Little house of cards on the prairie
Life is full and it is busy; work, children, spouse/significant other, friends, other commitments, and if you have time - you, your interests, your needs. Such a delicate balance. It really is a house of cards. While I am writing this from my own perspective as a working woman with a young family, the way we build our lives are fairly universal. And each comes with its own demands and challenges. It also has its joys, wonders and excitement. One thing I am finding, even when I created the above “life list”, is that people have a hard time finding time to put their well-being first.
Recently, I was having coffee with a friend and she commented, “I don’t know how you do it,” referring to my new career expansion, in addition to, having a 6-year old and being on leave with a 5-month-old. Honestly, I wouldn’t say I have no idea how I do it, but I don’t always know how I get through it either! But knowing your limits and when to get help makes a difference. A solid foundation is key to any house and a house of cards is no different. The foundation of the house of cards is yourself. If it needs maintenance, all the other life areas you’ve built on to will be affected too because they rely on your health.
At any time, my seemingly “put-together self”, may have a wind gust blow through (and not just by my 6-year-old stomping around the house, roaring like a dinosaur). The wind gust refers to events that may or may not be predictable and still catch us off guard. Being in Saskatchewan, we know wind. It can be a sudden 100km/hour gust or a few days of swirling wind blowing across the prairie. The damage to the house depends on the force or flying objects it is hit with; just like in our lives. Sometimes, we are hit with one or multiple events in a short amount of time, either one can cause damage.
But even a house of cards can withstand wind gusts with a solid base for support and some glue to hold it together. We cannot control many events in our lives, but we do have control over our actions and thoughts. The most important foundation is your self-care and knowing when/where to get extra help.
For me, this past spring was one of those gale force winds. It started on a Tuesday, a cherished family member passed away the morning I went into labour with my second child. Within the span of a few weeks, several events occurred that upset what was supposed to be a time of respite with the new baby. Yet, I was thrust into a whirlwind of emotions that impacted not only myself but my family too. We dealt with two serious family health emergencies and the ensuing care needed, coping with the loss of a family member and pet, Covid-19 restrictions, home-schooling and the general demands of a new baby; for me and my husband, it was a lot.
My house of cards began to topple. I had little control over any of those events, but I do have some control over myself (my actions and my thoughts). In times of crisis, taking care of yourself is the only thing you can do. That realization hit me in the middle of the night. I needed some extra support and I needed it immediately. So, I made a phone call someone I knew would care if I called them at 2am. I got the support I needed and a plan to get me moving forward. My house of cards survived the storm and I gained some skills and insights into myself.
At our clinic, we sometimes use a simple Self-Care model to see where our clients are at. It is a simple model that can be completed and tweaked any time. It is a “What do I have?” inventory of sorts. Knowing what you have, helps you see what you need.
Physical: How am I sleeping? Am I eating properly? Am I exercising? What level of substances (alcohol, cannabis, CBD oil) am I using? When’s the last time I had a medical checkup?
Social: Who are the people I have around me? What social supports do I have?
Personally, I would not be able to manage without a support network. Social support networks look different for everyone, it may include a partner, family, a close friend or two, in-person social groups.
Interests: What do I enjoy doing? This may include your job or school, volunteer activities, hobbies and other activities.
Spiritual: Where do I find purpose and meaning? This may or may not be associated with religious practices.
Once you completed the inventory, it can be easier to see the area of self-care you can work on. It is something I can do and that I control, even when wind gusts blow through. I have always found that once the self is taken care of, tackling the other areas seems more doable.
Be kind to yourself, you are the most important thing you've got!
Chantelle Koop, M.Ed, R. Psych. (Provisional)
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Brunswick Creek CReeKside Corner
This is a blog authored by the clinicians working at Brunswick Creek Psychology Services.This blog serves to share with our community who we are, what we do, and why we are passionate about human potential and wellness.