Spring Into Self-Care

In my part of the world, it’s spring. The weather is finally getting warmer, after playing a few tricks on us during March and the beginning part of April. People are able to get outside more, which is a good thing after a winter of snow, wind, and ridiculous cold.

But going outside to enjoy activities or just the fresh air is something not everyone does. For some people, it takes thought to figure out what you want to do. Being around nature isn’t easy if you’re living in a city, and sometimes fresh air isn’t really a thing that happens. Being in the country, you might have to drive a while to reach the location of an outdoor activity you want to do.

Being cooped up inside all the time isn’t necessarily a good thing. Personally, I deal with it a lot, because some of the health issues I have make leaving the house difficult at times. They also make wanting to be outside difficult. (PTSD and anxiety.) I have days when I have to push myself to just open the door and step out onto the porch, though if I can at least get that far, I’ll have the fresh air.

Being out in the sunshine, moving around and taking in the fresh air, can be really good for you. Not only can it help you be healthier physically, but it can boost your mood as well. If it’s something you’re able to do, try to make sure you do it on a regular basis. If it’s difficult for you to go places or do activities on your own, see if a friend or family member wants to go with you. Take time to figure out what you really want to do that will get you out of the house once in a while. It’s worth it.

Can’t Stay Home…

During the winter, spreading viruses and infections happens a lot more frequently than at other times of year. People are stuck indoors more, which means they’re in closer proximity to others for longer periods of time than when they’re able to go outside.

Some viruses tend to be more prevalent during the winter as well. The combination of that and people being together in small spaces for hours on end makes getting sick in the winter far more likely. If you’re sick, it’s best to stay home, rest, and be away from other people who might get sick from being near you.

Unfortunately, schools and workplaces don’t always make it easy for us to stay home and take care of ourselves when we’re sick. A lot of schools, particularly high schools, have attendance requirements. They might have a policy that says “Don’t come to school within 24 hours of having a fever,” but also have a policy that says “If you miss more than three days per grading term without a doctor’s note, you fail all your classes.” (These policies both existed at my older offspring’s high school.)

Meanwhile, doctor’s offices often won’t see a patient for a mild fever, or for cold symptoms or an upset stomach. Calling the office results in hearing, “There’s a stomach bug going around, just have your child rest and drink lots of fluids, there’s no need to bring them in.”

The child or teen is too sick to go to school according to the school’s illness policy, but not sick enough to see a doctor, which means you can’t get a doctor’s note so the student doesn’t fail their classes due to being absent. So they pack up, go off to school even though they’re feeling miserable, and half their classmates end up getting sick and having the same problem. And the illness cycles, and the family members of those students get sick too, and so on.

Workplaces also often penalize employees for taking sick time, or they don’t offer sick time at all. Someone who is living paycheck to paycheck at a job that doesn’t include paid sick time can’t afford to miss a day of work, because that means losing a day of pay. Someone who gets paid sick time might be afraid of repercussions from their boss if they take a day off. So these employees head to work, where their coworkers catch the illness and end up having the same problem. And the family members of those employees get sick too, and so on.

Too often in our society, we’re taught that being sick is weakness. We have to achieve and meet our responsibilities no matter how we feel, and no matter the risk to others who might contract an illness from us. But how much good are we doing ourselves and others if we push to go to school or work when we’re sick? I don’t know if there is a solution, but I do wish things would change.

Holiday Stress

Sometimes holiday gatherings aren’t the fun, happy times we wish they could be. For a lot of people, the stress of the holidays leads to conflict during get-togethers, even if the rest of the year everyone gets along fine. On the other hand, sometimes the holidays force us to see family members we prefer to avoid because the relationship is strained to say the least.

For some people, seeing family during the holidays is dangerous, and yet they are given no choice about spending a day among people who hate them for being who they are. Or, instead, they might be banned from seeing relatives with whom they wish they could have contact.

No matter how close a family is, minor conflicts are common, and during the holidays those things might become magnified by stress, fatigue, and other factors. Things that generally have little or no effect on us become the spark that ignites an argument. Feelings might be hurt. Things might be said that can’t be taken back.

The holidays are meant to be a time of happiness and joy, and in many ways they are for many of us. But no matter what our circumstances are, there are bound to be difficulties during the holiday season.

After the season comes to an end and we no longer have to face these gatherings, it’s time to take care of ourselves. Process how the season went. Spend time with people you care about who help you feel happy and calm. Spend time alone, resting and doing things that relax you.

If those aren’t enough, consider speaking with a professional or calling a hotline. Reaching out for help is always okay if you need it.

And remind yourself that the holidays are over, and better days are coming.