Injuries are being made visible these days, and it’s having a powerful impact on us individually and on our society.
I’m wondering you have been affected by the Kavanaugh hearings and surrounding events.
For me there’s been such a powerful mix of emotions – and this churning has been going on for a long time now. Maybe for most of my life. But a lot has been stirred up of late, by the emergence of the highly visible 2017 #metoo movement and now by all that surrounds Kavanaugh’s nomination.
The #metoo movement owes everything to Tarana Burke who started it in 2006 in response to her own experiences and what she was hearing from women of color.
Perhaps it is her work, and that of those who came before — the feminists and civil rights activists of previous and current times — that have allowed the vehement opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination to arise.
Here’s some of what has been coming up for me these days: despair, sorrow, anger, hope, empathy, determination, fear, and a sense of possibility for the future.
None of this is new – it’s been present for as long as I can remember, as have the conditions that prompt all these feelings. But right now, it seems everything is intensified.
Having all this and more so stirred up is pretty stressful – and it’s not as though the rest of life is without it’s own more typical stressors!
That brings me to this question: How do we best take care of ourselves in such times of turmoil? How do we maintain our health and energy in order to keep doing all that is so important in our work and personal lives?
I don’t have “the” answer, but I do know of some things that help me, and that may help you as well.
Take Care of Yourself, Body and Mind
For those of us with a giving, service-oriented stance on life, allowing ourselves time, energy and where needed, money for self-care is hard, even in the best of times. Here are some ways I’ve been taking care of body and mind.
Focus on What You Can Do
There is a sense of helplessness that can arise when big societal and political events swirl around me. I am just one person. What can I possibly do?
I can start by acknowledging the truth. I am just one person. I can’t have much impact all by myself. But that doesn’t mean I have to despair.
Instead I can refocus my attention on another truth: recognizing what I can do. I am a part of larger communities. When we connect and act we combine our energy, commitment and determination. We strengthen ourselves and one another.
I do what I can and remind myself that it’s not my job to do it all. And in fact that would be impossible. I remember to trust that others are doing their part and that together we will persist and make change.
Doing what I can is a powerful antidote to despair. It strengthens hope and builds connections, reminding me of the power of community and collective action. And when I feel more hopeful, I am energized for further action.
Notice Signs of Hope
Our minds are wired to pay heightened attention to threats. I am not saying to ignore them, as these may truly signal danger. The wise thing to do is to recognize and address as best we can the true threats, and at the same time to intentionally focus on our attention on the possibilities for a better future.
I started posting the #signsofhope on social media in 2017. My social media feeds, the news, my interactions with others were heavily weighted with fear and despair. I thought of those posts as an antidote, not a denial of reality. They offered a moment to remember that beauty, kindness, wonder and possibility still exist. They strengthen hope for me, and others tell me, for them as well.
You are welcome to join in and post your own #signsofhope!
Reduce the Impact of Stress
We’ve all heard about how high levels of stress damage body and mind. The effects of stressful external events can get heightened by our own reactions to those events. Here are some of the things I’ve chosen to do to help quiet down my stress response:
- Taking brief deep breathing breaks throughout the day.
- Meditating, even briefly at least a few times a week.
- Joining a Yin Yoga and Reiki class
Writing helps me to hear my inner voice and tune in to my true self. It allows me to figure out what I am truly thinking and feeling. It creates a space for making meaning of difficult events and of coming to clarity in the midst of confusion.
Writing privately is great for personal well-being. Writing for a broader audience inspires and informs others, and strengthens community.
What works best for you during times of heightened stress?
Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit
Writing As A Way of Healing – Louise DeSalvo
The Seasons of Change – Carol L. McLelland, Ph.D
Signs of Hope in Our Changing World – Carol McLelland Fields and Nancy Seibel (radio show)
Getting Started with Mindfulness -(blog post)