Recently, I was asked a (surprisingly) hard question. If I could go back in time and offer some advice that isn’t on the website, what would it be?
The first thing that came to mind is I would lean in close, give myself a hug, and say, “Oh sweetie, if anyone can do this, you can.” Here are a few other tips.
After: If the shit already hit the fan.
Help that is Actually Helpful
Everyone is different, and I won’t pretend to know how you can best take care of yourself, or family, kids, house, pets, bills, mortgage, grocery shopping, house-cleaning, carpools, finances or forgiveness – but I do know that these few mantras I said over and over in my head really helped, and others seem to have found them useful, too.
1. Put Your Mask on First
Adrenaline can keep you going for a little while, but then, not so much.
So it may sound a bit cliche, but it is 100% true. You must take care of you or you won’t be of help to yourself or anyone else. The two times in my whole life that I lost 10-15 pounds in one week is 1) when I got e-coli while traveling internationally, and 2) the week my husband died.
This is a marathon, not a sprint.
2. Eat, Sleep, Sweat
Sleep enough. Eat enough. Move your body.
Every day. Consider this your job. Period. That is all.
3. Ask for Help & Accept Help
Letting people help you will make them feel better. Let them.
I grew up in Minnesota, which means asking for help isn’t really part of my vocabulary. For example, I’d almost prefer to light myself on fire rather than let someone carry a bag of groceries for me. The thing about going through a hard time, is that it pretty much totally and completely levels us all. And often we are too sad, proud, overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed, or stubborn to accept help. And generally too shattered to ask for it. So please, let someone carry a damn bag of groceries for you.
When it comes to helping, people also/often have no idea how to do it, or even know what to say. Which, unfortunately, can look really awkward or they may even ‘panic-talk’ and say something stupid – ending up not being helpful at all. Which wasn’t the point.
Friend: “Anything at all ok? I’m here to help. You’re not alone. So just call me. Annnnnytime.”
You (option 1): Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. (and you never call)
You (option 2): Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. Actually, I am finding it hard to keep up with everything. The yard needs to be mowed/dog-walked/kids driven to sports/etc. Could you do that once or twice a week for a while?
You might have to “help them help you.” Please go with option #2.
4. Assign Captains
Organize the shit out of the important stuff. Everything else? Meh.
Perhaps military protocol or the mafia isn’t your default organizing style – but in desperate times you need to know the important shit is covered. Everything else can likely slide for a while. And yes, I watched way too much of The Sopranos a while back.
Whatever you want to call it, there are a few basic categories of ‘stuff’ that needs to get taken care of, if you only have to talk to one person (a.k.a. your “Captain”) then that is way easier to manage.
Here are the general ‘neighborhoods’ of stuff that need Captaining:
- House (cleaning, groceries, etc)
- Kids & Family (keeping routine, visitors, etc)
- Family Discussions (choices about housing, care, medical decisions)
- Visitors (at hospital or house, out of town guests, etc)
- Pets (feeding, walking, maybe someone can pet-sit a while, etc)
- Bills (mortgage, phone, tuitions, credit cards, etc)
- Probate (estate issues, gathering paperwork, etc)
- Financial (banking, investments, insurance, etc)
- Mental/Emotional (counseling, resources, getting out, exercise, etc)
- Funeral (services, cremation/burial, etc)
5. Get Your Shit Together
Get the elephant sitting on top of you off your chest.
One thing at a time. Baby steps. Or, “Whatever gets you through the night.”, as our friend Frank Sinatra said. Ask yourself what worries you the most or keeps you up at night. What one task will make you feel better or relieved once it is done?
One by one – get it done. Trying to eat the elephant off your chest all in one day is too overwhelming. But bite by bite? If anyone can do it, you can.
Note: Portions of this post first appeared on the GYST.com blog.