Relationships with ourselves – Self-Care
Welcome to my Realms of Relationships column at Smorgasbord Blog Magazine. Today I want to talk about the most important relationship we can have, and that’s the one we have with ourselves. It’s often easy to overlook ourselves, especially when times are tense, fast, and frazzled with life’s daily grind. And if we have loved ones to care for on top of daily living, often, the last person being served is usually ourselves.
I’m a living testament of what self-neglect can leave behind as resulting damage. Often, we get so wrapped up in our lives and lose track of time – the time we let ourselves go. So yes, self-compassion and self-care are just as essential for us to live in good health – not just to survive.
Sometimes, some of the most nurturing people forget that taking care of others requires us to be in good health in order to care of someone else. But often in the middle of trauma, our focus often falls on the loved one we’re caring for – both young and old, without giving a second thought for our own well-being. I know this because I lived it.
Self- care encompasses the daily things we do for ourselves to keep our health in check – hygiene, eating properly, taking meds and required vitamins, and getting in exercise and enough sleep. Most importantly, any ailments we feel coming on should be dealt with as soon as possible once we notice things aren’t running as smoothly with our bodies, and not left to fester until such time we decide to stop pushing aside things a doctor needs to have a look at. And then there is emotional health.
If we are living through a stressful time, not just our physical health needs tending to, but, we need an outlet to relieve some of the mental angst that can sometimes translate to more physical ailments. Trust me, it’s not a myth, stress and worry have the ability to do great damage within us. Just like a health regimen followed daily creates cumulative benefits that add up daily, not following one will most certainly chip away at all the goodness we’ve already accrued through time as we continue to neglect ourselves.
Taking care of ourselves is vital for us to function optimally, but especially when someone else is relying on us to take care of them. When chaos or trauma strike, it shouldn’t mean that we abandon what’s important for us to remain in good health, but so often we’ll sacrifice what’s good for us and put others before us. Here’s what we need to know about taking care of ourselves:
- Make sure to get enough sleep – not getting enough sleep can initiate other health problems.
- Make mealtime a routine at least twice a day if you can’t manage three squares. If you eat a good breakfast it can sustain you through the day in case you do happen to miss out on lunch. But even more important to eat a healthy dinner, especially if we’re missing that lunch.
- Don’t stop taking important vitamins and supplements, especially if you’re deficient in them. Not eating properly during stressful times, then not taking supplementation, doubles the drain on our bodies leaving us without efficient fuel or nutrients.
- Take a timeout and go for a walk, read a chapter, listen to music – whatever you enjoy for a mental health break from high stressed life. If you’re caring for someone 24/7, arrange for someone to come by and give you a break for some down time and time to get household essentials looked after, and maybe even to eke out some personal time.
You can take this Self Well-Being test here to see how you’re doing: Berkeley Wellbeing Survey
How I can attest to this advice? Because I became one of those self-neglecters.
During my husband’s illness when I was caring for him 24/7, the last thing on my mind was about what I needed. While my world was spiraling out of sense, I didn’t care about eating properly, sometimes not eating at all. I had no appetite. I’d sneak in a shower when my husband would sleep, or if one of his personal support workers were bathing him.
I was full of preliminary grief and anxiety, and I wasn’t hungry. I had zero time for exercise, nor the inclination, and would not leave my husband alone even to go out for a walk. Our gym where I live has been closed since Covid came and only recently opened. I didn’t get to feel the sunshine on my skin for over half a year, I even abandoned taking my supplements to compensate for nutrients I wasn’t getting from lack of food and sunlight – such as Vitamin D, among other important vitamins and supplementation.
Because my old routine was no longer and I was up and down like a robot living in auto-pilot mode, my eating was sparse, my worry meter was in full mode, and sleep became a luxury. If I finally took a moment to throw something into my mouth, I certainly wasn’t thinking about vitamins.
I basically fell into a pattern of no discipline and no regard for myself while I lived with fear and uncertainty. In my mind’s eye, I felt I was relatively healthy and certainly my disruption of my regular healthy routine could survive a few months of neglect? Wrong.
I knew I’d pushed beyond my own boundaries of enough is enough and my health had become compromised somewhere between neglect and a broken heart. And as one who is always so adamant about taking precautions with health, I fell off the wagon and it caught up with me in this current year.
After neglecting my health through that time, I became like a car driven to the ground, having no fuel, no TLC and a burned out transmission. As if my husband’s health issues and his eventual demise wasn’t enough, I went through the worst move of my life – physically and emotionally. I was literally running on fumes, pushing myself to the finish line, where I could finally sit down and exhale. And when I reached that place, slowly and surely, all my bad neglect had caught up with me.
