Grief can affect many different aspects of our lives; mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and in our relationships. Having ideas about ways we may be able to care for ourselves can be helpful during a difficult time. Listed below are some of the ‘arts’ of comfort and care.
We breathe regularly without having to think about it, but by occasionally focusing on your breath you can breathe more deeply and get more oxygen, and this will help you relax and be better able to focus. One exercise you can use is the 4-7-8 technique, focus on the following breathing pattern: empty the lungs of air. Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds and exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds, repeat up to 4 times. Search the web for other relaxing breathing techniques.
If you have had a regular exercise routine and you’ve stopped, work on adding it back in to your routine a little at a time. If you have never exercised, don’t worry, just get moving, maybe consider a short walk around the block. Or to try something new, check out your local gym for classes, or go to the web, there are many apps and videos out there to help you try new things. Whatever you choose to do, don’t be to hard on yourself, just getting moving for a few minutes a day can help.
Many grievers have challenges with food. You may not feel like eating at all or may be overindulging (and maybe feeling the need to eat all the food people are bringing you). Whatever the case may be, try to become aware of your eating habits. If you are not eating enough see if you can set an alarm to remind yourself to eat something regularly through the day, if you are eating too much, check in with yourself to see if you are hungry, and watch your portion size. Keeping healthy go to snacks around may help, and don’t worry if you eat the cookie once in awhile.
Having social connections and maintaining relationships while grieving can be hard. On top of that people may not know how to support you, they may disappear or may start doing things that are not helpful. Let the people in your life know what you need (or let them know if you don’t know). Do you need them to just sit with you while you cry, go to the grocery store, fix the light in the garage, or maybe they just need to leave you alone for a night. If you are having trouble finding some alone time, try to go for a walk, stay in the car a few extra minutes when you pull in the driveway before going inside, take a long shower or bath. You may not know what you need, but reaching out to the people who most nourish you, and letting them know, may help.
Many people struggle to keep regular check-ups with their doctor. When you are grieving, it may fall further down the list. It is important to see your doctor, they may be able to help you with many of the grief symptoms you are experiencing, and can provide you with referrals to get more support. Don’t forget about other specialists you may need to see (dentist, GYN, optometrist, psychiatrist)
Sleep is such an important function for our wellbeing and not getting enough can cause a lot of challenges. Work on good sleep hygiene, go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Some things that might help, find ways to wind down before your bed time arrives, turn off the tv and put the phone down, read, practice gentle yoga, take a warm shower, or use a body scan to help relax (www.mindful.org). Maybe you fall asleep just fine and wake up through the night, try focusing on your breath to get back to sleep, if that doesn’t work, you can try getting up and getting some water and trying again. Listening to white noise or a guided meditation may also help, there are many apps that provide these resources. If you continue to struggle with regular sleep see your doctor, they can explore more options.
Grief creates a lot of chaos in our lives and in our day to day functioning. Taking some time to purposefully watch what we are doing and how we are doing it may help us to better cope with some of the challenges we are faced with and may help us to find some compassion for ourselves. Being mindful can be as simple as paying attention to the things you normally automatically do (driving, eating, brushing your teeth, breathing), to taking time to notice things in your environment you may normally tune out (sounds, sensations of temperature on your skin, the light in the room, watching the leaves react to the wind), to formally meditating.
Express yourself: Find different ways to get your feelings out For many adults talking about what is going on can be helpful, but that is not the only way we can explore our thoughts and feelings, and it can be helpful to have more than one way of exploring things. Trying different things can help you figure out what works best for you. Try drawing, or coloring, maybe arts and crafts, pick up a journal and just start writing. The important thing here is to remember that it is not about the product, you are not going to publish that journal or sell that painting, it is all about the act of doing it, the process.
Take a moment to acknowledge all the things you are doing. When we are already overwhelmed, it can be so easy to focus on everything that is not getting done, this can create a cycle that contributes to feeling even worse about not getting things done. Take some time to acknowledge what you are doing, you got up this morning, brushed your teeth, your hair, got dressed, ate something, went outside, maybe even got the kids to school. You see the idea, you are already doing a lot.