What Are You Doing To Take Care of Yourself?
I call my Mom on my way home from work every day. A couple of weeks ago, I called and could tell she was edgy. She revealed that she had been working at home and had MSNBC on in the background all day. This conversation occurred the same day as the release of audio of children at the border being separated from their parents. Our conversation quickly became an all-out rant from my Mom about the state of the country, justice, and the current administration (which my Mom reaches deep into her colorful vocabulary to describe).
I asked my Mom if she had done anything that day to take a break from the news. How about a walk? “I am walking – I am pacing back and forth,” she responded. She felt helpless. What could she do in Chicago to speak for these children? I asked if she could donate some money to one of the reputable organizations doing work on the ground in Texas. She said she could, but she has marched and donated every time a new crisis has emerged – candidates running against a pedophile or a bigot, Parkland, healthcare, travel ban. She was just so angry and frustrated.
My Mom was right – the current political landscape provides a constant barrage of bad (to put it lightly). But, this is why it is so important that we take time to disconnect and find ways to reenergize and take care of ourselves (remember, you have to put your mask on before assisting others). Some ideas in case you need them:
1. Relax. Really relax.
Really, truly, 100% relax. By this I don’t mean shut your brain off and mindlessly watch MSNBC or scroll through Twitter. Rather, find something that inspires and rejuvenates you. My favorite way to relax is to take a hot bath (decked out with bath bombs, a face mask, hot tea, and a good book or podcast). I have a mild obsession with skincare products. Whenever Bustle or Buzzfeed puts out a best Amazon products list, I add several items to my Amazon Wishlist. My current favorite mask brand is que bella – lots of scents and feels great. These ideas are what work for me. You need to find what helps you to disconnect even if its for 15 minutes – maybe its practicing meditation or yoga, or gardening, or baking, or calling a friend you haven’t talked to in a while, or organizing a junk drawer in your house. Whatever it is, commit to it, regularly.
Whether it’s a walk in your neighborhood, a dance class at the local recreation center, a new workout trend you’ve been dying to try, or playing in the pool with your kids, do something to get your endorphins pumping. Bonus points if its outside and it gets you away from the day’s news. Do something that feels good for you and to your body. Move in a way that helps you love your body and love the way whatever your chosen form of movement makes you feel.
3. Pick your causes.
You can’t save the world from every ill. If you attempt to be in the know and responsive to every social and political issue, you will burn yourself out. Remember: you cannot pour from an empty cup. If you are pouring into every cup, you are going to run out a lot faster. Pick those issues you are most passionate about and commit your time, energy and money to those issues. You can always be sure to lift up the voices and efforts of those working on other issues because this often requires minimal time or energy. But, just be sure you are not spreading yourself too thin and saying yes to everything. And, if saving the world seems overwhelming, start with your corner of the world – your street, your neighborhood, your workplace, your family.
4. Consume media that makes you happy.
The news is constant. Given our easy access to technology, we can consume news all day everyday if we want. Its good to be current on what is happening in the world around you, but it can begin to feel overwhelming. Pepper in media that makes you smile. Listen to podcasts that make you laugh, follow Instagram accounts that fill your feed with positivity and light, watch TV shows featuring diverse individuals lifting each other up. This is not to say you should give up your true crime podcasts and Netflix documentaries, this is just to say try sprinkling in some lightness.
5. Surround yourself with your people.
Your people, your squad, your tribe, your family. Whatever you call them. Use them. As a sounding board, a retreat, and a safe space. I went out to dinner with some female friends recently and I walked away feeling reenergized. Not because we discussed particularly reenergizing topics but just because I was surrounded by people I love whose energy is infectious and support is constant. The people you trust can be good barometers for what is constructive anxiety and what is not.
If you are financially able, sometimes adding a professional therapist who you see regularly to your cadre of trusted, supportive individuals can make a world of difference. A therapist is a neutral third party who can help you challenge anxiety, frustration, helplessness, and grief in a positive, life-affirming way. I've had therapists (yes, multiple - therapy can be a lifelong journey) who have helped me see problems and goals in a new light. I've had therapists confirm my suspicions and reveal to me new ideas about the way I process the world. I've also had therapists who I did not connect with at all. If you have a therapist who is not working for you, find a new one. Period. One of the biggest barriers to therapy can be the financial outlay. Check to see if your employer has a EAP that provides a certain number of sessions for free. There may be an organization or therapist near you that provides therapy on a sliding scale.
The bottom line is figure out what works for you so that you can stay energized and avoid burning out and feeling helpless.
Image originally from TinyBuddha.com which is a great source for soul-soothing content.