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Most Wednesday evenings, you will find me in improvrehearsal (now virtually) and even doing virtual shows on Thursday evenings orweekends. I always wanted to try improv, but with a daughter in theatre herselfand a long commute, it did not seem possible. I put it on my “empty nester list,”and when my daughter’s graduation was followed by a move closer to the city, Istarted classes. I eventually made it into the apprentice company. From myfirst class, I learned that when I am doing improv, I must be completelypresent and in the moment. Be it a simple ensemble game or a scene or sometimesbringing in a character, I cannot think of work or anything going on at home,or I will “bomb.” Improv requires me to listen to my partner(s) as well asrespond, lead with a specific emotion and add something to the scene. I havefound it an essential part of my self-care. It gets me out of my runningthoughts about work or other thoughts racing through my mind. I leave feelingtired yet refreshed. It has become a huge part of how I care for myself.
You see, I think when we talk about self-care (and we do alot at Kate’s Club), most people might think of getting a massage or amani-pedi which are great, but we can dig deeper. I find grieving parents andcaregivers often put themselves last when it comes to self-care. Children andteens many times do not understand it at all. Whether we are actively grievingor working as helping professionals, or just trying to deal with the everydaystresses of life, especially in current times, we can all start to broaden ourdefinitions to include caring for ourselves in different domains.
Spiritual self-care may mean prayer in your faith traditionor a ritual that brings you comfort. It may also mean meditation. My sister, anurse practitioner in an ICU unit, has been practicing meditation for twoyears. She says it helps her feel less anxious, and she feels better able tocope with stress. She has a designated a chair in her home and gets up a fewminutes early every day to meditate. Many people find yoga helps in differentdomains at the same time. While it is physical, it can also help youspiritually and emotionally.
Emotional self-care may involve seeking therapy. Therapy isnot just for times of crisis but can be a great way of keeping ourselvesmentally healthy. We can also practice stress management by putting boundariesin place, especially when it comes to work. Checking work emails into theevening usually adds stress and can mess up our sleep. Emotional self-caremight also mean practicing self-compassion and forgiveness. People who aregrieving may find this self-compassion and forgiveness especially hard. Theymay be full of “should haves” around a death, and many times they need toforgive themselves for something done or not done.
Let’s not forget exercise, but physical self-care also meansgetting enough rest and eating nourishing food. Especially while grieving, wemight reach for foods that provide temporary comfort but do little to nourishour body. Look for easy nutritious meals to cook. If you have kids, have themhelp cook and put on some fun music. Have a dance party in the kitchen and planfamily walks after dinner. If you once liked playing basketball, why not goshoot hoops? You don’t have to join a team but look for something that gets youmoving while you have fun.
Self-care has undoubtedly taken a hit during the pandemic.We need to connect with others, but self-care may also involve settingboundaries and learning to ask for help. These are huge when you are grieving.When it comes to asking for help, be specific to your needs. We sometimespractice this in our parent groups. They are reluctant to ask for help, butmost people want to help and need direction. Are you still connecting with friends thatfill you up? We can also remember to put limits on social media or seek outpositive online interaction. I am in a group that just shares pictures ofdogs…what could be better?
It is not so important that we categorize self-carepractices, but that we are doing things that contribute to our well-being. Itcan be as simple as taking time to watch the birds at your birdfeeder or somethingmore complicated like learning to sew or knit. As you see, a lot of self-carepractices overlap and help us on different levels. I know for me, improv helpsme both emotionally and socially. Oh, that reminds me laughter is always goodmedicine. Think about how you care for yourself, and if you want to do better,make a pledge and share it with a friend.
After hours, you can catch Lane as a member of the Whole World Theatre Company’s Apprentice Company. Online shows here.
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