Self Care in Crisis

We are all moms here, generally speaking, and we all probably laugh out loud at the thought of self-care. I know my idea of self-care is using my regular sitter at least one Thursday a month so I can enjoy a $4 margarita with college friends at Zippy’s. There are no massages; very rarely is there “me time” and I’m sure I’m not the only one still hoping to lose two-year- old baby weight … but when is a single mom supposed to work out?! Where and when and how does self-care happen?

Well, about a month ago I decided to join a gym and shoot for a weight loss challenge. I was making time for ME to get healthy and get out of the house for something other than errands or volunteering obligations.

Then.Life.Changed. I had taken all of 4 classes when the rain started. Then it didn’t stop. And another day and another. I skipped classes because I was home with a toddler with cancelled school … and then the gym closed for a few days, not unlike many other local shops, grocery stores, and restaurants.

With a background in fundraising and logistics, I went into response mode. Within 24 hours of flooding being widespread and of catastrophic proportions, I started a donation page and a live google doc with up-to-date info on shelters, closures, and emergency contacts. I began eating whatever was around in the moment I was hungry. Sleep went out the window because my mind was constantly racing.

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I was acting like a junior in college during finals week … as if I was young and foolish enough to survive on that little sleep and that much caffeine.

But it’s what I did. Then came the packages. The boxes upon boxes of supplies that found my house to be “home” until they could be distributed. At peak, I was receiving over 400 packages daily. Then came the breakdown. I had to figure out a different way. Something had to change.

And I decided to go work out. The gym had re-opened. They let us know that two of the instructors had lost their homes and belongings. I was on the treadmill doing my intervals trying not to cry.

Self care. That was the moment I realized that self care is real, and it isn’t a myth that 20-somethings without kids and in dual income relationships blog about … it’s real.

I finished the work out. I left class and had over 3 dozen notifications on my phone. And no one was worse off for me taking an hour to care for myself. Was there guilt? YES! Was there worry all during class? YES!!! Did I leave refreshed and more capable of helping others?! A MILLION TIMES YES.

During this past storm I didn’t lose my home or my car or my belongings or my identity. I was spared hugely. What I did shed, in the end, was a need to think I was the only person that could help and that I needed to be constantly available for others. I realized that although I had certain skills and abilities, recovery and helping was FAR bigger than me … and that to be any good to anyone, I needed to give myself moments to refresh and recharge.

This looks different for everyone. But this is not a myth. I have joked with friends in the past about how a sane mama is a mama that can care for her people … and part of that is self-care. It is taking time in the middle of a normal day or a not-normal weather event to remember what you like and who you are and how you function best.

If you have been a helper in the flood, take a moment to yourself or with your family or, as in my case, to work out. If you have been personally caught in the effects of the flood, take that same moment. Find a moment to escape and to sit or to enjoy something you love.

This is all bigger than all of us. The devastation, the clean up, the rebuild. Take time to care for yourself so that you can be your best self throughout the long road of recovery ahead.

Sarah Joy Hays is a native of Louisiana and graduate of LSU! She returned to Baton Rouge in 2015 after 6 years living and working in DC. She is a proud momma to an enthusiastic, red-haired toddler and is navigating all of this as a solo parent; fully relying on group texts with other moms, coffee, and Jesus. Sarah Joy, or SJ, has devoted much of her abundant spare time to the Moms on Campus, South Baton Rouge Presbyterian Church, and her newly founded Foundation that will focus on emergency disaster response. She claims to love to read, journal, and cook; but only manages one of the three out of daily necessity. SJ dreams of having a Target collaboration based on coffee mugs and dry shampoo one day… till then she will enjoy running her bakery CounterspaceBR and growing a consulting business!


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