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When someone we love dies, our world can feel like it’s crashing down around us. Losing a loved one can be devastating and overwhelming, so identifying the most effective ways to cope with the loss is critical. Self-care is one of the most important aspects of moving forward after a loss, and it’s also one of the hardest to implement.
However, it’s a necessary first step towards healing. Self-care is about caring for yourself and taking care of your needs to have the best chance of recovering and moving forward. In other words, it’s about giving yourself the support you need to get through a difficult situation.
Learn the Different Types of Self-Care
Self-care encompasses a wide range of behaviors and practices that can improve your well-being, lower your stress levels, and facilitate healing. These behaviors are mainly dependent on individual preferences, but a few types of self-care seem to be essential for anyone who is grieving.
Some of the most important types of self-care that everyone can practice during times of loss are:
● Active: Engaging in activities that give your body and mind something to do and focus your attention on.
● Receptive: Pay attention to your emotions and use that information to guide your actions.
1. Take Steps to Heal
Once you’ve identified what parts of you need repair, it’s time to take steps towards healing.
The first step is to acknowledge that you’re in a stressful situation. It is critical to recognize that you’re dealing with loss and may be experiencing some symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Once you’ve acknowledged that you’re in a stressful situation, it’s time to begin the healing process by talking to someone you trust and opening up about your feelings. Talking to a trusted friend, parent, or therapist can be a source of comfort and help you identify what you’re feeling and why.
2. Practice Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises can help you feel more grounded and in control during times of high stress. There are many types of breathing exercises, and the one you choose will depend on your preferences and personal situation.
One type of breathing exercise commonly used to help with grief is guided imagery. You can create your imagery script or use an imagery CD.
Here are some examples of imagery scripts that can help you through times of high stress:
● I am breathing in calm and clear thoughts.
● I am breathing in healthy feelings of love and support.
● I am breathing in gentle, calming touch.
● I am breathing in delicious scents and tastes.
3. Write Your To-Do List
Writing your to-do list can help you feel focused and organized, even during high stress.
Writing your to-do list can also be an effective way to process your thoughts and identify what you’re feeling.
When you’re journaling, you’re creating a to-do list that you can cross off as you complete tasks, such as writing down what you’re grateful for, listing the things you’re happy to have still, or making a list of things to do.
Here are some examples of to-do lists you can use:
● I am healing and maintaining my health.
● I am finding joy in the here and now.
● I am moving forward and celebrating small victories.
● I am spending time with those I love.
● I am spending time with those I care for.
● I am seeing a therapist when I need to.
4. Eat Well
Eating well can help you feel energized and balanced, which can be especially important during high stress. Eating well can also help you process your emotions and focus your thoughts. Some foods that are helpful for processing emotions include protein-rich foods such as fish, nuts, or beans, healthy fats such as avocados, and whole grains.
Some ideas for healthy eating while grieving include:
● Fruits: Apples, oranges, kiwis, pomegranates, etc.
● Veggies: Starchy veggies such as potatoes and carrots. Leafy veggies such as lettuce and spinach. Fruit like kiwis, plums, and more.
● Meat: Birds, eggs, and low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, etc.
● Dry and canned vegetables: You can add vegetables to soup and stews, make veggie patties with whole-wheat bread, or add vegetables to baked goods such as soufflés, muffins, and other food items.
5. Get Some Exercise
Exercising can improve your mood, increase your sense of well-being, and reduce stress levels. Physical activity shows it can reduce symptoms of depression, so it can also be beneficial for grieving individuals who are feeling depressed or hopeless.
Some types of exercise used to improve mood and reduce symptoms of grief include:
● Housekeeping exercises include cleaning your room, sweeping the floor, or washing the dishes
● Cardio such as jogging, dancing, or walking
6. Take a Vacation
Taking a vacation can be a fun way to break the cycle of stress and burnout.
Research suggests that vacations improve well-being by giving your body and mind a much-needed break from work or school. Taking a vacation can also allow you to generate a fresh perspective on your life and clear your mind.
Some ideas for vacations that can help you process your grief include:
● Take a short break from work or school and focus on your loved one.
● Spend some time at the beach or in a park, and try to put your grieving in perspective by looking at the seagulls flying overhead, the waves crashing, or the child’s swing set across the park.
● Visit a museum, zoo, planetarium, or aquarium.
● Indulge in activities that bring you joy, such as spending time with family or friends, taking a cooking class, or going to the movies.
● Permit yourself to feel whatever feeling comes up, such as sadness, emptiness, and anger
● Surround yourself with supportive people who care.
7. Set Up a Relaxing Environment
Sitting in silence and focusing your attention on your breathing can help you process your thoughts and identify what you’re feeling. Creating a calming environment in your home or putting on nature sounds such as rain or ocean — can help you feel more centered and present. Research has also found that listening to music that you love can help you to process your emotions.
Some ideas for creating a relaxing environment in your home include:
● Use dim lights and turn on soft, soothing music
● Put on a favorite blanket or cozy sweater
● Create a calming environment by turning off the computer, removing your phones/tablets, and turning off the TV
● Practice mindfulness in everyday life, such as brushing your teeth and showering
● Journal about your feelings
● Take a hot bath or shower with lavender essential oil
8. Find What Works for You
Self-care is vital to help you process loss and move forward. There are many ways to practice self-care, and you’ll benefit from each one in different ways. Some may be more applicable to you at certain times, while others may work better for you at work or in your personal life.
The most important thing is to find what works for you and make sure you are getting the support you need.