Don't Forget About You: 4 powerful ways to support self-care through hardship

by Shannon Scheller, NTP

"Your scars become the lighthouse for those who are about to hit the same rock." Anonymous

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Is it possible to find beauty in the storm?  Can you create joy despite the pain? Is it selfish to do something for yourself in the middle of chaos?  Joy and laughter seem bleak and unattainable during trials. Putting on Chapstick might be the only thing that you could fester up the energy to do for yourself in the mornings.  But joy and laughter spark some of the best memories, they give us hope, and they are contagious. Contagious for those around you, and for those watching from afar. Your tragedy can become a triumph and self-care could be the spark that is needed to initiate a cascade of beauty.  

In 2016, our normal busy life of to-do’s halted when my 2 year old was diagnosed with cancer.  My list of important deadlines disappeared and a new perspective was born. What truly mattered now was very apparent.  Keep her alive! Out of all the doctor appointments, at-home shots, surgeries, bills, finding work coverage, etc., my #1 to-do was to CHOOSE JOY.  Not an easy task, but it was a choice. A choice to mimic what I had seen in another family’s struggle. An attempt to create a beautiful day for everyday we still had with her.  Creating joy, at the time, became my survival mechanism. Making her laugh by being silly, singing, painting, and dancing in the hospital hallways was a huge dopamine fix for ME. A product of our choice was not only addictingly beautiful, but knowing our choice improved HER demeanor through treatment was a huge win.  Our choice had also encouraged others to do the same within their own struggles. This all confirmed we were doing the right thing. We continued to seek joy in every moment, even in the hardest hours, then after treatment finished we celebrated with an outpouring of tears just hearing the words “no evidence of disease.”  Ironically, at that point, it wasn’t as easy to ‘choose joy’ in our daily tasks as it had been. Upon remission, I was drained and fatigued from the onslaught of stress. Instead of addressing my fatigue, that same year I enrolled in school to study more, and to stretch my to-do's even further. I felt an urgency to learn WHY the things we did to support my daughter through treatment worked.  Why had she remained so vibrant throughout chemotherapy? I needed to know. I darn near brought myself to the brink of depression and pure anxiety. I couldn't cope with the normal day-to-day stresses like I used to. I was simultaneously trying to keep her cancer free by attempting to change our surrounding environment, and all the while, I forgot that I was on empty. I was suffering from adrenal fatigue (Hormonal dysregulation caused by chronic stress) and never refueled my own tank.  Choosing joy, unfortunately, was no longer enough.

We are all on different journeys that evolve, mature and mold us into our future selves.  Do you see you? The you that you WANT to be, do you see him or her? Where you are today is not where you will be a year from now.  How you respond, reflect and take action could completely change the trajectory of your current path! Your self-care needs are typically found within your current chaos.  So look there, dig deep. I chose to fed myself full of positive thoughts, creating a beautiful atmosphere for her to thrive in and it seemed to work! Her detox regimen and healthy foods were on par.  It felt great! But what I failed to see is what was NOT working. Did I feed myself well? Did I detox? Did I seek therapy or receive body work such as massage or acupuncture? The answer to all of those is NO.  I actually felt defeated and felt that I wasn't ENOUGH nor did I deserve any self-care. You see, I thought that I had failed as a mom because my kid had cancer and I found it difficult to forgive myself. I changed everything to fix her and failed to give myself grace for the things I didn't know.  I wish I knew that this was a normal and yet destructive response. I wish I knew that grace and empowerment began with self-care, so that I may have gone the distance instead of completely crashing upon remission. I needed to release that guilt and to fill my drained cup of confidence back up. Not to be vain but rather to release the pain and refuel.  To fill my cup so that I had MORE to give for all those around me. So that an abundance of love would pour from me because I had already nurtured myself. So that showing my husband my affection would not feel like another thing I HAD to do. I put myself last. Are you? In your current situation, whatever it may be, ask yourself "how would you nurture her, if you were the mother of little you?" Chris Carr  

To anyone in a dark valley of life, to those trying to emerge, and to all my cancer parents, here  are some actionable things to do right NOW. Level up your self care because you deserve it! You.Deserve.It!  Because you, are a gorgeous lighthouse. Because everyone around you will benefit from it.


