Saturday, October 27, 2018

Coping Strategies for Shit Times

Some really scary health things are happening in my house right now. I never withhold information to be mysterious, but this isn't my story, and so I can't gush every detail the way I usually do. Everything is going to be okay, but this fall is shaping up to be different than I planned. I've never been more grateful that I took a semester off library school, that I freelance with an organization that supports it's contributors so gracefully, that I have family medical days at work, that my family is ready to swoop in and buy plane tickets and make me pumpkin chili at a moment's notice. I do not take this support network for granted. 

Still, I'm scared. I'm making connections to past trauma. I'm sad to see people I love in uncomfortable situations. I'm emotionally drained. My body is doing it's "let's-shut-down-shit-is-getting-heavy" thing. I can feel stress curling around the muscles in my upper back. All I want to do is sleep. Sometimes, that's the answer. But that's not going to get my family and I through the next few months. SO...

Here is a list of things I do when everything is falling apart. They might not be the things that YOU do when everything is falling apart. The goal for me has been to do things that serve future me- the me that will be stressed, sore, and scared PLUS have to go to work, or figure out the holidays for my kids, or take a block of time away from all responsibilities and be a caregiver. Typing this is list is a literally a way to shake off my depressive feelings and remind myself that there are clear-cut accomplishables that will help.

1. Move
I don't FEEL like it. But I know that movement is going to save me right now. I'm not calling this "exercise" because that conjures visions of working up a sweat, forcing yourself through drudgery...that's not the goal. If you can't afford to get a massage, STRETCH and give your muscles some kindness. If your body is feeling stiff and stifled, walk outside and let the cold wake you up. I am always happier when I read, but I haven't been prioritizing reading...getting myself on the elliptical with a book improves my mood and wakes me up and is generally A Good Thing. Putting movement on my list helps A LOT, especially in times of crisis when it's socially acceptable to let it slide. It's a reminder that moving your body is not something you have to do, but something that can help you.  

2. Cook
When this bad news first crashed into the family sphere, my first impulse was to cook and freeze tons of dinners. It was a smart move. A big batch of a soup, a bunch of marinated meat...even when my brain was fried mid-week, there was no excuse to buy takeout that wouldn't nourish us- dinner was already set. This weekend I want to lay in bed and order lots of Chinese food (a prospect made more tempting by the fact that we were paid and could actually afford this), but I know that I'll be happier and feel stronger if I make a grocery list and chop up a bunch of veggies. THERE IS A TIME FOR is coming. But right now, but I'm going to type "soup" into pinterest and be a suburban mom in the best possible way.

3. Plan
Christmas and Thanksgiving are going to look different this year, full stop. I'm hating the out-of-control feeling I have not knowing where we will eat turkey or what our funds will look like mid-December. One way to handle it? Do everything possible to be ready for the most hectic time of the year RIGHT NOW. Your girl who is, at the mo, struggling to shower regularly has made a Google doc with a spreadsheet with every person we're buying a Christmas present for, a budget range, and gift ideas, as well as place to check off when the gift was purchased and when it was wrapped. I've already scooped up a few gifts using Halloween sales and made plans to take a family picture for our Christmas cards. I'm not usually this on top of things, but it's giving me a small sense of control in an out-of-control time. 

4. Comfort
If I'm good at one thing, it's comforting myself. I'm watching my comfort shows with zero shame. I'm turning to Christian mommy blogger podcasts with increasing regularity- I find them deeply soothing when I'm stressed, in particular ones that detail chores, housekeeping, and other homemaker-y routines. (This is strange to me, too, and I'm currently exploring this in another essay. Stay tuned.) I'm making time to play with stickers/washi tape/highlighters in my planner and on our family calendar, because it makes me happy AND makes me feel like we're more organized. Is is the BEST use of my limited mental bandwith right now? Actually, yeah. It comforts me.

5. Forgive
Yourself, when none of the above works. About half the time recently, these tenants above have kept me breathing and kept our family running. The other half, I've used my gym time to eat an entire box of Triscuts while sitting in my car, or took a two hour after-school nap while my kids play too many video games. It's survival, honey. It's not pretty. It's okay. Video games and Triscuts are coping methods, too. Do what feels good. When it doesn't feel good, reassess. Or write a blog post about what feels good. 

Pinterest is my friend right now. I have a private board which I am unlocking called BEST SELF. It's a board of reminders about who I want to be, what I am up against, and what I am capable of. I look at it once a day. I'm also stockpiling yoga stretches and soup recipes and cutesy stocking stuffers as I'm trying to be my most productive survivor self. If Pinterest is one of the things that further stresses you, DON'T CLICK. For me, it's almost like a weird template with ideas I can take or leave, and right now, it's helping.

How about you? What are some of your basic coping strategies when shit is hitting the fan? What strange thing comforts you? I hope you're doing okay <3