Originally published in June 2010.
Grievers often spend a lot of time taking care of the “business” of grief, and adjusting the new responsibilities that follow. Taking care of other family members, household chores, financial matters, and medical claims can be extremely difficult – while busy taking care of these things, grievers often overlook taking care of themselves.
It is important to find a good balance between the things that really need to be taken care of and taking care of yourself! Think of it as having an emotional bank account, in which you make “deposits” when you do things to that help you relax and find comfort – listening to your favorite music, reading, exercising, being with friends, vacationing, meditating, or other healthy activities that make you feel good.
On the other hand, you will make “withdrawals” from your emotional bank account by doing some necessary things such as the hard work of grief, taking care of business, or taking care of others. You also make a withdrawal from your emotional bank account by doing things that could be harmful to yourself physically or emotionally.
Just as in our financial lives, it is important to maintain a positive balance; make sure your withdrawals are not exceeding your deposits. To see how well you’re doing with your own emotional and physical bank account, take the self care quiz provided below.
1. How well are you caring for yourself emotionally by doing something good for yourself or using your favorite healthy coping skills?
_____Daily (5 pts.)
_____2-3 times per week (3 pts.)
_____1 time per week (0 pts.)
_____Less than 1 time per week (-3 pts.)
_____Almost never (-5 pts.)
2. How well are you caring for yourself physically?
____ How often are you exercising? (5 pts. for 5x per week, 3 pts. for 3x per week, -3 for anything less than 3x per week)
____ Are you eating healthy meals? (5 pts. for always, 3 pts. for usually, 0 pts. for sometimes, -3 pts. for rarely, -5 pts. for never)
____ Are you sleeping the number of hours you consider necessary for yourself? (5 pts. if you always do so, 3 pts. for usually, 0 pts. for occasionally, -3 if rarely and -5 for never)
____ Do you ever use prescription drugs beyond their recommended dosage? -5 pt.s if yes)
____ Do you drink alcoholic beverages more often than you used to? (-3 pts. if yes, once or twice per week. -5 pts. if more than twice per week)
3. Grieving people often need to give themselves permission to take a break from their grief, permission to have fun, to laugh and to be happy. They need to feel and experience whatever their grief presents them with, but they also need to give themselves “grief breaks” and distract themselves periodically. How often are you taking a break from your grief?
____ On a regular basis (5 pts.)
____ Usually (3 pts.)
____ Rarely (-3 pts.)
____ Never (-5 pts.)
4. Additional stress on top of grief can be extremely taxing. Give yourself 3 pts. for each of the following stress reduction techniques that you regularly use:
____ avoiding known stressors
____ listening or playing music
____ writing or journaling
____ breathing exercises
____ reading funny books or watching funny movies/videos
____ asking for help when you feel overwhelmed
____ spending time with friends or family
5. Grief work takes a lot of time and energy; grievers often need to relax their standards and self- expectations temporarily. How often do you cut yourself some slack and relax your standards because you’re grieving?
____ regulary (5 pts.)
____ occassionally (3 pts.)
____ rarely (-3 pts.)
____ never (-5 pts.)
Calculating your score:
21 or more points: Good job. You are doing a great job of taking care of yourself during the grief journey. It is harder to find the time to care for yourself while grieving than many people understand. You have found a way to maintain necessary balance and keep your emotional bank full. Continue doing so!
12-20 points: You’re off to a great start! You already make time for yourself, but could help yourself even more by adding more self-care techniques, reducing any negative or harmful coping skills, or by doing the positive self care you’re already doing on a more regular basis.
Less than 12 points: You deserve the opportunity to heal in a healthy way both physically and emotionally. If you are not taking time to relax, and enjoy yourself admist the difficult work of grief and caring for others, you are not being fair to yourself. Incorporate at least some of the recommendations above into your life and make the necessary adjustments in places where you lost points.
It is important to remember that coping skills can be anything you enjoy doing that make you feel better and provide comfort, without hurting youself physically or emotionally. No matter how big or how small, do something good for yourself everyday!