Ellie Strejlau

Coping When Coping is Difficult

I started 2021 feeling like I was ready for anything it could throw at me. I was painfully wrong.
807 words — Approx. 4 minutes
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

I started out the year feeling really good.

Then the Capitol riots happened.

Then more people left my company, spreading those of us left even thinner.

Then the back pain, hip pain, chest pain, headaches and other physical ailments started.

Then my sleep quality plummeted, causing a vicious cycle of physical pain.

All of this happened over a 2 week period, but was really a culmination of the entire previous year’s worth of stress.

I’d be lying if I said that I’m happy in 2021 so far and I know that many people feel the same way. I’m feeling overwhelmed, scared, sad, tired, and angry. It’s worth mentioning that everyone’s pain manifests differently. Knowing that I’m not alone makes me feel more sad to know that others are also suffering. We’re all trying to cope with everything going on around us. Being stuck at home for months and knowing people catching or dying from a contagious disease takes its toll on us. On top of it all, we’re still not being paid at the same rate as our grandparents were for the same amount of work.

There’s a very common saying that goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” We should be taking care of ourselves. I’m super lucky and grateful that I work for a company that’s very understanding and cares about my well being. I didn’t make this the year of self care because, in my opinion, every year should be the year of self care. The idea of loving yourself first should not be as foreign as it is to many of us.

Here are some ways I use to take care of myself that I admittedly haven’t been doing as much lately:

  • Forgive yourself for needing some down time. This is probably the most important one, so I’m putting it first. We’re all human. We beat ourselves up a lot for not making the most of our time or being super productive. We need to throw that thinking out. Give yourself permission to relax. Take the time.
  • Put your phone down. Seriously. Doom scrolling isn’t helping you.
  • Set healthy boundaries and don’t over-commit yourself. We all have a finite amount of time and energy. If you’re getting a lot of requests to do more work, and you don’t really want to do it, muster the courage to start saying no. Start distancing yourself from toxic people who are asking you for your time and/or energy. Weed out the activities that don’t excite you.
  • Go to your doctor and get a physical. If you’re feeling sad for almost no reason, your body could be low on certain vitamins. (I am deficient in vitamin D and take supplements daily!) If you’re feeling tired, you could be lacking iron or have a sleep disorder. Ask your doctor.
  • Recline and breathe. Practice breathing exercises. Meditate. Close your eyes and think about a place that makes you happy. Put on some relaxing music or sounds. Get an oil diffuser and Lavender oil and put them together.
  • Turn the TV off or put on a relaxing stream for background noise. I really like the lofi hip hop streams. During the winter, I like to put on pretty much any stream that shows a fireplace, since I don’t have a real one and love the feeling of warming up when it’s cold outside.
  • Treat yourself to an at-home spa experience. Take a long, hot bath. If you don’t have a tub, get a foot tub from the dollar store and soak your feet in a warm epsom salt bath. Put a face/foot/scalp mask on. Massage your hands, head, neck, and legs with lotion.
  • Have a good cry or scream. Crying can sometimes make us feel better. Exercise your lungs and get the frustration out.
  • Take a walk. Some folks feel better after stretching their legs. (I have to commend those people because I only feel more tired after exercise!)
  • When all else fails, talk to a therapist. Therapy has been taboo for far too long. Letting poisonous thoughts run around in your head is terrible for your health. I’d argue that we all need to help dissolve the stigma around therapy by accepting that a lot of people really need it. Many health insurance providers have begun to cover mental health services in the past few years. If you feel comfortable talking with your HR department, reach out and ask about mental health services that they might cover. Use those benefits!

I’m planning on doing a lot of these this weekend, because making time for self care is something I am and have been proud of in the past. What are some ways you find work well for you to take care of yourself? What’s your favorite self-care routine?

© 2021 Ellie Strejlau. All rights reserved, except disclaimers (below) and quotes (cited).

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