For the past week and a half, a loved one has been physically suffering from a debilitating injury. For a while, there were stretches where nothing seemed to help relieve the pain. It was heart-wrenching for me, and I wished to do anything and everything to provide comfort and support. There was managing a flow of heatpacks alternated with frozen peas; gentle, long massages with IcyHot; running baths; dressing and undressing; dispensing medications; middle-of-the-night pains, followed by more IcyHot massages. Short notice trips to doctors’ appointments. Not to mention accepting full ownership of the household cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, and snack offering for adoption class attendees.
I didn’t recognize it at first, as it was something that ratcheted up in slight increments. The stress of concern, the anxiety for an understanding of the problem and a remedy to relieve the pain, combined with the extra workload and the poor, interrupted sleep schedule, all started to wear on me. My neck and upper back ached. I found myself getting a little frustrated. I was disappointed in myself for not being stronger.
Then it dawned on me–I wasn’t heeding my own best advice. I’ve often advised people to be mindful of “The Airplane Rule” when wishing to dispense care in their life. The Airplane Rule: In the event of an emergency, please put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others.
My point to people is that caring for others without regard to self-care cannot be sustained. We burn out, become frustrated and exhausted, and eventually may even become resentful, sick, or injured.
The best care we can share with others is when we are rested, grounded, calm, and content. Anything less creates stress that compounds an already stressful situation. For me, not only was I going overboard with healthcare and housework and not getting a full night’s sleep, but I had suspended my meditation and runs. At first, I chose not to run or meditate to assure I would be immediately available if needed. However, the more tired and stressed I got, the more I felt I needed one of these outlets, but began convincing myself I couldn’t spare the time away. Then, admittedly, my patience got a little rough around the edges.
The truth, though, was that the situation had stabilized, and there was time for me to care for myself. Once I got out for that run, my patience, humor, and good will were back in full. By taking the time to meditate, I could then be present and thankful to be available to care and support my loved one.
It turns out, I’ve been right all along. I just needed to slow down and listen, and care for myself so I could care best for others. Oh, alright!