Most Wednesday evenings, you will find me in improv rehearsal (now virtually) and even doing virtual shows on Thursday evenings or weekends. I always wanted to try improv, but with a daughter in theatre herself and 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, I started classes. I eventually made it into the apprentice company. From my first class, I learned that when I am doing improv, I must be completely present and in the moment. Be it a simple ensemble game or a scene or sometimes bringing 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 as respond, lead with a specific emotion and add something to the scene. I have found it an essential part of my self-care. It gets me out of my running thoughts about work or other thoughts racing through my mind. I leave feeling tired 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 a lot at Kate’s Club), most people might think of getting a massage or a mani-pedi which are great, but we can dig deeper. I find grieving parents and caregivers often put themselves last when it comes to self-care. Children and teens many times do not understand it at all. Whether we are actively grieving or working as helping professionals, or just trying to deal with the everyday stresses of life, especially in current times, we can all start to broaden our definitions to include caring for ourselves in different domains.
Spiritual self-care may mean prayer in your faith tradition or a ritual that brings you comfort. It may also mean meditation. My sister, a nurse practitioner in an ICU unit, has been practicing meditation for two years. She says it helps her feel less anxious, and she feels better able to cope with stress. She has a designated a chair in her home and gets up a few minutes early every day to meditate. Many people find yoga helps in different domains at the same time. While it is physical, it can also help you spiritually and emotionally.
Emotional self-care may involve seeking therapy. Therapy is not just for times of crisis but can be a great way of keeping ourselves mentally healthy. We can also practice stress management by putting boundaries in place, especially when it comes to work. Checking work emails into the evening usually adds stress and can mess up our sleep. Emotional self-care might also mean practicing self-compassion and forgiveness. People who are grieving may find this self-compassion and forgiveness especially hard. They may be full of “should haves” around a death, and many times they need to forgive themselves for something done or not done.
Let’s not forget exercise, but physical self-care also means getting enough rest and eating nourishing food. Especially while grieving, we might reach for foods that provide temporary comfort but do little to nourish our body. Look for easy nutritious meals to cook. If you have kids, have them help cook and put on some fun music. Have a dance party in the kitchen and plan family walks after dinner. If you once liked playing basketball, why not go shoot hoops? You don’t have to join a team but look for something that gets you moving 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 setting boundaries 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 sometimes practice this in our parent groups. They are reluctant to ask for help, but most people want to help and need direction. Are you still connecting with friends that fill you up? We can also remember to put limits on social media or seek out positive online interaction. I am in a group that just shares pictures of dogs…what could be better?
It is not so important that we categorize self-care practices, but that we are doing things that contribute to our well-being. It can be as simple as taking time to watch the birds at your birdfeeder or something more complicated like learning to sew or knit. As you see, a lot of self-care practices overlap and help us on different levels. I know for me, improv helps me both emotionally and socially. Oh, that reminds me laughter is always good medicine. 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.