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I don’t know about all of you, but the current pandemic has rattled me. In the beginning, it was a panic. You were not sure who this virus was going to affect; we had to start closing down businesses, could not find toilet paper, and then entered into a stay home order. Next, maybe you came to a stage where there was some acceptance. OK, perhaps it’s in our best interest to stay home until we know more about this virus. So you stayed home and maybe you went on lots of walks, took care of your yard or your house, or yourself for the first time in a long time. This stage may have lasted a few weeks. Then you started to feel isolated, maybe a little anxious or depressed. Now the news is full of confusion, hatred, and the real possibility of a civil war. Social media is full of everyone’s opinions and a cancel culture that takes no regard for our humaneness. Our world, as we knew it, has been flipped upside down.

Most of us are experiencing a lot of stress right now and do not know how to measure it. For some of us, this may be one of the hardest times you have seen in your life. We are powering through and reacting instead of responding. In times like this of extreme stress, it is more critical than ever to prioritize self-care. So we can choose the way we react to people and the events unfolding in our communities and around the world. I want to talk about a tool I use as a stress meter. I have found throughout my life, and especially now, I have a hard time being real about where I am at with stress and self-care. It’s easy to push through the stress and disregard our minds and our bodies. The danger is you leave yourself depleted, angry, and ready to attack the next person who “wrongs you.”  

Here is my daily check-in meter for stress and self-care. It needed it to be something I could relate to, and we all have to deal with money and need it to survive. I think of my stress as a bank account. It’s full when I have $100 in the bank. I want to balance my account monthly and do weekly check-ins if things are going well. But if things are not going well, I like to check in more often. Maybe I am running low on money (patience), and I know I need to get some essentials (feeling grounded). I may have to watch my account daily to keep from overspending (i.e., getting on Social Media instead of going to sleep). Maybe things have gotten so out of hand that you are in the negative and are buying toothpaste on credit! You will want to monitor your account (your mind) more closely. One more thing on the list could cause an epic spiral down to the bathroom floor crying because you are so overwhelmed and don’t know what to do next. It’s hard for us to prioritize self-care. There is so much going on, and we must get it all done.

You try to push through it, but you can’t – there is no more to spend. You’re in trouble, and you’re out of gas with no money, stranded. So what do you do? You get on a “stress budget.” First, you get rid of the overspending (the overcommitting). What are the things you do not need? Then you figure out the essentials. What makes you feel good? What can you do for you? For example, I know I am an empath. I feel everything that is going on with people. I know if I spend some of my mornings doing meditation, yoga, or going for a short walk, I get to put $25 in the bank. Or if I resist the urge to check my email or jump on social media, I know I just saved myself $10 by staying focused on my self-care. When you can enter a week with a full tank of gas, you set yourself and the people around you up for success. You will inevitably have to spend some money (patience) later in the week. Plan for it and make a “stress budget.”

Examples of Debits

  • Overcommitting 
  • Overuse of social media
  • Overworking
  • Less than 7 hours of sleep
  • Not making time to do something for yourself weekly
  • Not making quality time to spend with loved ones
  • Lack of movement
  • Lack of Play
  • Poor diet

Examples of Credits

  • Spending time outside
  • Going for a walk
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Sleeping 7-9 hours a night
  • Making time to do something for yourself (A Deep Tissue Massage)
  • Play
  • Eating well
  • Doing something nice for someone

You can insert what your examples of what credits and debits are to these lists. And you can interchange the models in the paragraphs above. The takeaway is that we need to monitor ourselves and make sure we are getting what we need. It is not selfish. It’s loving to ourselves and the people closest to us so we can show up to our lives and choose how we want to react.