Cheryl's Blog

Guardrails, the self-care secret that works

The last week has been a stressful one being on call and a point person for two family members in the hospital, one in ICU. When the situation unfolded, my husband Michael sat me down and reminded me of an agreement we made when we lost my Dad and our first pet, Poupon.

“This is going to be tough so we need to stick together. We have to take good care of ourselves so we can be there for others, so let’s remind each other when we forget.”

When we finished talking, I went off by myself and made a list of the things to remember to do every day to stay healthy and strong while in the caregiver role. Along with things like finding out when shift changes occur at the hospital so I work well with the nurse’s schedules, and setting up regular updates for family and friends, I jotted down the following:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Get more sleep than you think you need.
  • Sit quietly by yourself (even if it’s for five minutes).
  • Relax your standards. Let good enough be good enough whenever possible.
  • Don’t skip meals and continue to eat nutrient-dense food.
  • Keep flowers nearby.
  • Ask for help and then be sure to accept it.
  • Limit other commitments, phone calls, emails and texts.
  • Walk in nature – even if it’s just down the street.
  • Recruit friends for emotional support.

It might seem weird to make a list of simple, everyday things, but anyone who has ever been through a crisis knows that fear trumps intelligence. It’s so easy to forget the daily habits that keep us resilient and strong.

One of the most valuable things I learned during my weight loss journey over the last several months is the benefit of guardrails. Doing things like tracking my food, my water intake, my exercise, and my daily meditation practice helped me to solidify the habits that support every area of my life. Turns out, guardrails are good self-care, especially as we age and find ourselves faced with the inevitable challenges of life and loss.

Whether you’re dealing with a tough situation or not, I encourage you to take a few moments to jot down the five things you need to do every day to stay on a good self-care track. Keeping these guardrails firmly in place is a great insurance policy, one I’m especially grateful for right now.



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