10 Self-care Tips for When Life Gets Hard

Last week I wrote a pretty heavy post about the state of my marriage. It is still a work in progress, but for the time being Neil and I have decided not to separate and to try and work through things the best we can while still living together. There’s still work to do and it’s still a process, but we are taking it one step at a time.

Although I only recently opened up about what was going on, I have been trying to hold things together for much longer than that. I wanted to take some time today to offer 10 self-care tips for when life gets hard because that’s the time when self-care is the most important and when we usually let it fall by the wayside.

10 Self-care Tips

1. Spend time with friends

Friends are important. Friends are even more important when life doesn’t seem to be going the way you think it should. Being able to talk to another person is incredibly therapeutic and it helps to know that there are others who are there for you when you feel like you can’t be there for yourself. Friends offer a different perspective and may even have a similar experience that they can share with you. You won’t know unless you open your mouth.

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2. Go slow

For some people, negative situations actually lead them into overdrive. In an attempt to escape the discomfort and unpleasant feelings, people will throw themselves into work or other distractions. I’m advising you to do the opposite. By approaching life more slowly, you will become less overwhelmed and you will have more time to actually get through the situation and learn from it.

3. Listen to what you need

In order to take care of yourself, you need to know what that means. Take some time with yourself to think about what YOU need. Not what anyone else needs, but YOU. Spending all of your time worrying about another person/people/situations is the opposite of self-care. Going through tough times puts a lot of stress on a person and that is when self-care becomes even more important.

Really take the time to figure out what you are needing. For me, some days that looks like work and on others it’s reading, watching a TV show before bed, or going on a long walk and finding a magical lily pond. For others it may be a bubble bath, but that’s not me because I hate them.

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4. Be forgiving

When life overwhelms me, I struggle with forgiving myself. I had some days where I was incredibly productive and others when I woke up and could barely get out of bed. I saw days when I was not as productive as normal as failures, which only compounded the negative feelings I was experiencing. You have to cut yourself a break.

No one expects you to be perfect and it’s virtually impossible to continue functioning at the exact same level you do when everything is going well. The more forgiving you are with yourself, the more you will be able to take on. Negativity towards yourself will only add to whatever you are dealing with and make it harder to function.

5. Play with pets

If you have a pet, make sure to take time to play with him/her. Animals are very helpful in lifting our moods and a quick snuggle session can quickly lighten your day. If you don’t have any pets, you can do what I do and talk to the dogs on the street as they walk by. Nevermind their owners; you and that dog have a bond that they will never understand.

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6. Sleep

Sleep is vitally important for any kind of functioning. Make sure that you are getting an appropriate amount for you. I need around 7-8 hours of sleep, so I make sure to insist upon that in lieu of late night conversations or worry sessions. Dealing with life’s issues is important, but I won’t be able to do that in a constructive way if I am sleep deprived. Rest your mind and your body in order to take on the next day.

7. Exercise

Just as sleep is important, so is exercise. For some, exercise is only about preventative health measures, but for others like myself it is also critical to my mental health. I am no longer using it as an escape, but as something that starts my day off on a positive note. I am able to channel whatever negative thoughts and feelings I have into activity that improves my overall strength and clarity and leaves me feeling better than when I went in.

Meditative types of exercise such as yoga are also very beneficial in quieting the mind and establishing balance, but unfortunately I can not for the life of me force myself to do them. Props to those of you who find your outlet through these practices.

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8. Write

Even if you’re not a writer, get a notebook or journal to write about what is going on. If you are anything like me, your mind is racing a million miles a minute and you have a tendency to overthink every scenario. Spend a little time each day writing about your feelings, what is going on at that moment, and whatever you feel compelled to put on paper. Don’t worry about anyone reading it and just write.

Even if you think that writing will be useless, do it anyway. I am always surprised at what comes out when I start writing and the amount of free space in my brain after I am done.

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9. Acceptance

One of the things that kept me in my addiction was the illusion of control. I believed that I had control over people and situations that were actually far outside of it. When something happened that I didn’t like, I tried to change it in whatever way that I could.

The key to breaking that cycle was acceptance. The only thing that I have control over is myself and my reactions to situations. While I would rather not have to go through this period in my life, I accept it and it is only through that acceptance that I can continue to move forward. Whatever bumps you may hit in the road, learn to accept the moment and ask yourself “what next?” I have accepted that this is where my life is right now. What am I going to do about it?

10. Feel what you are feeling

This is one of the most important self-care tips. For many, many, many years I didn’t know how to feel my feelings. I ran from them at every chance I got because I was so uncomfortable. This led me to using anything I could to mask them, including substances, exercise, and food. When I realized that I had to stop running, I had to learn what feelings even were and how to specifically identify them.

I know that any negative feeling is uncomfortable. No one welcomes sadness or pain with open arms, screaming “I CAN’T WAIT TO FEEL YOU!” The tough thing is, though, that we have to. By going through those feelings we come to terms with the situation, we learn from it, and we often come out stronger on the other side. The process is often the most painful, but not going through it can actually draw it out much longer.

Questions:

  • What ways do you practice self-care?
  • Do you find it easier or harder to care for yourself when things are tough?
  • How much sleep do you usually get?

Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.

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23 Comments

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 3, 2015 / 2:13 pm

      And that’s a big snuggle too!

