Last week I wrote about the trials of moving my 90 year old father-in-law from independent living, to a hospital to rehab and finally to his new home an assisted living facility not too far from where I live. It has been a roller-coaster of emotions and decisions and it can be tough to not feel as though the whole world is caving in around you. But as with every obstacle in life, when we face them head on, we usually come out stronger than we did before we were hit with them.
It's tough when you are being pulled in a million different directions and what seems like little time to get everything done. When one is working against the clock, this can only exacerbate the stress levels, which is why routine is such an important part of my life. Unfortunately, decisions have to be made and they don't always align with my schedule, but I have come up with some tips to keep me on board until I weather the storm.
1. Ask for help
You do not have to go through life alone. It's OK to ask family and friends to help you out. You do not score any brownie points by trying to do it all. In fact you may find yourself so overwhelmed that staying committed to your healthy lifestyle is much harder than when you have others to help you along the way.
2. Keep exercising
This can be tough when you feel as though you are being pulled in a thousand different directions, but I remember my former running coach telling me years ago, "no run, no matter how short is ever wasted." As many of us are well aware, exercise is a big stress reliever. Even if you can't keep up with your normal exercise routine, going for a quick walk around the hospital or even doing some stair climbing in the hospital stairwell can do wonders to clear your mind and more importantly reduce the stress.
3. Rest is important, too
If you have children you know that when they get overly tired they are much more difficult to manage. Sleep and rest help us recharge our batteries. Even if you find yourself sneaking in rest when your loved one is resting, it may be just what your body needs.
Deep breathing seems like such a simple act, but it can do wonders in helping relieve stress and tension we hold in our bodies. Just three short minutes of concentrated breathing can help lower stress levels and release tension and anxiety.
5. Be sure to eat
Remember food is fuel for your body. It is what gives us energy especially when our meal time schedule is off. Sugary foods and junk food from the vending machine can actually leave you drained, therefore bringing healthy snacks is a great option, especially if you miss getting to the hospital cafeteria before closing. I keep nuts, raisins and a granola bar with me in my purse so that I never am without a little something.
6. Talk with others
While it may seem overwhelming to have a loved one in the hospital sharing your concerns with other families who are experiencing similar problems can actually validate your feelings. As my therapist Ann told me months ago, validations of emotions can make us feel normal-- that it's OK to feel the way we do. And you may be surprised that sometimes others who have walked this journey can offer you help and insight to your own situation.
7. Accept that you cannot do it all
This is by far one of the most difficult areas for me to accept. As a type A perfectionist, I do not like when I am forced to shorten my workout sessions, maybe not eat as well as I should, get upset with the way things are done or not done, etc, but this is life. A few weeks of not so healthy choices will not knock me down UNLESS I allow the guilt to consume me. I can only do the best I can do knowing that it will only be a matter of time before I am back to my normal, or maybe even my new normal, routine.
8. Seek guidance from others
The social worker at my father-in-law's rehab facility was instrumental in helping us locate an assisted living facility in a very short time. While my husband and I did have to visit the places she recommended, we did not have to waste time wading through the lists of facilities. It is amazing how many people are willing to help, you just need to step out of your comfort zone.
9. It's OK to let things slide
I love an immaculate home, but when I am spending more time packing and cleaning my father-in-law's place than I do my own, accepting that there is only so much time in a day to get everything done has become my new way of living. It's OK that I do not get EVERYTHING done. It will still be here when things settle down, but giving myself permission to let the household duties slide is a huge stress reliever, too.
After 50 years on this planet, I am learning to accept that there are many things out of my control. I can either wallow in my sorrow or I can take on the challenges. Smiling can do wonders to lift our moods along with the release of the mood calming endorphins. It can make us more positive when things in life appear to be so challenging.
While there are many things in life we can't control, there are many things we can. Life is not meant to be experienced without sorrow and stress. As I have stated in many of my previous blogs, it is how we manage the curve balls or the obstacles in our life that allow us to grow, change and transform into the people we are meant to be. It doesn't mean it will be easy, but having a few tips to help you through can do wonders in making a not-so-great situation in to the best situation we are to deal with.
What tips do you offer for those trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle in times of stress?
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