Self-Care During Stressful Time
September 4, 2017 8:59 AM   Subscribe

I need help figuring out how to make it through the next few months without breaking to bits. Your best self-care tips, please. Details below.

The next few months are going to be busy & stressful. I have a book coming out (thanks to a very awesome crowdfunding campaign, I'm self-publishing it and function as the designer + author + creative director + publisher + project manager). I am going on a promotional tour across Europe. I am shifting parts of my business. I also have very, very ill family members, a close friend is terribly sick in hospital, and another close friend has a major life event I'm attending. Between now and Christmas, I have 5 days without obligations/work (including weekends - it is truly horrific)

I am barely treading water now and, yes, the next few months will be horrifically hectic. I am trying to find a self-care strategy that'll enable me to get through the stress and the workload. Bonus points for any self-care tips that I can practise whilst I'm on the road.

Currently I am keeping track of what I eat (so I actually remember to eat & don't overload on crap junk food), I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every day, I try to go to bed at the same time every day, I have hired a personal assistant to deal with day-to-day business, and at the end of the day i remind myself on three good things that happened to me during the day. What else can I do?
posted by kariebookish to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have some you-time scheduled for each day doing something physical? Whether I've gotten enough exercise makes a night/day difference with me.
posted by aniola at 9:22 AM on September 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I spent years traveling five days a week, most weeks, and the one thing I can suggest that you haven't covered is to eliminate stress by routinizing as much as you can. Eliminating choices so you can preserve your decision-making muscles will help you relax because niggling stuff is on autopilot.

So for example, figure out a capsule wardrobe, preferably from your current stuff, that packs well and stick to it. I had two suitcases/weeks worth of clothes/jewelry (pared down) so one batch would be at the dry cleaners (good job for the PA) while I was on the road with the other. That reduced my laundry demands to linens, weekend clothes, socks and underwear, but eventually I figured out washable work clothes that could all go in a single load. In the hotel room, develop regimes, e.g., the key always goes next to the TV. Put your bills on autopay. Stress comes from having to remember a million little things, so spare yourself.

Another thing: make the decision to affirmatively trust other people to do a good enough job, especially your PA, for the stuff you delegate. Most stuff can't be fucked up too badly, even if not done the way you would have gone about it. Put the effort into the stuff that has true consequences: ensuring your taxes are squared away, not whether they bought your favorite brand of whatever. Freedom from feeling obliged to supervise and worrying about small outcomes takes a lot of noise away from your brain.

Congrats on all these good things that you've made happen!
posted by carmicha at 9:29 AM on September 4, 2017 [8 favorites]

Oh and get a Bluetooth speaker to take on the road. Having your own music in the hotel room is, in my mind, critical self-care.
posted by carmicha at 9:32 AM on September 4, 2017 [11 favorites]

Reminding yourself of three good things that happened during the day is a wonderful thing to do, but three might be daunting. They happened, but review and articulation can sometimes be hard.
During a very difficult time for me I purchased the kind of paper calendar that people keep on their desks (retro, I know), with a picture on one side and 7 smallish sections on the other. It's a gratitude journal, and needs only one thing a day to be grateful for. Some days I would have been hard pressed to come up with 3 good things, but "I survived" was something I was could write down and was sincerely grateful for. And oddly, I began to pay more attention during the day: "beautiful glimpse of lake through trees while driving." I noticed, because I could note it down. It became more and more soothing to me.

The only other thing I would say to you is to be prepared to very kind to yourself. If you have very ill family and friends, things may get out of hand, you may have to make decisions with no good choices, you may suffer loss. "Breaking into bits" may happen, but you will not be permanently broken, because you are such a strong advocate for yourself already. Don't be too afraid of everything going to hell in a hand basket. If you have to spend a few days in bed with the covers over your head, you can get up and pick up the pieces and put them in a new design.

I sincerely hope that this advice will be useless to you, and you will have a challenging-but-satisfying time you will remember the rest of your life.
posted by kestralwing at 12:08 PM on September 4, 2017

Best answer: For your ill loved ones, find a person (or persons) close enough to both you and the ailing folks to "deputize". Ask them to contact you with updates, so you can assume that no news is good news for the most part and don't have to remember to call or otherwise be proactive about information gathering unless you have time to actually communicate. It has to be someone whose judgement you generally trust, no drama llamas who can't separate minutiae from news, so aim for someone close but not, like, the ill person's immediate caretaker.

You could also aim to contact your "deputy" with little updates on your own trip every week or so, with maybe some interesting pictures or anecdotes, so they can share that as they see fit with the sick folks. Of course if you're blogging or sending out group emails already and these folks are internet savvy and capable throughout their illness then no need, but there is little more boring and frustrating than being stuck in a hospital bed, and even if you're not having the time of your life on your tour it's going to be fascinating to your loved ones.
posted by Mizu at 12:09 PM on September 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

- Exercise, even just a 30 minute walk at lunch will help a lot
- I like to Q&A with myself (out loud, like a crazy hobo - but it works!) so e.g. I write down some questions 'how are you feeling?' 'what do you need?' 'what problems are you worried about?' and then I respond to them out loud and try to talk things through. It's important to talk I feel!
- Meditation helps me sleep and relax
- Listen to your body - if you need to take a breather and hide somewhere, do it! If you make mistakes, forgive yourself!
- Look for fun things to do after work - it's important to blow steam!!
posted by Crookshanks_Meow at 7:27 PM on September 4, 2017

Outside walking when possible, and especially if it's in the sunshine* (for Vitamin D, feeling good and so forth). It's free, it's safe (it's off the car-roads), requires no preparation, no equipment (apart from some half-decent trainers or shoes), no medications and no preparation times (apart from putting on those shoes and whatever layers).

On days where I have a lot on (self-employed work, deadlines, relatives being problematic, neighbors distracting) I still get out, even if it's for several short walks. Trying to get one in outside (if that makes sense), even if it's very short, as early as possible in the day is refreshing, even if it's just around the block. Clears the mind and lungs, and gets various bodily systems out of slumber.

Important: do walks alone. Chatty people who say "I'll come along with you" must be rebuffed, as they'll just fill your mind with whatever they are going on about and you may come back more stressed than when you left. Also leave the online tech behind, as you don't want your mind filled with the latest Twitter drama - and there is always Twitter drama 24/7 - as you stroll. Your walk, your time, your mind space.

(Added side-bonus for regular or frequent walking: numerous life-enhancing health benefits in the short, medium and long term)

* Yes, I know you are in Glasgow but I distantly remember there was some sunshine there sometimes aha I have photographic proof, and clothing means walking in rain is still okay. Sometimes I used to stroll down from the West End or Maryhill to one of the universities, or the armadillo, wander in to whatever conference was happening, and find myself at the buffet. Happy walking days. 10/10 would do again.
posted by Wordshore at 6:41 AM on September 5, 2017

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