  1. July 30, 2015 / 6:02 am

    I LOVE this! I am delighted to hear that you and Neil are working through things, and it seems like you’ve got a great strategy for coping when things are tough. I think one of the things I miss the most when things get hard — living so far away from home — is not having my dog! Honestly, you’re so right, sometimes it was only my dog that helped me calm myself and clear my head. Just a cuddle with her was all the therapy I needed. Luckily, I’m near so many parks and Scottish people don’t mind if you play with their dogs — it really does help boost my mood! 🙂
    Erin recently posted…Why I’m Happy My Husband Pointed Out My Worst QualityMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 3, 2015 / 2:06 pm

      I loved being closer to my sister bc then I could steal her dogs all the time. Now like I said I have to steal random people’s on the street…

  2. July 30, 2015 / 6:26 am

    So on point. And before I say anything else, that picture of you jump roping and smiling is amazeballs. I want it cropped and made into a poster. Seriously, it is fabulous.
    I think slowing down, acknowledging what is going on, and then moving forward is so critical, and so often undervalued. We want so badly to rip the bandaid off and move on, particularly as conditioned as we are to instant gratification, but in this case, you need to know what it is that you feel in order to work with it.
    <3 <3 I haven't seen you in far too long!
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Passion and My Blogging Mission StatementMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 3, 2015 / 2:07 pm

      Hahaha thank you. I was pretty pumped to be jumping I guess.

  3. July 30, 2015 / 8:07 am

    It’s great to hear that you and Neil decided to stick it out and try to work things out. Sending all sorts of positive vibes your way <3 And you're so on point with all the things in this post. I think one of the biggest things for me was acceptance, and learning not to blame myself for every little thing that went wrong. It sounds a little counter-intuitive for a control freak like me, but when I realized that there wasn't actually a lot of things I could control in this world, it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could refocus my energies into trying to make the best of things instead of constantly worrying about how I could change them.
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…. thinking out loud #141 .My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 3, 2015 / 2:08 pm

      Exactly. I always have to work on not blaming myself for everything that goes wrong. When I realized I wasn’t in control of the whole universe and everything in it, my life got a lot better 🙂

  4. Pinky
    July 30, 2015 / 8:32 am

    SNUGGLE SESSION.

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 3, 2015 / 2:08 pm

      BRING IT.

  5. July 30, 2015 / 8:37 am

    i think it’s critical that we take care of ourselves! if i don’t take care of me, then it sends a message that i’m not important, or that taking care of myself is not a priority. it is a HUGE priority and if my basic needs are not met, it’s a lot harder to be a giving wife, friend, daughter, etc. i know it’s cliche, but we can make time for anything if we want to. it’s easy to fall into the excuse hole, i’ve been there but thankfully my loved ones don’t let me stay there long. it motivates me to get off my toosh.
    for daily relaxation, i love oil pulling and dry skin brushing when i feel extra delicate or when i want to indulge in some silence and “me” time. i also love exercise, it’s therapeutic and relaxing, i seem to always feel better afterwards these days since i’m much more in tune with my body. lifting a weight or doing a weight routine helps me to focus on counting and breathing, which always gets my mind in a better place 🙂
    danielle saucy smith recently posted…Then & NowMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 3, 2015 / 2:08 pm

      Yup, if I don’t take care of me then there’s no way I can show up for you!

  6. July 30, 2015 / 3:19 pm

    I’m no stranger to wanting to run away and escape and do all the things instead of slowing down. It’s something I’m constantly working on.
    Learning to feel my feelings and knowing that my feelings are always valid was such a wonderful lesson to learn.
    Ange @ Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Why I Run for OiselleMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 3, 2015 / 2:09 pm

      Agreed. I just wish it didn’t take me so long!

  7. July 31, 2015 / 8:20 am

    It’s so not easy to take of yourself when things are rough and you hit some of those delicate but necessary points (and how to manage them) so very well.

    Reminders like these from someone who is also open about her own struggles, makes these pieces of advice even more accessible.

    I love your writing and as I’ve said on FB in the BlogFest Attendees group, your bravery and eloquence with which you continue to tell your story floors me.

    Here’s hoping that this rough time for you eases.
    Melissa Burton recently posted…Countdown to BlogFest 2015 + FREE Momentum Fitness JewelryMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 3, 2015 / 2:11 pm

      Hey thanks Melissa! You’re the best.

      It’s usually the things that I write about that I need to listen to the most 🙂

  8. July 31, 2015 / 6:26 pm

    I don’t like bubble baths either. Just shower and get it over with! Hehe.
    I’m getting better about becoming a couch potato when I need to unwind from the week. Exercise and yoga do a great job of keeping me centered throughout the week, but man do I need to just sit and watch TV/a movie when I’m mentally exhausted.
    More hugs and positive thoughts for you and Neil.
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…Yoga soul snack: don’t take it personallyMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 3, 2015 / 2:13 pm

      Good I’m glad I’m not the only one.

      Thanks for all the good thoughts my way 🙂

  9. August 1, 2015 / 1:29 pm

    Wow I needed to read this right now. Maybe pin it to my wall. Marriage is tough, I am facing some challenges in mine at the moment, going into overdrive and not accepting where I am at are so my issues.
    Jess recently posted…The story behind a pictureMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 3, 2015 / 2:16 pm

      I’m glad it could help. Let me know if I can help out in any other ways! Hugs to you through whatever you are going through.

  10. August 2, 2015 / 8:03 pm

    I am glad to hear that you guys are trying to make it work! Marriage is hard, and truthfully, sometimes it sucks. But as long as at the end of the day, you still love them and they still love you, then it’s worth it.
    Thank you for posting this. There are so many great points here! I tend to want to bottle problems up and *hope* they disappear. That never works, by the way…
    Heather@hungryforbalance recently posted…Friday Favorites: 7/31/15My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 3, 2015 / 2:19 pm

      Wouldn’t it be much easier if things worked that way though? Thanks for reading and I hope the tips helped!

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