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Self-Care and Hope During Times of Crisis

March 25, 2020

I wanted to take a few minutes to share an encouraging, hopeful perspective on our response to the world around us. Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to read this. I hope each and every one of you are doing as well as you can be. My goal for this article is to make sure you focus on your self-care and hope.

Self-Care and Hope

I’m confident that we will all support one another during this time, knowing that together we will overcome. I hope each of us will end up stronger, smarter, and more compassionate towards our fellow humans out of this experience. And for the weight loss surgery community, I hope our sense of community will never be felt more than at this time.

We're making this journey together!

More than ever, this is a time to take care of you. For most of us, our normal routine has been disrupted but this is not a time to neglect taking care of yourself by reverting to old behaviors you may have once practiced.

On the contrary, more than ever, taking care of yourself is as important on an individual level as much as it is on a societal level. What you do for yourself impacts you and those around you.

Obviously, people are experiencing a lot of different emotions right now. Any emotions of distress have to do with not feeling in control of our circumstances, context, or life at the moment. This is a normal thing to experience in situations like this.

When you think about it, most of us have never been through a time like this. We’re making it up as we go along. That's why it is more important than ever to focus on your self-care and hope!

As we try and figure out what we need to be doing, it is extremely important that we don’t engage in behaviors that may compound an already stressful situation. We do have control over how we respond in these times. Having a mindset of hope rather than fear will help us do what we need for ourselves.

Mindset of Resilience: Self-Care & Hope

One of the things I’ve always tried to instill in my therapy and coaching clients over the past 19 years is a sense of empowerment over their lives. For most of us, we have lived long enough to know that life is a series of resets. In working with the weight loss surgery community, we constantly emphasize the importance of establishing “your new norm.”

Moving on from what you once knew into living in an unfamiliar way requires being intentional and deliberate about living a certain way. This point in time is no different. We have an opportunity to re-prioritize life and revaluate what really matters. Maintaining perspective is key.

I can think of countless examples of tragic experiences my clientele have endured over the years. Some of their stories would certainly make for amazing better-than-Hollywood dramas.

I’ve heard examples of people overcoming cancer, loss of loved ones in unfathomable circumstances, and abuse backgrounds that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Many of these accounts have helped me maintain my own perspective on what really matters in life. These folks represent true models of resilience for me. Not only did they survive their circumstances, but they also ended up thriving.

What if we view our current circumstances like our history of experiences we’ve already been given?

I know some of you have made amazing strides in overcoming your histories. The empowered, hope-inspired approach would be not for us to focus on what has happened to us but our response to it.

It is up to each of us to take our life experience and ask ourselves, “Okay, Steve, This is what you’ve been given. What are you going to do with it?” How will we respond with this experience?

Empowerment and Hope

Last year at the 2019 ObesityHelp Conference, I was reminded by a peer the importance of tracking the ability you gain while practicing self-care after having weight loss surgery. We usually refer to these things as “non-scale” victories like breathing better, having more stamina, improved sleep, being able to tie your shoes, etc. There is a lot of wisdom in this concept. It allows us to focus on things so many of us tend to take for granted.

It is an opportunity to reassign value to things we tend to overlook. Journaling, listing, writing these things down as you gain or regain them serve as footprints in the sand you can go back and review at any point along the journey. Especially, when you forget how far you’ve come. We need to always be doing what we can to the extent of our ability and means.

Remember, now is the time to value our health, not when we lose it.

Over the weekend, I was inspired by a message I had heard about our circumstances and the sociological response of fear. My summary/take-away is this: We’ve proven that fear is contagious. Now we need to show that hope is too. Focus on being a carrier of it. It’s the only thing worth catching.

Modeling hope for our children, grandchildren, friends, and family is the antidote for fear. Model for them by practicing self-care and hope. We will get through this time by encouraging, supporting, empowering one another to take care of themselves in all aspects. What you do for yourself impacts you and those around you. Remember, we’re in this together.

Easy Recommendations & Tips to Focus On Doing:

  1. Stay productively busy. Do things that you and your household benefit from; clean that junk drawer, fold the laundry, clean anything that needs it. Being productively busy helps alleviate a sense of being helpless.
  2. Implement structure. If you’re working from home, wake up to your alarm, shower, make your coffee as you would normally be doing. Go to sleep when you normally would too.
  3. Do a grateful inventory. Start with simple things like breathing, laughter, sunshine, air, food, water, etc.
  4. Support others. Check up on others just to say hi and that you’re thinking of them. We all benefit from verbal sunshine.
  5. Positive distractions. Get acquainted with a book, engage in something that makes you giggle, or chuckle (puppy videos!). Laughter is truly therapeutic.
  6. Limit negative influences. Limit time on social media, the news, and anything that drains your energy. Staying informed is one thing, being over-informed leads to detrimental obsession.
  7. Engage in physical activity at every opportunity. We benefit psychologically as much as we do physically.
  8. Practice basic hygiene. Yes, shower, bathe, shave, use clean linens, make your bed. It makes a difference.
  9. Practice hope. Make a list of three things you look forward to when our situation changes.
  10. Treat your future self. Identify some activities you’d like to do by the end of the year.
  11. Use your available resources. Most health insurance companies are authorizing telephone/video therapy. Having a safe place to vent or just be cathartic is worth the time.
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Steven Reyes

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Steven Reyes offers expertise on the psychological adjustments associated with weight loss surgery. Dr. Reyes is best known for his compassionate coaching and therapeutic approach in helping others with their psychological and physical well-being. Dr. Reyes' research includes a phenomenological study of the post-surgical adjustment issues with weight loss surgery patients between 1 and 2 years post-op.

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