Ways to get through these times
I don’t need to tell you, you already know… from the news, Twitter posts, family discussions. It arises in your shallow breathing, anxious thoughts at 3 AM, clenched teeth, apathy towards daily tasks.
We all need some help.
During conversations, reading, and personal practice, I found some perspectives and tools that make a difference.
They allow us to continue in this marathon (it’s not a sprint). They help us connect to our bodies and hearts, to each other, to the sweet earth, to the energy greater than ourselves.
Before we go too far, I want to honor the columnist Carolyn Hax. She soothes my soul and is well worth the subscription to the WaPost (supporting democracy as well) to read her online chats. You can also read her columns in many newspapers.
These variety of tools (some from her chat and others from me) can help reset lives when the world is rocky.
If you’re overwhelmed, go ahead and let yourself feel defeated for a while.
Lay on the floor, go fetal, cry.
Feel how your body holds anger, sadness, fear, numbness. Notice the energy pattern in your body, the place that is most intense, how it may shift or change over time.
You may also want to use breath, sighs, and silent screams to release some tension.
Engage in action, big or small
When you’re ready, take some action. “Get back to whatever it is you feel you were put here to get back to,” says Hax. “This can be a small thing or something ambitious enough to qualify as life’s work. Up to you.”
Can you think of one thing you can do to make your day better, one beautiful thing? Create something, clean something, write a check to someone, go help someone.
Depending on your framework, that might be watering your garden, sending a voter’s request postcard, making some art, calling senators, supporting a change-making non-profit (e.g., Black Voters Matter), cooking a nurturing dinner, or…?
Visualizations and frameworks
Emotions often get entwined with a story on replay. Changing your visualization and framework can help shake it loose, or can at least give it some company! Play with these to see if something gives you some relief, perspective, or motivation.
“Can you summon a mental image of the earth as viewed from space?” asks Hax. It doesn’t erase the reality of our lives, but also reminds us we’re little atoms in the broad universe. Or similarly, call up images from difficult times in history — there’s no shortage of horrific-case scenarios — to remind us that people get through stuff. The focus is on the getting through part, not to fuel more nightmares.
Or, when ever needed, narrow your scope. “You’re thinking national stuff when you have only local, one-human-scale reach, and it’s a recipe for helplessness for all but the very very few people who have big power.” Where can you make a difference locally? “Millions of you doing that can have a history-making effect—but only if each one of you chooses to do it,” per Hax.
I’m starting with a soapbox here: As a result of capitalism and American individualism, we need more self-care. It’s harder to get out for a walk alone than it is when you’re in a community of people taking care of themselves. And even better when we have community care for each other.
But here we are, and caring for yourself is key.
Let’s go back to the body. You might start with honoring how stress (can I just call it trauma?) is settling in—maybe you’re clenching your teeth, your shoulders are curled around your ears, you feel a little numb, or your gut is working overtime.
Move places you’re holding this tension. Wiggle your jaw, roll your shoulders, stretch where you feel numb, rub your sweet belly.
If possible, move your body, each day. Movement changes your microbiome activity in your digestive system, which is a center of emotional response. A walk is good, and even 4 seconds (!) of intense activity changes your whole body energy.
If these actions aren’t working, talk to your doctor for a depression assessment. Knowing and treating your emotional state makes it easier for you to be an active part of your life, to meet pain without it being all of who you are. So you can participate in the joy that’s also here.
We don’t want to look away from our world, but it’s hard to bear witness. Instead of hiding or immersing in the latest affront, it helps to oscillate: gently switching focus from the news to how much caring and good is being generated.
Remember the people around you who are caring for others, those taking action on racial reckoning and climate justice, even those fostering animals.
Take in as much news as feels important, but come back to remembering the good in the world as a baseline for your heart.
More wisdom from Carolyn:
If that leaves you empty, then I urge fiction (whatever absorbs you), rest, try again. It may seem like unproductive escapism and a dereliction of citizen duty, but fiction is a form of empathy training. It’s productive, heart-opening, mind-broadening mental rest.
What have you read lately? My favorite is The New Kid, a graphic novel by Jerry Craft.
Sending blessings for healing and peace,