Today (July 24) is International Self-Care Day
I’d never heard about it before yesterday when I was looking on the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) website at work. A bit timely since self care is, and has been, pretty low on my radar lately.
Many people in a caregiver role do not have time for self care. But really, not taking time for self care does nothing to help us move forward. Part of the 99 Days to FASDay even highlighted care. Day 46 of 99 Days to FASDay: FASD Strategies for Caregivers
But even though there may be things we can do, sometimes outside forces create a vortex we get sucked into. Things have been building for awhile. Two weeks ago it reached a boiling point. I texted my boss on Sunday night to say I would not be in on Monday. I had a crisis I needed to deal with. I also emailed three people who we had been working with over the last year and told them we were in crisis and I needed a case conference to get things set up. We weren’t really receiving direct service from them – but that’s the problem – we don’t have anyone to help us!
For those new to my blog, my daughter – the maiden – has FASD. She turns 21 next week. If you go through some previous posts you will see, like many, we haven’t had a lot of support, recognition, understanding, acceptance and accommodations over the years. Yes, there have been times and people. But more not. And that takes a toll. She is currently on a wait list for additional services. The one thing she desperately needs is a worker to take her out into the community to connect with services and start building her life.
I had to return to full time work last October and that has been a huge transition for me. For the maiden as well. My mom – the crone – is finding it difficult to be a case manager. And she shouldn’t have to be. I don’t work in the city I live in, and all of the services we access are in a third city. That adds to the mix.
I returned to work on Tuesday, but the day was full of tears (because my stress level is so high) as comfort and encouragement was offered from workmates.
Three days into the week, I had not heard from any of the workers, so I sent another message. I heard back from one who said they were going to try to figure something out and would be back in touch.
This past Monday I had a meeting with my boss to review my annual performance review and look at goals. I’ve been meeting the established ones, but she said how worried she was for my mental health, and my ability to balance work and life. She made contacting our EAP provider one of my new goals.
She said usually people have one or two major issues, at different times, but also have support. She noted I have an incredible amount on my plate and I have no one to help or guide me. Perhaps connecting with a counsellor will help with getting an outside view on helping me put together a plan.
Interestingly, I received the pencil above in my mailbox a few weeks ago. An anonymous gift. Another message from the universe?
She felt I had so much, I didn’t know what to do first. I was paralyzed. And she is correct. I am.
Our lives have been turned upside down and inside out over the last two years. We have moved from one crisis to the next. My ability to sail the storm is comprised now because I work full time, and it’s showing. The maiden needs to get connected in the community. She needs to find some connections and direction in her life.
I don’t know if an EAP provider will be able to help. Let’s face it, life in the FASD lane is like no other journey. But I have to do something.
So it seems a bit like a message from the universe that came to me in the guise of International Self Care Day, to remind me that I need to start taking care of myself.
So what exactly is Self Care Day and Why July 24?
This date was chosen as it symbolises the benefits of self-care are experienced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In other words, the benefits of self-care are life-long and do not just relate to a single day.
The World Health Organization defines self-care as the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.
Self-care is a lifelong habit and culture. It is the practice of individuals looking after their own health based on the knowledge and information available to them. It is a decision-making process that empowers individuals to look after their own health efficiently and conveniently, in collaboration with health and social care professionals as needed. ~ Global Self-Care Federation
The International Self-Care Foundation developed a framework for self-care around seven ‘pillars’ or ‘domains’:
Pillar 1: Knowledge & Health Literacy
The capacity of individuals to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. People with strong health literacy skills enjoy better health and well-being, while those with weaker skills tend to engage in riskier behaviour and have poorer health.
Pillar 2: Mental Wellbeing, Self-awareness
Mental well-being includes: life satisfaction, optimism, having a purpose in life, and a sense of belonging and support.
Pillar 3: Physical Activity
Regular activity improves health and reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases.
Pillar 4: Healthy Eating
Includes: having a nutritious, balanced diet with appropriate levels of calorie intake.
Pillar 5: Risk Avoidance or Mitigation
This refers to the avoidance or reduction of behaviours that directly increase the risk of disease or death. It includes: quitting tobacco, limiting alcohol use, getting vaccinated, practicing safe sex, using sunscreens.
Pillar 6: Good Hygiene
Hygiene refers to the conditions and practices that help to maintain health and prevent the spread of diseases. Good hygiene therefore includes a specific set of practices associated with this preservation of health, such as: washing hands regularly, brushing teeth, washing food.
Pillar 7: Rational and Responsible use of Products, Services
The rational and responsible use of health products and services as part of self-care involves individuals safely and effectively managing their health, where appropriate with medicines, products or services such as diagnostics and medicines and includes: being aware of dangers, using responsibly when necessary.
For more information about the 7 Pillars check out: Self Care International
I did a search on Facebook and Twitter for self care and self care day. There were articles and graphics for ideas and inspiration. I am always saving articles and screenshots of graphics to motivate me. But I seem to be immobilized by the overwhelming amount of responsibility and unknowns in my life still that the little motivations may be wonderful, but they don’t seem practical. I’m exhausted.
The biggest thing that relates to caregivers and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder that people outside of our world don’t realize, is how long we are caregivers. When I was 21, I had lived on my own for 3 years, including moving to England for a year. I can’t even leave the maiden alone for 10 hours while I go to work. I am still doing things for her that neurotypical 21 year olds do for themselves. I am managing her life and I’m managing my own. And within those two lives are an enormous amount of tasks. I don’t mind. I just need help.
Self care takes many forms.
Zzz Time is non negotiable for me. It is one thing I do as a form of self care. I make sure I get my 8 hours of sleep. I know I need it.
And these past couple of weekends I spent some Tree Time – I got back in the garden for some vitamin N (nature).
How about you? Are you taking self care seriously?
Check out Self Care Day for ideas and articles.
I didn’t list everything on my plate, because really it doesn’t matter to anyone but me, but I wanted to write this article to let others know, if you are at your own breaking point, I know how that feels. You are not alone.
If you haven’t read the presentation I did on being an advocate and lessons I’ve learned, I encourage you to read it. FASD: What I’ve learned so far. It has some advice for people just starting life in the FASD lane.
Interesting to see six months after writing this, I wrote another post:
I’m tired. No I’m more than tired. I’m exhausted. I’m depleted. No amount of self care (bubble baths, walks, therapy, lunch with friends, reading a book, etc.) is going to “fill my cup” and bring me back to where I need to be.
I’m not alone. Many people are. Those who are caring for individuals with disabilities or aging parents are in the same place I find myself in. No one situation is the same. And no one situation is worse than another. But the fact that we are even in this place is a result of years of policies by governments that have attacked the most vulnerable in our society. And as a result those who look after them are now suffering.
Check it out: What happens when no one cares for the caregiver
And for those on the road for awhile, stay with me. We will walk this journey together.