We spend a lot of time running around in our lives, busy with work, home, raising children, having social lives, and numerous responsibilities. We also spend a lot of time engaging with technology and meeting other people’s needs. Most of us do not spend enough with our ourselves, feeling our feelings, and hearing our own thoughts. When there is a crisis situation on our hands, our attention goes to that situation and the people involved, and our own needs get shelved. Yet there are some ways that we can have great self-care and still deal with intense situations. Here are some tips on how to care for ourselves as we face difficult times.

1. Sleep- When we are asleep, our body rests and rejuvenates itself. The cells replicate and our body is in repair mode. Our muscles relax and our organs slow down. It is important that we may reach deep sleep so that we feel fully rested, and that we have eight to ten hours to sleep. Even though we may be busy, it is important to give ourselves times to rest. If we can squeeze in a nap, it is a good idea to have ninety minutes of sleep as to complete a full sleep cycle.

2. Pay attention to our dreams- Our mind is also working things out when we are sleeping. The dreams that we have, even if they are intense or unpleasant, are a result of what we are dealing with during the day. They are a way for our mind to sort through information and process it. It is better to dream than not, as those who do not dream have a harder time functioning during the day. Dreams help us to understand our situation and work through our feelings, and even find solutions to our problems. Making sense of our dreams and the emotions that come up from them is essential to working through what we need to deal with in life. Some of the greatest minds (and founding fathers) of the field of psychology believed that making sense of our dreams was a very important method of understanding ourselves.

3. Meditate- There is much intensity when we are in crisis. Our sympathetic nervous system is activated, which puts us in hyperactive mode, which increases our blood pressure, heart rate, and releases adrenaline throughout the body. It will feel like fear and anxiety. It will exhaust us and wear us out. It can lead to panic attacks if it is not managed. Taking a few minutes, if not longer, to calm our minds and bodies down is the difference between dealing with a crisis and having a meltdown or worse, make a trip to the emergency room. Meditation is doing breath-work, being conscious of one’s thoughts, and slowing down our mind, which in turn slows down our body. Seasoned meditators will wear a shawl or blanket because their body temperature will drop, just like when we are asleep. When you were little and your mother told you to take a deep breath when you were upset to calm you down is actually true. Just three minutes of slow, deep breaths can make a huge difference in your day. In fact, taking a short break to do some deep breathing and slow down your thoughts can make a world of difference.

4. Spend time in nature- We need to have twenty minutes of sunlight every day for our bodies to produce vitamin D. It is part of our body’s system for us to get some sunshine (even on an overcast day) and enjoy the fresh air. Enjoying the fresh oxygen produced by trees and plants is wonderful for our health. Nature is a great healer! It helps us to feel better and gives us a peaceful setting to relax, enjoy ourselves, contemplate the wonders of the universe, and even experience some romance (depending on who we might take with us). We also need physical stimulation and exercise.

5. Exercise- The work and lifestyle that many of us have keeps us primarily indoors. Taking a quick walk outside during the day or in the evening can be greatly beneficial to our health. Taking 20 minutes of walking increases our heart rate and helps with burning not only calories but body fat. Physical activity also burns toxins that are stored in or muscles, so we are letting go of things that ail us. We feel much better after some exercise with the release of endorphins throughout the body that are meant to decrease pain sensations, and help us to relax and feel happy.

6. Asking for help- Having the support, understanding and care from family and friends is of the utmost importance. It is an essential survival mechanism. Back in the day we all lived in tribal societies,and it was understood that you could not survive alone, because you couldn’t. In modern times with technology and conveniences, people believe that they can survive alone, but in fact, they cannot, at least not happily. We are wired to be pack animals, social creatures, and we need love and attention the way we need food and nutrition. Reaching out to others will help us to maintain good mental health. The best thing a person can do for themselves is to have a few close friends, people to confide in, share with, and look out for one another. Talking to a counselor, therapist, or spiritual guide is also great, as is talking to a knowledgeable friend.

Being able to share our thoughts with someone can help us feel much better, as we are emoting and processing our thoughts and feelings. This burns through energy and tension that we are holding in our minds and bodies, and therefore we feel better afterward. Having someone to listen and validate us is invaluable, as we feel seen and heard; we have had someone witness our process. We no longer feel alone. Even though the other person may not be able to do much other than listen, we can feel a great deal lighter, as if the load we were carrying has been lifted: it has because we shared it. We are far from alone in this world and do not have to face it alone.
It can be very challenging when we are faced with hardship to remember to care for ourselves, yet it is very important and necessary. The better rested we are, the better prepared we are to be able to handle whatever may be coming our way. It is important to create a regiment of self-care that includes the basics of eating, sleeping, and breathing. Then fit in meditation, exercise, and time in nature. Add in reaching out to someone else to help you process your thoughts and feelings, and therefore lighten your load.
No matter how bad things are or can become, the way we choose to handle them makes the difference in us either making it, breaking it, or being broken. Though we cannot control circumstances or people outside of ourselves, we can do our best to maintain some amount of our own care to help us cope and survive the situation at hand. It is not just a skill, but an art!