Gratitude: the ultimate form of self-care


I am thoroughly convinced sporadic facetime sessions with my older sister are the only thing keeping me grounded. During a particular call, we were reflecting on how insane the past year has been for us. What I took away from the conversation was not a feeling of negativity and I am not going to take up space by listing all I went through because the point of this post is not to be branded Most Resilient. Truthfully, I think we all deserve a trophy for making it to this point of the year. Really, I felt a sense of relief. And wonder. How did I maintain my sense of self?

I found the answer about two weeks later. I was in a staff meeting on a Sunday afternoon, the upcoming week’s due dates, appointments, and social obligations were buzzing in my mind. I caught myself zoning out and glanced down at the handout that accompanied my boss’s presentation. My eyes fixated on the presentation. My eyes fixated on a word where it stood totally alone on the paper, not even as a heading or within a paragraph. Gratitude.

The quality of being thankful. If someone were to ask me to describe myself six months ago, grateful would not be a trait that comes to mind. Although I have always appreciated the good things in my life, I did not learn what it truly means to be grateful until I went through a period of constantly having things taken away from me. One of the things I lost (like many other people) was the last few months of my freshman year. With that came the obvious things like saying goodbye to my dorm and friends, but it also meant like many students, I was facing unemployment before being old enough to buy a drink. I knew I had my family and I would never need for anything. But when you rely on that sense of stability, realizing the Friday you rushed out to get a head start on spring break was the last time you’d see the faces that encouraged you every day just hits different.

The job I had at that time ended up offering an option to work remotely, so I did not lose my source of income and I stayed somewhat connected to my coworkers. One of many weird, completely unexpected shifts in my life this year, it served me a prime example of how life’s problems present themselves with its own solution - if you are willing to look closely enough. Yeah, I went from sitting six feet away from my coworkers to being distracted literally all the time and trying to navigate Zoom meetings (and wondering how it deemed Skype obsolete so fast). But I got to spend the confusing period of quarantine, when all the days bled together uselessly with my sister, putting together a ridiculous number of puzzles.

In hindsight, I should not say problems come with their own solution. It is more appropriate to call it a redirection because the issue and its ramifications do not go away, rather it carves out an alternate path to travel. It is frustrating because if you are like me, you spend a ridiculous amount of time building up a specific plan or idea, so curveballs are especially unappreciated. But that is what life is: it’s great until it sucks, and it sucks until it doesn’t.

I work in childcare, and the presentation’s purpose was to inform caretakers of disciplinary techniques that are effective and positive. I have worked with kids for six years and I have never heard anyone suggest approaching discipline with gratitude. It provided me with a new way to approach my job of course, but also led me to realize that is the key to staying steadfast. Taking life for what it is and flowing with the changes instead of resisting. Practicing gratitude is the ultimate form of self-care. It forces you to focus on what is going right instead of mulling over the things you cannot change. Just being content with being alive to feel things – that is true gratitude.