well-being.
Day to day self care is sometimes easier to manage if you can make it a habit and build it into your routine (like brushing your teeth or preparing dinner), but when you are in crisis mode, there are some concepts that really bubble to the surface as being critical to remember:
1. Know your limits. At 6 am that Wednesday morning, when Andy tried to get up and kept falling, then was walking in circles, drooling and couldn't really function, I knew I needed help. I was home alone with our toddler and Eric was away on business. I thought about calling my neighbor for an extra hand but after assessing the situation, figured it all out so that I could manage to get both Riley and Andy in the car by myself. I dropped Andy off at the vet, took Riley to school, and returned immediately to the vet's office where he promptly told me what I already knew "we think Andy has had a stroke, or something like it". After a lengthy consultation, he told me my options and I knew that keeping Andy at the vet clinic that day and that night was the smart thing to do. I couldn't handle both the baby and the dog by myself either physically or, more importantly, emotionally. I was a wreck and had been crying all morning. Did I want to take Andy home to rest and recover? Of course! But I knew my my limits and it allowed me to collect myself emotionally so that I could bring him home the next day.
2. Give yourself permission to experience the depth of your emotions. For the past 5 days, I've been a blubbering mess. I've cried in front of 2 1/2 year old Riley more than I'd like to. She has been wonderfully sensitive and surprisingly, hasn't cried herself. She keeps saying "You're sad, Mommy. You're worried about Andy. You're worried about Daddy." She gets it. I tell her she's right, we talk about it for a minute, then we do something different like read books or play with toys. I think it's important for me to get the emotions out of my body because then it helps to me to function better. Plus, I'm modeling for my daughter that it's OK to be sad and scared. It's part of life.
3. Know what commitments to keep on your plate and which ones to reschedule. I had several calls scheduled for Friday and knew I didn't have the stamina to get through all of them. So I kept the two clients calls that had been scheduled more than a month prior, and the other two calls which were more get-to-know-you networking calls got postponed to a later date. I'm glad I kept the client calls because they were excellent sessions that helped raise my energy so I felt stronger for the rest of the day. And I'll enjoy getting to know the new people when I'm in a better frame of mind and be more fully present for the conversation.
4. It's critical to cultivate your tribe. One of the greatest gifts over the past 5 days has been our circle of friends and family. Pet lovers or not, they care for us unconditionally and respect our deep bond with Andy. Friends have brought by chocolate, offered to bring dinner, kept Riley for us, sent e-mails, phoned us and soooo many have left love notes on Facebook. When you're in a crisis, there is nothing better than being able to sink in to the circle of support and prayers from your tribe.
So often, we assume that self care should get thrown out the window in difficult times because we have to step up our care for others and the situation we are facing, but the past few days have reminded me that it's in times of crisis that having a good foundation for self care allows us to navigate the rocky terrain more mindfully and make the best possible choices for all concerned.
Inspired Action: What self care concepts do you have in place to help you through a time of crisis or uncertainty? Share in the comments below if you'd like.