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Tying a Knot and Hanging On

Article posted on Friday, August, 6th, 2010 at 8:33 am

‘Keeping Yourself Healthy’ is the first item on the list of tips for keeping your family afloat in a crisis.  I bet that you skipped right over that one when reading.  That’s what parents do.  Let me repeat, you cannot afford to lose yourself.  The thing that takes a tough situation to a crisis situation is that what you usually do to cope in an emergency isn’t getting the job done.  Your regular coping skills aren’t going to work here.  When your situation takes you to the next level, your coping skills have to adjust with your circumstances.

The tips for maintaining the mental and emotional health of your family are very similar to the ones for maintaining your own mental health.  Remember, you owe it to yourself and your family to stay spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy.  The way that you care for your family is a reflection of the way that you care for yourself.

1. Take Action.

A failure to act almost always ends in despair.  Hopelessness comes from allowing your circumstances to control you.  You maintain a sense of control when you take action.  You found this blog post through a website that’s primary function serves to empower and encourage you to select a healthcare professional whom you can trust.   You have come so far.  Stay involved by asking your doctors/nurses questions and staying informed.  Take notes on your discussions.  Make logs of visitors so you can send notes later.  These tasks occupy your mind and allow you a much needed rest from your emotions.

2. Take Care of your Vehicle.

I’m not talking about your car.  Take care of your body, physically.  Your body needs food, water, rest, and it needs to move.  Your body needs fuel to continue to function.  Your brain needs fuel so that you can continue to think clearly and make good choices for yourself and your family.  Your body also needs to move.   You don’t need a gym and an elliptical to move and stretch your body.  Studies have shown time and time again that stretching your muscles can have a profound impact on relieving stress in the body, reducing tension, and clearing your mind.

3. Let People In.

Accept visitors on your time.  It is important to stay in contact with your support network of people, but you also need time for yourself AND rest!  Suggest times that are appropriate for visitors while encouraging them to visit you and your loved one when you return home too!  When you don’t feel like you can stand on your own two feet, there are people in your support system and around it that are willing to help.  Ask them for their prayers.  It is a tiny request that yields enormous results.

4. Re-Focus and De-compress

Take no less than 1 hour for yourself each day.  It is not likely that you will get this chunk of time all at once.  It is more likely that you will get a few minutes here and there through the day, so use these moments wisely for quiet activities.  In a recent post titled ‘Starbucks Was At the Hospital With Us’, Christy wrote, “During the 5-10 minutes it took to drink that coffee every day (ok – sometimes twice a day) I would think through everything that that had happened since my last cup.   So true.  This is the best time to journal, make notes, pray, stretch, clear your mind, and refocus.

5. Try to keep a routine.

Waking up in the morning and looking at an empty day filled with uncertainty and worry is not a place to be.    Make ‘appointments’ for yourself and your sick child.  I remember when Neely was in the hospital, Christy would some days say things like “Neely, after we eat lunch, we are going to go for a walk to see the fish.”  That ‘appointment’ became an anchor and something to look forward too.  It removed them from the confines of a small hospital room to see and interact with others.

The way that you care for your family is a reflection of the way that you care for yourself.  Taking time to make sure that you are emotionally, spiritually, and physically well enough to face the day is not a selfish act.  In fact, it is the most unselfish thing you can do in these times of crisis.

Posted By:
Carrie B. Potter, NBCC
School Counselor, South Carolina Counselor Association (SCCA), South Carolina School Counslor Association (SCSCA)

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