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Surviving someone else's storm

We all know life is full of unexpected heartbreaks, complications, and tragedies, and we do our best to take them in stride and survive. When events like this happen, we pause and take inventory of our priorities. We evaluate what comes first: health, work, activities, etc. However, sometimes these storms don’t happen to us directly. They happen to people we know, people we love, and we want to make it better.

But how do we thoughtfully carry an umbrella for someone else while managing to stay dry ourselves?

Fables, parables, and even popular movies often portray the hero as sacrificing themselves for someone else, but you rarely hear the epilogue to those stories.

To be the most helpful to others, you have to be in the stronger position.

Like today’s standard airplane safety instruction dictates, put your own oxygen mask on yourself before helping those around you…because if you’re not breathing, you’re little use to anyone.

Whether you are taking on the role of the full-time caregiver or just wanting to ease someone else’s pain or stress, your own well-being is imperative.

Just as you would during your own storm, prioritizing self-care is part of the survival. Sleep deprivation, poor eating and exercise habits, pushing on when you’re sick, and postponing your own doctor’s appointments are just a few common choices that will not only put you at risk but also those for whom you are caring.

Self-care is more than massages and pedicures. (Clarification: a good massage can be pretty awesome!)

Here are a few tools to consider when taking on this important role:

1) Look out for stress before it’s taking you down.
Identifying what’s stressing you out is a good start in trying to combat it. Then you can list easiest to hardest and tackle them one by one.

2) Ask for help.
When you’re caregiving for someone, it can often feel like you’re on an island and responsible for everything. However, there are usually people around who can take on small tasks. Remember how much you wanted to help your loved one? Others want to help, too. Let them!

3) Move.
Sure, skipping town in the middle of the night might seem like an appealing option at this point, but I’m talking about moving YOUR BODY. Exercise, no matter how small, is proven to change you mentally too. It releases endorphins that make you feel good!

4) Talk to someone.
A counselor can provide a non-judgmental ear where you can breathe, vent, see new perspectives, and troubleshoot coping strategies.

Being a person someone else can lean on during tough times is a brave and sometimes thankless job, and it’s what we do because we live in this big ol’ world together.

As Maya Angelou wisely summed up, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”