I’d already known my blood pressure was getting high – formerly never an issue with me as I was usually the cliched 120/80. I’d take my pressure at home after I’d take my husband’s, which was ironically, much better than mine. My gums started occasional bleeding, I became aware of a tiny red sore on my nose that when I’d scratch it off, would come back repeatedly. And most of all, I began having weird sensations in my heart and moments of shorting of breath. Coincidentally, I had just had my last annual Echo-Doppler ultrasound done on my heart last November and all seemed well. November when my life hit the tailspin.
Shortly after burying my husband, I called my dermatologist for an appointment about my nose after ignoring it for 6 months. Sure enough, it was a pesky tiny pre-cancerous growth she removed and sent me home with a chemo-therapy cream to use for ten days then I was to return a month later where she had to do another round of removing a spot she missed.
Apparently, gums react to stress and improper diet too. My dentist prescribed a special rinse for my gums. Next, my GP finally opened up in-office practice again a month ago, so I booked myself a physical. I told my doctor all I was experiencing. She’d already knew well what I’d been living through because she kindly booked me weekly tele-health calls with her for my mental health while caring for my husband, and the aftermath.
She sent me for bloodwork workup and to a heart clinic for a stress test. That scared me. All I’d known from heart tests were my parents and my husband. My bloodwork labs came back with a flashing red flag stating I was dangerously low in Vitamin D, and my stress test came back, prompting my doctor to give me a call.
I got the lecture I deserved and was prescribed 5000 units a day Vitamin D for three months and then re-testing. Because the stress test showed some parts where I didn’t take in enough oxygen, my doctor decided to send me to a cardiologist for further investigation. There, I was given an EKG, another Echo Doppler ultra-sound, and then fitted with a Holster monitor I had to wear for two days around my neck to monitor what my heart was up to for a few days in my life. Currently, I’m still awaiting the results with a call from the cardiologist, and am quite concerned, praying results don’t lead to anything scarier. The cardiologist isn’t back in office and my telephone appointment with him for results isn’t until later this week.
When all this heart talk came about, all I could think about was all my heart had endured and the continual weight of the grief that remains upon it that barely eases; it reminded me of how I always blamed my mother for bashing my father’s heart and him ultimately dying because he felt so broken and no longer cared about taking care of himself.
I told my doctor, now I understand how it could really happen, that someone could really die from a broken heart. She said she couldn’t disagree.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s edition of Realms of Relationships and taken something from it to adapt to your own life. I wanted to emphasize the importance of self-care, and since I was a living example of what neglect can result into, I felt it important to share. I’ve cleaned up my act since my physical a few weeks ago, and now I remain nerved out until I get the full lowdown on my prognosis.
If anyone would like to share an experience of your own about letting yourself go in times of trouble, and what you did to make a comeback, we’re all ears here.
My thanks to Debby for this important reminder that we do need to take care of ourselves as a priority, particularly if we are caring for someone else who relies on our strength.
Debby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.
D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.
When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.
“I love to tell stories that have lessons in them, and hope to empower others by sharing my own experiences. I write raw and honest about my own experiences, hoping through my writing, that others can relate and find that there is always a choice to move from a negative space, and look for the positive.”
“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”
“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”
Books by D.G. Kaye
One of the reviews for Words We Carry
What starts with the author’s explanation of why she wrote the book: namely to share negative experiences and obstacles in which self-esteem issues and insecurities when faced and dealt with blossom to learning self-love; this is a remarkable revolutionary read.
One I wish I would have read in my earlier teen years when I struggled with my own self-esteem issues. Self-perception baggage from wounded egos, what weighs us down, fester and damage the soul the author writes. So true. This is so well written that it’s not just an enlightening educational tool but a wonderful read from a woman not afraid to show her underbelly, huge heart, and she does it with much authenticity and talent. I resonated with so much of what she wrote in these enlightening pages, but what stands out the most is how I slid down the rabbit’s hole due to my desire to want to belong, to socially fit.
I suppose all of us who relate to this unfolding have a personal story of our own. Mine was rooted in a family dynamic that made it difficult for me to have friends to my home and consequently I missed out on social bonding that helps develop a strong sense of self. It wasn’t until later in life, in high school and university, that I encountered warm satisfying friendships. By then the damage was done. I just wish I had this book in my earlier years to have helped my younger, more formative self. Thankfully, it’s never too late to unwind wounds and deepen self-love, which is another thing I found from this beautifully powerful read. In summation, let me say I am grateful I had this recommended to me by a friend, someone whose words I respect. This gem of a book did not disappoint. Highly recommend.
Thanks for joining Debby today and please share your experiences in the comments.. thanks Sally.