For the past week and a half or so, I’ve been dealing with a series of unexplained headaches. My right temple will throb for a day or two, then I’ll wake up and my left temple will be aching. A couple of days later, the pain is in the front of my head. My normal remedy – a lot of water and some Aleve – doesn’t do much.
My nurse practitioner has been working to help me figure out what’s going on – and can I just take a moment to say that I am so lucky to have good health insurance, and that it’s a travesty that health care like this is inaccessible for so many people? – but I suspect that the cause is a rather mundane one: stress.
This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself hit by health problems caused by internalized stress. It seems to be a feature of my personality, actually. I take all of my stress, wad it up like a dirty towel and stuff it in my stomach or my brain, where it festers until I can barely turn my head without wincing.
The past ten days have been a painful reminder of just how important self-care is when it comes to living a functional life. Never mind the fact that you really cannot be of much use to anyone else if you are fighting pain or illness all the time. It should be enough to just want to feel okay.
How do I make myself feel okay? Here’s my standard list:
I try to get enough sleep. Sometimes my work schedule is such that I wake up at 3:30 a.m. (Yay TV news!) On days like that, “enough sleep” just ain’t gonna happen. But aside from that, I make a deliberate effort to get at least eight hours of sleep. I have to. When I’m sleep-deprived, I make mistakes. I’m grouchy. I write like shit. Plus, sleep is awesome. You’ll never convince me otherwise.
I drink a lot of water. You know those people who carry around jugs of water? And who always sip from them? Yep, that’s me. Judge if you must.
I eat when I’m feeling hungry. Want to see me in Beastmaster from Hell mode? Talk me when I haven’t eaten in six or seven hours. If you are lucky, I won’t rip your arm off and beat you to death with it.
I go to the gym on my lunch breaks. I know this seems excessive and weird, but I can’t overstate how wonderful it is to be able to take thirty minutes out of the middle of my day to go slam some heavy metal around. It’s like an inoculation against aggravation.
I go for a run at least every other day. Once, I didn’t go for a run for two days. On the third day, I went for a run and posted about it on Facebook. My boss saw the update and said, “Thank God! Caitlin will be normal again!”
I goof off. I love to goof off. I play on Facebook, I look at silly things on the internet, I watch television, I read books and zines. Goofing off is awesome and necessary. Seriously, what is the point of all of this if you can’t have some fun?
Alas, clearly this was not enough. So now I am trying these:
Taking a yoga class. I used to do yoga several years ago but I stopped for…I don’t really know why. Anyway, reading Anytime Yoga caused me to reconsider, so I took my first yoga class last night, and I loved it. I walked in feeling completely aggro and left feeling peaceful and blissed out. (And also sore, but in a good way!)
Running sans music. This morning during my run, I noticed the sun was coming up in the most brilliant shades of pink and orange. I hit pause on my iPod – the Chemical Brothers didn’t really go with the scene – and I ran while watching the sun come up and listening to the birds.
Meditating. Meditating is fucking hard, yo. I know, I know – they don’t call it a practice because everyone turns into the Maharishi upon closing their eyes, but still. But I have tried a few times in the past couple of days, and even the act of attempting to meditate – of just being very still and quiet – has a calming effect on me.
Cutting back on alcohol. I am not a huge drinker but I do enjoy my beer. I also know that having two beers seems to make my headaches worse the day after. It’s kind of a no-brainer, yes?
What about you? What do you do to take care of yourself?