CREATE A MORNING ROUTINE THAT FUELS YOU

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Creating a morning routine that is going to fuel YOU will be different for everyone and will probably evolve over time.  Seriously, what fills YOU up? Waking up early is KEY to a morning ritual that goes beyond the normal shower and getting dressed before walking out the door.  Believe me, I love my sleep! So this was brutal for me, but I noticed a HUGE change in all of us when I did. Set yourself up for victory.  Set your alarm at least 30 minutes earlier than usual and choose 3 of the following to fuel yourself before the munchkins (or co-workers) rule your world:

  • Read the Bible, a daily devotional, pray or meditate - make time to nurture your spiritual being, feed your soul.

  • Journal your Gratefulness - This is great for 2 things: releasing inner turmoil and super-charging your thoughts.  Start everyday writing down the things you are grateful for.  What? Yup, grateful for!  This may prove to be difficult in the beginning.  You may even have days that are difficult to find ONE thing, but try!  The things we put our focus on are the things that show up for us more often.

  • Power up your coffee or drink of choice - Look, if you’re going to drink the caffeine it might as well have nutrients that fuel your cells as well. Add some collagen peptides, a healthy fat source (vanilla bean ghee, MCT oil...), or some Laird superfood creamer to give you longer lasting energy, avoiding the crash and the need for MORE coffee!  Four Sigmatic has little packets that are perfect for hospital stays fueled with Reishi or Chaga mushroom.

  • Play music that feeds your soul - There are so many times that I have run errands, by myself, being clueless to the fact that “Wheels On The Bus” is playing in the background and creating a chaotic atmosphere.  Uplift your morning routine, or anytime really, with music that moves your inner spirit. Nurses would always echo the words “keep the music going, it’s good for you.”

  • Line up a podcast to enlighten your mind - find something to enlighten your mind.

  • Move that beautiful bod of yours - Even if it is just stretching or holding a few yoga poses until you fall over, do it!  Deep breathing and movement will force more oxygen to into your cells, allowing your mitochondria to produce natural energy.  Exercise also releases endorphins that help us reduce perception of pain and those darn negative feelings. My husband would run 5 miles on the streets around the hospital.  He would return with a perky attitude that was annoying to me as I faked my way through the day. It is possible to use a trusted nurse or family member to watch your loved one while you run on the treadmill next door for 30 minutes.*  

*These would all prove to be a bit more difficult in a hospital setting, but doable.


NURTURE BY NUTRITION

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I get it!  I have made my children a very balanced meal, posted a pic of that balanced meal on social media (to meet my dopamine needs for the day) and then gorge down a protein bar right afterwards.  It is VERY easy to put yourself last. However, your world will show up and mirror whatever is out of balance internally. Whatever gut imbalance or sugar imbalance exists will manifest externally in your skin, your mood, and your stress response.  These are my top 3 nutrition tips for all clients and a great place to start.

  1. Eat consciously - You are what you digest, so slow down.  If you are eating on the go, you are not creating enough HCL (hydrochloric acid) within your stomach to break down the food, lacking the ability to absorb the nutrients within.  Breathe, give thanks, and chew thoroughly, just like your Grandma said!

  2. Drink more water - consume half your weight in ounces (add more if drinking diuretics).  About 60% of your body is water! It has a specific function within every system.  It delivers oxygen, aids in digestion, regulates body temperature, flushes waste, lubricates joints, is a shock absorber, aids the immune system by keeping mucosal linings moist and assists in brain function.  You could physically and mentally improve your health just by drinking enough water. You’ve got this!

  3. Reduce sugar intake and increase healthy fats - Prevent that mid-day CRASH and help prevent excess tension, anxiety, and overall mental health with fat soluble nutrients (Aracadonic Acid, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D).  The following foods contain the nutrients needed to support mental health through the endocannabinoids, as well as slowing down the absorption of sugar and increasing your energy for longer periods of time between meals.  Or in other words, these are foods to help a parent feel not so crazy and tired all-of-the-time!!!!

  • Cod liver oil

  • Butter from grass-fed animals

  • Egg yolks from grass-fed chickens

  • Fat from grass-fed animals

  • Organ meats from grass-fed animals

  • Bone broth

  • Raw whole milk from grass fed animals

  • Fish eggs

  • Wild small fish

Don’t forget: "You are what you eat eats"  so choose sources wisely!


