‘G’ is for Go One Step at a TimeJuly 19, 2023
Why TRUDGE?August 2, 2023
This is the seventh in a series, first published in 2021, in which I explore how to move forward when our journey is difficult. The series began with an introduction and has covered the first five of six TRUDGE practices for long-term resilience: Tell the Truth , Remember, Unpack Your History, Decide: Fear or Excitement, and Go One Step at a Time.
TRUDGE – being resilient as you move through a challenging time in your life. When life is a hot mess, it can seem pointless to eat a healthy meal or take time for a walk. However, these self-care basics are what will get you through. You can get away with shortchanging yourself for a brief amount of time, but depriving yourself for long will create real consequences.
During this tough time, energize yourself for the long run. Plan as if you were preparing for a marathon. Get enough sleep, eat healthy food, hydrate, exercise, breathe, take your meds. Your brain is part of your body; your ability to think and to manage stress improve with elevated nutrition, oxygenation, hydration, muscle flexibility, and decreased pain. Trudge situations require you to step back and make time to be healthy.
I have worked with a lot of parents and caregivers. I always ask what they do to take care of themselves and their adult relationships. Almost every time they frown at me and say, “I don’t have time for that.” My answer is, “you don’t have time to not do that.”
I learned this the hard way. Several months into our adoption; I was running flat out 100% focused on the needs of my children. I started to run a fever that meds wouldn’t reduce sending me to the hospital ED. A few hours later a doctor handed me a lab report with the diagnosis: mononucleosis. I looked at him in panic and said, “I don’t have time for that! I have a 3-year-old and I’m in the process of adopting an 8-year-old!” He said (matter-of-factly) “well then, that is probably why you have it”. Ugh. I was forced to do very little and to figure out what my body needed to recover.
How do you take care of yourself to maintain your energy? Pay attention to you. There are some basic categories that make a big difference in your long-term well-being.
Stressful times often impact sleep. And yet, your body and brain need sleep to heal, to consolidate memories and to reset. If you start to worry about all that is going on the minute you lie down, try doing a brain dump before bed. Take a blank piece of paper and write down all the thoughts in your head. Having it on paper can allow your brain to let it go for now. Remind yourself you are going one step at a time.
When life is busy, food intake can become haphazard. Sugar and caffeine infiltrate your diet at really high levels. Proper nutrition increases your body’s ability to cope with stress. Sketch out simple, healthy meal ideas and eat them on repeat. Time spent feeding yourself well is a priority. Combining meals with seeing supportive friends can be particularly nourishing.
Use water or tea as a mindful moment throughout your day. A few minutes to drink, and breathe, is a helpful pause. Your body needs hydration to move nutrients and oxygen to every one of your cells. Your thinking process and stress is worsened by dehydration (And – taking the time to visit the restroom is self-care!)
Your body was designed for movement. It gets cranky without variety. Stretch, walk, and move your body. Dance in the kitchen. Setting aside time for the sort of exercise that works for you is necessary for long term well-being. Time spent working out gives your brain time to rest.
Stress hormones cause breathing to become shallow and tight. Taking slow, deep breaths not only increases your oxygen intake but also triggers a decrease in stress hormones. Practice regular grounding techniques to make this a habit. 5 senses grounding is one way to slow down and breathe.
Keep your specific medical/dental needs on your calendar. During difficult times it is so easy for this to slip off your to do list. Refill your meds, see your doctor/dentist, do your exercises. Time and attention spent on your specific needs now can prevent major trouble later. Take care of you, you deserve to be as healthy as you can be.
TRUDGE situations are marathons, not sprints. Manage your energy for the long run so that you can stay healthy through this time in your life. You are dealing with a lot of stress and a task list that never ends – these are both draining. It seems you will never get it all done. The reality is you will not get every single possible thing done. When life is this busy and difficult you need to focus on priorities. One of them is your own well-being. It is not selfish to take care of you. You are the only one who knows how close you are to running on empty. Your collapse won’t help, and you deserve to be well.
Prioritize your own self care through daily and weekly routines that work for you. Plan for sleep. Find a simple, healthy breakfast you like and eat it every day. Listen to upbeat music. See the professionals that help you cope: doctor, therapist, massage therapist, hairdresser. The goal is to maintain your health and well-being, which are key aspects of resilience while you manage this time in your life.