It happened again.
About one month ago, there was a clear decline in my husband’s mental health. Truthfully, the decline had been happening for a while, but it was obvious he needed medical help. Our family faced another intense and stressful period.
You might expect familiarity to ease stress. While true in terms of our ability to communicate with medical and mental health professionals (anyone who has lived this can speak the language) and our stance in advocating for what we need, emotional stress lives by different rules. The emotional and mental stress never lessens.
During this recent time, I did what I always do. I have strategies that work to keep me somewhat level headed. For example, I pared down my schedule and exercised more.
However, I realized I do other things I had not previously identified. I ended up writing several microblogs on my Instagram feed about them. In this post, I am going to share the content here.
5 ways to cut yourself slack
1. I talked on the phone a lot.
In this day of texting vs talking, I sometimes feel I am intruding if I call someone. This time though, I didn’t argue with myself. I asked close friends if I could call them and several offered to call me too. I found voice to voice connection calming and comforting.
2. I did not worry about ‘healthy’ eating.
I was in crisis and not in a state of mind to worry about healthy eating. Of course, I don’t have health concerns that require dietary monitoring as I know some of you do. I cut myself some slack by eating what my body wanted. For about three days, I ate sandwiches, fries, and sugar snap peas. This didn’t last long and I returned to a salad, fruit, and a more balanced diet.
3. I spoke the phrase “This is normal” a lot.
Recognizing the ups and downs of my emotions as normal helped me to step back from the whirlwind. If I didn’t fully believe it was normal, I said, “I suspect this is normal.” This helped me combat the alternative, which was ‘you are not normal’ and ‘there’s something wrong with you!’
4. I acknowledged my pain-and talked with people who did too-even if the professionals didn’t.
It’s a hard and painful truth that sometimes the pain of caregivers is not adequately acknowledged by professionals. Usually, this oversight is not intentional but a result of time and resource limitations. However, it still hurts and can feel deeply personal.
If you are in a meeting with your loved one’s professional and you feel invalidated, try not to push away the hurt. This is really hard because you are in a potential crisis with lots of demands on you. For starters, call someone who supports you (see number one). Second, your feelings and experience matters. Third, give yourself time and space to cry or to get angry. Fourth, share your feelings with your partner or loved one. Fifth, remember this post.
5. Remember, after the crisis or challenge is over, there is a period of recovery. Continue to cut yourself slack.
After a period of intense giving, you may feel the after effects. You might feel:
- Emotionally unstable
This is normal and it’s important to remind yourself of that. Continue to take care of yourself.
When you are going through something really difficult, it’s easy to be hard of yourself. It’s easy to criticize or berate yourself for not doing enough, not saying the right thing, or for losing your temper.
The reason for this is because our brains focus on the negative, a tendency called the negativity bias.
In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones. ~ Rick Hanson, PhD
What’s not as natural is to cut yourself slack. I hope this list and my recent experiences will help you begin to do just that.
- What about you?
- Do you find it challenging to go easy on yourself when your partner is struggling?
- What things do you do to go easy on yourself?