In a crisis, do you forget to eat? Do you have to be reminded to get some sleep? Do you revert to old habits, like smoking, or find that nagging physical ailments flare up? If so, you’re not alone - all these are common reactions.
At a time like this, eating a balanced meal or getting your three-times-a-week workout may be the last thing on your mind, but that’s precisely why it’s important to take care of yourself physically. Emotional upheaval can make you especially vulnerable to physical illness, so good health habits are especially crucial now.
This is not the time to make big changes in your lifestyle, such as quitting smoking or starting a diet. Instead, think in terms of maintenance. Reinforce the good habits you have, and try to minimize the bad ones. Pay special attention to the areas outlined below.
Stress is completely normal at a time like this. Acknowledge that you’re going to feel a lot of unpleasant emotions - sad, angry, out of control, impatient, etc. Learn a couple of relaxation techniques and use them frequently. Try to cut down on responsibilities in other areas of your life until you’ve had some time to recover from the crisis.
Sleep is always important, but especially so now when you’re probably not getting enough of it. Nightmares are a common reaction after a crisis, and this can disrupt your sleep. Make sure you allow enough time each night for a full night’s sleep. If you have serious difficulty sleeping, and the difficulty lasts more than a week or so, consult a physician.
Exercise can help clear the cobwebs. Gentle exercises like brisk walking are not only good for the body, but they can have a calming effect on your mind as well. If you are already a regular exerciser, resist the temptation to use exercise as a way to literally “run away” from your feelings. A relaxed exercise session can help combat stress, but an intense, all-out workout everyday can sometimes be another way to avoid facing a painful reality. Also, over-exercising can easily lead to injury, a problem you don’t need right now.
Smoking is always a health risk. Unfortunately, many ex-smokers become current smokers during a crisis. The act of smoking is often a way to repress feelings and put distance between yourself and a problem. A stressful time like this is probably not the best time to try to quit, but try to avoid using cigarettes as a crutch.
Alcohol and other drugs may be tempting, but they cause far more problems than they solve. People under extreme stress may tend to “self-medicate” with alcohol, tranquilizers, coffee and other drugs, both legal and illegal. When you’re in pain, it’s hard to tell how much is too much, so perhaps the best idea is to try to avoid mood-altering substances as much as possible. Instead of a drink, try taking a walk. Instead of pills, try talking to a friend or your spouse.