2020 has been challenging. These months of sheltering in place, cessation of our normal social activities and extra worry have increased anxiety and stress. In addition, there is a sense of uncertainty along with an extra expenditure of effort to get things done. Whether you have been working harder than previously or isolated from your support group, it is likely you may have felt more overwhelmed or uneasy in these past few weeks.
Many coping strategies and options for self-care at home and on the job have been circulating recently in the media and online. However, I often find some of these activities are tiring and in the midst of higher stress times, I need support in a more immediate and simple way.
I would like to share an easy, check-list system that has helped me and my staff during this time. We call it the SWEEP. The premise with this self-check-in process is, if our basic human needs are not met, then we are not able to be most present and effective in our work or at ease with ourselves and others. So, whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, agitated or irritable, or notice you just can’t stand another hurdle or interruption, ask yourself these questions:
SLEEP – Have you had adequate rest, and if not, can you do anything to change this? If you have not had enough sleep or it is late in the day, many times delaying intense conversations, or choosing to manage your energy until you can get some sleep, is more effective than proceeding.
WATER – Are you hydrated? One of the easiest things to do to be compassionate with yourself is to get a drink of water. We generally need at least eight glasses of water each day, and when we do not get this, we are more prone to headaches, fatigue and mis-represented hunger.
ELIMINATION – Do you need to go to the restroom? If so, do it. Our brain has to keep track of any nagging need or sensation in the body, so if you are “holding it,” you are wasting valuable brain power. Can you recall the image of a little child wiggling and fidgeting when they need to go to the bathroom? Well, as adults we have trained ourselves out of doing the “potty dance,” but the mental distraction still occurs.
EAT – Have you eaten, or are you out of fuel? Nourishing your body, especially with healthy, nutrient-dense, beautiful food is not only an act of kindness but a necessary main-stay to allow you to continue giving and living. My family and staff all know that if I’m getting cranky or have just been on a run of taking care of others, I welcome a friendly reminder to eat.
PAIN – Are you in pain? Some people live with chronic pain all the time and others have times when pain comes and goes, but in both cases, pain makes us less able to be reasonable and effective. Even if the pain cannot be alleviated, often there is something that can be done to ease the experience.
The first step to manage even the un-changeable is to acknowledge that it exists. And with the SWEEP, there is usually something you can shift or do to help yourself regenerate and keep going.
Jeralyn Brossfield, MD, is the founder and physician of XO Health and medical director of Brain Treatment Center both in Rancho Mirage. She can be reached at (760) 573.2761 or www.BrainTreatmentCenter.com and on Facebook @XOHealth.