I know a thing or two about how to cope with a crisis that is unexpected. When you feel like everything in your life is suddenly uprooted and you’ve entered the twilight zone. When all the routines that you previously depended on to maintain status quo fall by the wayside in a flash. This was my experience when I was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago. And now here I am, alongside the rest of the country, trying to adapt to another health crisis. What helped me to cope when I was going through months of chemo, radiation and surgeries is what’s helping me to cope with coronavirus today.
Before I let you in on my most adaptive coping strategy, let me give you some context. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, overnight almost everyone started treating me a little differently. They started using cancer metaphors when they would speak to me. This happened. All. The. Time. Suddenly I was a “warrior” who was going to “fight the battle” and be a “survivor.” I understand that for some people this terminology is motivating and helpful, and that’s great. But for me it never resonated and it felt so inauthentic. Couldn’t I just be myself while going through treatment? I have two main issues with these cancer metaphors. First, it makes patients responsible for their fate. If a patient is able to “beat” cancer, they have won the battle and we refer to them as survivors. What about all of those patients whose lives were taken by cancer. Are they a bunch of losers? And second, I fundamentally dislike the idea of being at war with my body. I decided that I would leave the fighting to my treatment team. I was going to put all of my energy into nurturing my body. My identical twin sister helped me to develop a self-care practice that would get me through the long haul. These self-care rituals are what helped me to stay optimistic and gave me a sense of control.
This brings me back to our current crisis. Once again, self-care rituals are helping to carry me as we face the uncertainty of this pandemic. What do self-care rituals look like? This is a very personal thing, but my rituals are pulled from four general categories including nutrition, exercise, body care, and psychological care. These are not mutually exclusive categories. For example, my daily exercise also helps me to care for myself psychologically. Your self-care ritual is whatever helps you to best nurture and care for yourself. Many of you may be wondering how the heck you are supposed to launch a self-care practice when you are now dealing with significant stress and possibly additional demands at home. I get it. My husband and I are now both working from home and “homeschooling” our three energetic boys while also managing the home, 3 meals a day, laundry etc. We are the ones who need self-care rituals the most. Prioritizing ourselves and carving out the time is so important. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we came out of this crazy experience healthier and with better self-care routines in place?
So, choose the healthy breakfast, take that long walk, massage your body with moisture-rich oil, have a good laugh with loved ones, and try to find the silver linings in each and every day.