BALANCE WITH ESSENTIAL OILS

Essential oils are natural occurring compounds found in flowers, citrus fruits, herbs, bark, and other parts of plants.  These powerful oils can be used in multiple ways. They can support us physically and emotionally! Throughout trials and everyday stress, these are some oils that I turn to for emotional support.

  • Stress / Anxiety and Improved Sleep - Copaiba, Lavender, Cedarwood, DoTerra’s Peace & Balance blends:

    • Constant stress will chronically produce a hormone called cortisol.  Too much cortisol production can cause weight gain, negative emotions, inflammation, cardiovascular function, digestive issues, blood sugar dysregulation, sleep disruption and so much more.  Beware of some of your stressors and keep some of these oils handy.

  • Depression - Any citrus oil: Grapefruit, Wild Orange, Bergamot.  Also, Sandalwood, Lavender, or Roman Chamomile

    • Restore your emotional balance and improve overall attitude.  The limbic system helps to govern our emotions (like anger and fear) and is linked to stress response.  Using essential oils through the olfactory receptors (sense of smell) has been proven to be the fastest way to send signals to our limbic system, creating physiological and psychological benefits within seconds.  

  • Lack of motivation - Peppermint & Wild Orange, DoTerra’s Motivate & Elevation blends  

    • I place these oils over my heart, back of neck, and pulse points, basically everywhere you would typically apply your perfume.  These essential oils are great for boosting your mood, but besides lifting your mood, essential oils are also great options to replace perfume and candles that contain synthetic “fragrance” (a term used to hide endocrine disrupting chemicals).  

How to use:

  • Aromatically - Use a diffuser or place 1-2 drops in hands and breathe in.  The olfactory system processes sense of smell and taste which is connected to your limbic system that processes memories and emotions.

  • Topically - The soles of feet are the most popular place of application for oils due to the pores being more absorbent and has the least amount of skin sensitivity.  Always dilute with a carrier oil for skin application, using coconut, olive or jojoba oils. This helps to dilute the oil, make them last longer by using less and drives the oil into the cells, giving a deeper therapeutic effect.  Purchasing roller bottles for essential oils makes this application quick and easy.

  • Internally - Some oils can be ingested (not all), but not necessary for this purpose.   

Not all essential oils are created equal.  Since oils are not FDA regulated, companies  can place unlisted synthetics and fillers within the bottles.  I suggest searching for oils marked Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG).   Please seek your essential oil expert for any concerns or questions about where to start.


UPLIFT AND REDIRECT YOUR PERSPECTIVE

"Same you, new mood" Rachel Hollis

Your mind is more powerful than any situation you are in.  You have the ability to focus on the negative or the positive things, within that situation, that direct your current attitude.  

  • Address the hard stuff - seek therapy if needed to help you dig deep.  Face the things that are difficult and approach it with grace (not perfection) so that you may experience the good stuff as well.

  • Affirmations - even if you don't believe them at that time, boldly repeat them.  Choose statements that are difficult for you to say things like I am enough, I am a great mom,  I am beautiful, I forgive myself.

  • Re-framing responses or even PTSD- You may not be able to change the event, or stop the trigger from occurring but you can change how you respond to it.  It is a choice! Start by defining that trigger, choose an appropriate response, and practice it until THAT becomes your new habit.  Go exercise, play happy music, or give yourself a timeout (I may have used this one, a lot).

  • Choose Joy - because now is the only thing we can actually embrace.  Worry, fear, anger, stress, sadness... these are usually responses to things that have already happened or things that may happen in the future.  The precious things of today are being overshadowed or forgotten about completely. Find the good in NOW. Place your focus there. Don’t let these emotions rob you of the current moment.

Your journey will look different than mine.  There may be things that light you up that are not listed here.  I suggest diving into whatever THAT is. This trial is a fraction of your life but how you utilize this time can have a profound effect on your memories of it and your well-being later on.  Are you a creating laughter or fear? Are you creating a healthy way of dealing with your emotions or creating a leaky gut from stress eating. You have the power to create something beautiful out of something horrific.  Start now.


Contributor Bio:

 
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Shannon Scheller is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, a doTERRA Wellness Advocate, and Beautycounter consultant.  Being a mommy to a cancer survivor has created and fueled a passion to empower others to take back their health.  She provides nutritional and lifestyle consultations to understand the root causes of any dysfunction or nutrient deficiency and supports her clients on their journey to health, one small change at a time.  Please visit www.holirootedwellness.com for more information.