If you’ve followed me for awhile, then I’m sure you know about the tragedy our family faced last year. Back in March, my youngest son Evan suffered 4 massive strokes. Needless to say it was a year of complete devastation and heartbreak. Nothing can ever prepare you for the life shattering experience that is nearly losing a child, and then trying to gather yourself and face the years of uncertainty and challenges to come. Covid of course made an already difficult time about a million times worse, as we were really alone in trying to navigate this sudden new life with a very medically fragile child. We even reached a point where we were no longer able to attend some of Evan’s therapies in person due to the lax Covid policies of the hospital where we were attending outpatient sessions – which meant I was trying to manage Evan’s daily therapy sessions at home via telehealth. There were no therapy based schools open due to Covid, so I became his homeschool teacher too. And of course still trying to care for my other son, oversee his distance learning, and keep up on household responsibilities. Needless to say…I hit the wall of exhaustion by the end of the year. I knew it was time for some changes and I needed help because Evan’s recovery will take many, many years and I know I can’t continue to do it 100% on my own.
While my story is definitely extreme, I know a lot of moms can relate to the burnout of last year. Suddenly becoming a homeschool teacher and dealing with all the stress and uncertainty of a pandemic definitely made for a hard year for so many. I know that many others also suffered losses of loved ones from Covid (and other tragedies), and for anyone suffering…my heart goes out to you and you are not alone.
I am happy to report that I’m starting 2021 off with finally getting some much needed help which will be wonderful for Evan in his recovery, and also give me a bit of free time. A therapy based school that we had Evan on the list for was finally able to reopen, and he’s now going to school a few days a week. He has been so excited to make some new friends, and his first month of school has been going incredibly well. And with this bit of free time, I’m going to start working on making my own self care a priority. Brain injury recovery is a marathon and this is something we will be working hard on for many years. I know that in order to continue to care for Evan, as well as the rest of my family, I need to take care of myself first. I’ve been horrible about not doing the things I know I need to be doing the keep me fueled and in a good mental space. So this year I’m prioritizing my self care and I am going to make sure that I do the things I need to do for myself so that I have the ability to continue to care for everyone else. I’ve put together this self care checklist to remind myself daily to carve out time for these things, and hopefully it can help you too!
In addition to a daily reminder checklist, I’ve found that creating a self care “toolkit” is also really helpful for me and I have a number of products I use that help promote my personal self care. I put together this list of products to help you create your very own self care toolkit to help give you ideas for ways to practice your own self care.
One | Journaling is a really effective tool for dealing with stress, and I love that this journaling book contains a lot of prompts to help guide you
Two | I try to read this devotional every day. It’s a quick way to connect with God and make time for spirituality.
Three | Melatonin has been so helpful for me this past year in helping me overcome sleep difficulties
Four | I have and love this sleeping mask. I find that when I’m too tired to do my full skincare routine, a sleeping mask is the quickest way to give my skin a little extra pampering
Five | This sleeping mask contains melatonin and I’m really wanting to try it
Six | Starting your day off with an affirmation is a great way to put you in a positive mindset
Seven | Drinking enough water is a constant work in progress for me. This motivational water bottle that encourages you to keep drinking is sitting in my cart
Eight | Our entire family has weighted blankets, and they really do help with anxiety. When Evan was still in the PICU following his strokes, it greatly helped him in his recovery and there are so many studies showing how beneficial they are.
Nine | A cup of calming tea makes for a great bedtime ritual
Ten | Keeping one of these little stress balls with motivational quotes on it in your purse can help you get through any anxious thoughts that pop up throughout the day
Eleven | We’ve been loving using oils for Evan, and they really helped with calming him during his hospitalization. You could alternatively pick an energizing scent to help perk you up during the day as well.
Twelve | We love having our diffuser going so that the entire family can enjoy scented oils
Thirteen | I love using aromatherapy in the shower, and I especially love citrus scents for a bit of extra energy in the morning
Fourteen | I recently bought this pillowcase and absolutely love it! It’s been a game changer in helping reduce my breakouts and just feels lovely to sleep on too
Fifteen | Eye gels really help de-puff my eyes when I’ve had a poor night’s sleep or am just feeling some extra stress
Sixteen | I’m honestly not much of a bath person, but this “emotional detox” bath soak may just change my mind
Seventeen | This supplement is supposed help with stress management by normalizing cortisol levels and it has great reviews
Eighteen | There’s something about a pair of insanely cozy socks that always makes me feel better
Nineteen | I often get into a funk around this time of year due to lack of sunlight. This affordable sun lamp has rave reviews, and can really help those struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Twenty | I’m really intrigued by these finger acupuncture rings which are supposed to help alleviate tension
Twenty One | This sea wool sponge is a great way to give you a little extra pampering during your shower
Twenty Two | This highly reviewed CBD oil provides incredible hydrating and skin softening effects
Twenty Three | I absolutely love facial rolling and find it so incredibly relaxing and de-stressing
Twenty Four | This lavender filled acupressure pillow can help with neck and back pain, as well as headaches
Twenty Five | This weighted sleep mask can help with easing anxiety and promoting sleep
Twenty Six | A comfortable meditation cushion can help you get comfortable during mediation or prayer
A quick update about Evan’s progress in case you are wondering. When we arrived home from the hospital at the end of May, he could only say 4 words without prompting or help. He spoke in a whisper and was difficult to understand. He couldn’t feed himself. It was hard to know what he understood because he couldn’t really answer any questions and struggled following directions. He had zero mobility. His right arm was almost completely paralyzed. Now, nearly one year into his recovery, he is speaking in full sentences. He’s regaining new words every single day and he’s a total chatterbox talking all day long. His speech is very clear and about 95% of what he says is perfectly understandable. His therapy preschool teacher feels that he is absolutely on track to start Kindergarten this fall in a regular classroom with an IEP. He’s feeding himself independently. He’s walking independently in a gait training walker & walking short distances with minimal support (just holding my hands for balance). He is back to playing some of his favorite games like building legos and he navigates the iPad incredibly well (although he’s still slowly relearning how to play some of his favorite games like Minecraft). He has relearned his abcs, counts to 20, can spell and identify the letters of his name, knows the days of the week, and he’s starting to be able to trace simple lines. While his right hand is still significantly impaired, he’s gained a ton of movement in his arm. He has the sweetest, most loving spirit and is always giving compliments to everyone and wanting to brighten everyone’s day. While there’s no doubt we have still have a long ways to go, he continues to work incredibly hard and make progress daily. This journey has been difficult, but with continued hard work, faith, and prayer there is the beauty of hope that our best days are still ahead.