For myself, apart from the shock there was an equally abrupt change in workplace circumstances; longer hours on more days per week, much greater responsibility, and in addition, the necessity to help customers, community members and sales representatives sort through the disbelief, confusion and many questions that arise in such a circumstance.
On the day it happened, it crossed my mind to advise the family to close the shop for the day. Oddly enough, I had experienced an event of a similar nature at a previous workplace some years ago, and remember being aghast that the shop stayed open with a member of the deceased person’s family remaining at work, with me, keeping things running as if it were a normal day. I remember it as being one of the hardest day’s work I ever did.
However, now that it was up to me to keep things going, I realised that this was perhaps the best procedure. Keeping the shop open gave us a focus, and as the news started to filter through the community, provided a reliable point of contact which enabled people to promptly confirm the rumour they were finding so hard to believe.
Over a month later, we were all slowly starting to establish a new routine. However, it was a demanding time and remained so for some months. The potential for negative effects on the wellbeing of those of us most closely involved was significant.
My family and friends kept a close eye on me; they phoned to check for updates, offered help in various forms, reminded me to look after myself; they hoped my tendency to expect a lot of myself would not cause me harm.
But in fact, it surprised even me to find I indeed kept afloat. How was this possible? Certainly, it was invaluable to have a supportive partner, and helpers at the shop willing to be flexible about their working arrangements in addition to working through their own responses to events.
But I believe a major factor in self-care is to ignite just a little spark of self-interest; just enough to hold a constructive conversation with an inner voice that, like my family and friends, reminds me that I need some time to think, I need to find ways to re-charge, I need to get enough sleep, and not compromise healthy eating habits.
This little voice of self-interest prompted me to work out what needed to be done, identify priorities, obtain permission where appropriate, and make changes that enabled me to take care of myself.
Perhaps most important of these was to keep up daily exercise. As soon as it was possible, I returned to gym classes. On other days I went for a run after work, or a speedy bike ride. Many days neither of those was possible so, even if it meant rugging up and going for a half-hour’s brisk walk around the block at 9pm, that’s what I did.
And it worked, every single time. By the time I had returned home, worries had either evaporated or been thought through to a positive plan of action.
Maintaining healthy eating habits was fairly easy; my partner and I already put considerable effort into preparing healthy food, which has to be managed around both of us working full time. With just a little tweaking we kept it up.
My knowledge of natural remedies helped get enough quality sleep, even during the first two weeks when adrenalin surges woke me every two or three hours. A combination of herbal extracts and flower essences helped a lot, as did moving to the spare bedroom a few nights to avoid worrying about disturbing my partner if I was restless.
Some might say that putting yourself first is unethical; that making sure your own needs are met is at best inappropriate and at worst downright selfish.
Yet, if I am filled with unresolved tension from the previous day, have slept poorly, and have eaten foods that don’t nourish my body, how can I possibly be of any help to anyone else?
At times when we have to give a bit extra, it is essential that we also give thought to ourselves.