“Stress is not what happens to us. It is our response to what happens. And response is something we can choose.” ~ Maureen Killoran
By the look on my husband’s face, I realized I hit rock bottom again. He gets this slightly frightened, slightly confused deer-in-headlights expression, and freezes mid-stride, unsure if he should bolt from the room or inch closer to help soothe me. Despite what I preach, I too am guilty of emotional/spiritual crashes. And recently, I crashed hard. I literally didn’t want to be around myself I was so miserable. During one particular low point (I was crying in front of my mirror sans make up, scheduling an emergency facial to combat the worst break out I’ve had in year, #firstworldproblems), I had my out-of-body moment where I looked down on myself and thought “What the hell is wrong with you?!”.
Life. Without realizing it, I was drowning in life stressors. I became so busy in my day-to-day, I pushed self-care to the back burner. I began overloading myself with clients as I am leaving my job to start private practice full time and panic frequently about having enough income to live off of. Despite my extensive planning and scheduling, work outs became non-existent. Giving up sugar cold turkey? Psssshhhh. I solved that by stocking my cabinet with a delicious bag of Hershey’s Kisses. (I’ll tackle that next month.) I forced myself into meditation with the goal of increasing creativity and planning for my business and wound up destroying my sleep patterns with racing thoughts and mile-long to-do lists.
So there I was, mid-meltdown, feeling as if I had literally lost my mind. I was like Scooby Doo, running frantically on a slick floor with no way of grasping hold to anything sane or organized. This happens to me occasionally, usually when I am in the middle of a life transition. But it can also happen when I completely forget about taking care of the most important person in my life: ME!
How does this happen, and not only once, but multiple times, in our lives? We forget the basics. We all know eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercising are essential for our well-being. We know meditation provides peace and clarity. We know time spent with loved ones and doing hobbies nourishes our soul. Yet we get super hero complexes where we take on more than we can handle in any given moment. And for helpers and empaths like myself, we enjoy giving of ourselves to others. We relish the helper’s high and the residual effects of doing good. And much like any drug, this can only sustain us for so long until we take a nose-dive into complete insanity and desperation.
Thankfully, my husband is used to these crashes. He has created a solid emergency plan that would rival any Red Cross Disaster Relief protocol. He knows just how many hugs to give without smothering me, how to silently listen without offering solutions I’ve already figured out myself, he can tolerate the most ridiculous episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and has our favorite pizza place on speed dial. How can you create your very own crash plan at home?
Having a loved one helps. Since I am not very good at sharing, you’ll have to find your own husband or loved one. They can usually notice our decline in mood and energy levels, even when we can’t. When you are in a balanced, calm space, talk with them about how they can help you. Tell them what works and doesn’t work. Because believe me, in your moments of insanity, you will truly believe they are mind readers and become irrationally offended when their ESP conveniently stops working when you need it the most. This also requires you to get to know yourself. Know what helps you and what doesn’t. Maybe you need a kick boxing session, or maybe you’re more of a salt bath and glass of wine kind of person. You could even need to have a good cry! Either way, make sure you have access to your most effective coping skills and activities.
Of course, prevention is always the best medicine. In my state of panic about my skin issues, I did a lot of reading on hormonally based acne. Besides confirming hormonal acne is a b*tch, it reiterated the importance of maintaining a calm, stress free lifestyle to balance the hormones that regulate our bodies. Are you checking in with yourself daily? Are you noticing increased physical symptoms (i.e. acne, headaches, fatigue, low energy) when you are generally in good health? Do you suddenly find yourself losing patience with people or tasks that do not warrant that kind of reaction? Are activities you normally enjoy becoming harder to focus on or engage in? When these warning signs crop up, even just a little, it’s important to hit the brakes and attend to them. It is much harder to stop a runaway train than to change course during a Sunday stroll if you notice you are beginning to set yourself up for being over stressed.
Meditation will also be a great foundation for any sort of emotional balancing or spiritual exploration. Daily meditation allows you to take a time out and check in with yourself physically and emotionally. It also builds our brain muscle, an important muscle in helping regulate our emotional responses. A big warning sign for me is when I notice settling into meditation causes a sense of impatience. This is when I take a look at what is going on in my life and re-organize. Maybe you have been around too many toxic energies lately and need some solitude. DO NOT feel guilty for turning down social invitations, a date with yourself is just as valuable as attending the third company happy hour of the month. Maybe you took on too many tasks at work. Create a list and triage what needs to be accomplished and when. While having and empty inbox is weirdly satisfying, leaving tasks for the next day will not stop the world from spinning on its axis. I swear, it really won’t.
Knowing our limits and giving ourselves permission to nourish our souls allow us to be better equipped at regulating our emotions. And, since you are human and will likely forget self care on occasion, knowing yourself well enough to have an effective crash plan will ensure that you make it out of your crash with your sanity intact. Or, at least mostly intact.