Caring for yourself during challenging times
Our lives all have different seasons and phases. Let’s face it, some phases of life can be more challenging than others.
Big life transitions—a move, a job change, a new baby —can all be challenging, even if we’re excited about those changes. Then there’s the harder stuff: illness, loss, divorce, times of financial struggle.
I believe in living a life focused on pleasure, growth and joy, and I believe those things expand the more we focus on them. However, sometimes our lives are just challenging, and the deepest growth, the most radical expansion of our capacity for joy, can come from navigating the challenging moments.
The thing is... in order to use the tough challenges to grow and evolve, we have to keep embracing life through it all. For me, how well I can embrace life during difficult moments is related to how well I take care of myself during those more challenging times.
Here are three things I remind myself of when things get challenging...
1. Sleep is a miracle.
When life gets stressful, sleep is one of the first things to go out the window.
Whether it’s because we’re extra busy dealing with challenges—or whether it’s because we’re so stressed that sleep becomes restless and inconsistent—it can be easy to skimp on sleep when times get tough.
I find that challenging times feel exponentially easier to handle when I’m well-rested. There’s a massive difference in how I feel—emotionally and physically—on five hours’ sleep vs. eight hours’ sleep, even if I’m dealing with the exact same situation.
Sometimes all it takes is one really good night of rest to feel like I can handle whatever comes my way.
So if you’re going through a challenging time, see what happens if you protect your sleep time fiercely. Make sure you set aside eight hours a day—even if part of it is a nap!
If restful sleep is hard to come by, try stepping up your sleep hygiene. Skip the afternoon coffee or sugar treat before bed. Shut off screens within an hour of bedtime. Make sure your bed is extra comfy and warm.Meditate for five minutes before you lie down. You might also try exploring natural supplements like magnesium to help you rest.
2. Quiet time.
In the more stressful moments in life—big transitions, losses, crises—there’s often way more that needs doing than usual. Our workload tends to increase during these times, and for a lot of women, so do our responsibilities to other people.
It can be easy to get caught up in managing all these challenging things and let recreation or “downtime” slide.But even if carving out an hour for yoga or an evening with a friend feels impossible, we can still find ways to pause, reconnect and stay in touch with ourselves even if it’s just for a few minutes.
When things get challenging for me, I remind myself that even three to five minutes of sitting by myself, eyes closed and breathing, can work wonders.
You can try this during transitional moments. For example, you might take a few minutes to breathe quietly before you get out of the car while you’re running errands, or after you hang up the phone before starting your next task.
Just sit with yourself, give yourself a moment, pause and reconnect. It might sound small, but it can be an incredibly nourishing thing to do for yourself throughout the day.
Also,practice mindfulnesswhenever you can! Slowing down enough to focus on the moment can do wonders. For example, when you drink water, pause for a moment to focus on drinking it. When you’re driving somewhere, put on some music you love and really listen instead of taking phone calls or thinking about the next thing.
When you get up in the morning, take a few minutes to sink into your skin care routine. Take a moment to feel the products and oils nourish your skin. Breathe and enjoy those moments. (We recommend you also do this before you go to sleep.)
Taking “micropauses” like these throughout the day can help sustain us and keep us nourished even in the craziest times.
3. Never underestimate the power of “no.”
As women, we are trained to say yes. Whether at work, in our families, or at home, we’re socialized to take care of the people around us—sometimes at the expense of taking care of ourselves.
But you can’t pour from an empty cup—especially when times are challenging.
In tough or transitional times, there are often more requests and needs coming at us than usual. Sometimes the best way to carve out a little space for ourselves is to say no to some of these requests where we can.
This might not be the big stuff. We might still need to handle the logistics for a big move, or have that important financial planning meeting, take care of a loved one in need, or manage doctors and medical care.
But in stressful times, we can find ourselves automatically saying “yes” to everything—even stuff we don’t have to do.
I find if I keep an eye out for the little things I can delegate to others, save for later or say no to, it creates space for me to prioritize self-care and makes a little more room for me to nourish myself.
When I nourish myself, I’m so much better equipped to handle whatever challenges come my way—and stay open, evolving and growing through them all.