There was a bobble over the summer when the stress of school and work tipped me over to not feeling great with a super hyperthryoid phase, sort of regained balance from that, and then that segued into me sitting at home this week recovering from the flu that a coworker shared when they came in contagious. Public Service Announcement that shouldn't need to be announced: PLEASE STAY HOME WHEN YOU ARE SICK! It's funny, in a kick myself in the behind kind of way, that this had me thinking about setting good boundaries (emotional, physical, energetic), balancing work and life, and self care, as I was in bed like a a limp noodle with a fever. Sometimes our best thinking happens when we are forced to rest. I have to admit that self care is still, even if I am a Reiki Master, something that I have to consciously work on. Putting my own oxygen mask on first doesn't always spring to mind when I am in S.H.T.F. mode!
So while the Universe provided me with this time to recuperate and rest, it's given me that opportunity to see what needs to be changed in my life and how can I use my knocked-on-my-butt-with-the-flu situation to help folks not end up being hit by the same bus driven by stress.
One thing I did (and do) have going for me was that I eat really well, even working full time and wrangling a less than stellar commute each day. I had the oddest conversation with a coworker about that several weeks ago. They were ogling my leftovers that I was eating at my desk (note that is one behavior that will be changing, no more eating at my desk or working through lunch!) and asked if I cooked like that all the time. I said yep, why? They seemed shocked that I did, I asked why the surprise and their answer really surprised me...because it had the inference that because I cook for one that I would resort to prepacked meals or dining out or ordering in. I said do you think cooking for myself, or yourself, is any less worthy than if you were cooking for someone you loved? You love yourself, right? So why wouldn't you feed yourself something wonderful? That conversation devolved into why they thought cooking meals would be time consuming (it doesn't have to be), expensive (it doesn't have to be), and a pain in the patootie (it doesn't have to be....you sense a theme here in my response to them?). I have some blog posts planned that will cross over from my Ginger Girl Goods cooking blog on how we can cook with intention and feed ourselves tasty foods that nourish us and can help keep our coworker's funky germs at bay!
A downfall that did contribute to the stress and immunity risk - my reliance on coffee. The more stressed I am, the more I want coffee. My acupuncturist friend Leslie told me that coffee is an emotional suppressant. It's great in a time of need, but when we become overly reliant on it, it will backfire - those emotions you're suppressing? They'll come out eventually. The caffeine overdosing will tweak the heck out of your adrenals and cortisol levels and leave you vulnerable for other health issues. A little is good, a lot, not so much. Coffee in particular, and caffeine generally, tends to deaden your appetite and can make you not thirsty for water. Being a diuretic and adding to dehydration is not that great either if overconsumption is happening.
With working later, and then logging on when I got home, exercise/play took a backseat. Losing that stress outlet was a huge mistake for me to make. One I know better than to leave by the wayside, but I did it anyway, and now I'm laid up recovering from the flu. I miss lifting - it makes me feel strong, it works up a sweat, and who doesn't like feeling good in their skin? This is one of those things that has to be scheduled in as a non-negotiable. So I will talk to my boss about leaving early to hit the gym on the way home and then logging in to handle work that can be done on non 8-5 hours.
Sleep also took a hit, which added to the when-is-it-all-going-to-fall-stress-Jenga madness. Drinking more coffee created a state where sleep was harder to find. Going to bed later because of working after getting home pushed back dinner, chores, even relaxation time. I had a great session with Julie King and she reminded me that we need a break between work and home. When we get home, change out of work clothes at minimum, but perhaps take a quick shower to rinse off the energetic yuck that may have come home with you. Schedule in time for REST! I tend to have a willpower/bulldozer mentality at times in getting things done, but that can be to a detriment to health. Taking time to lay on the couch reading or snuggling with one of the dogs, sitting outside on the deck and listening to the birds and watching clouds, or doing something artsy-craftsy are all forms of rest. No timeline, no outcome that is expected - just resting from the hamster wheel that we can put ourselves on.
I have utilized some coping mechanisms during these wild ride the past several months, the use of essential oils, tweaking supplements to deal with stress, and making sure that I was keeping up with my Reiki self practice, but they were acting like a bandaid to the bigger, stressful, not in control situation I had put myself in. I know how easy it can be to set self care aside when we are hurtling forward cajones to the wall day to day. I hate to think of how much harder this illness would have hit me had I not been doing what I have been!
We have to become more radical about the concept of self care. It is *not* selfish to take care of yourself, we have to put our oxygen masks on first so we can be able to help those who need it.
What steps can you take to better your self care? Reiki session? Massage? Going to bed a half an hour earlier? Drinking more water?