Updated: Apr 3
The last thing I want to do is to sound trite. I feel that I may freak out if I hear the phrase "these are challenging times" pass through the lips of one more person... including my own. What feels more authentic would be to open my front door and scream to my neighbors, to my city, to my country, heck... to the Universe, "WTAF IS HAPPENING!?"
When I think about the events we've lived through over the past couple of years and the atrocities that are happening this very minute as I type, the word "challenging" doesn't even begin to describe the emotions and hardship that the current times have brought to me. To us all.
Pushups are challenging.
Serving the Thanksgiving meal with all the side dishes hot on the table at the same time is challenging.
Potty training a 2 year old is challenging.
Right now the world doesn't feel challenging. The world feels like it's lost its ever-loving mind.
Crazy doesn't feel challenging. Crazy feels impossible.
As human beings, we want order. When we don't have have it, we embark on a desperate quest for a tangible way to help restore the homeostatic balance of the world that we need to feel safe. We turn to the news and to each other, which seem like perfectly reasonable things to do. But I think it's safe to say that most of us don't feel better after watching the news all day or debating at the dinner table about our opinions on the best course of action.
When all the messiness started, it took a minute for me to figure out that watching trauma play out on a large screen from my living room for hours a day wasn't giving me the peace and security I was searching for.
I now know that I must consciously limit the attention I give to watching or listening to the news, allowing for just enough information to pop the blissful bubble of ignorance in which I often long to live. I find that, for me, more information is not always better, and that broadcasting my frustrations on social media about controversial matters is no more helpful for me to express than it is for others to hear.
So, then, what can we do?
My friends, if you want to help solve the issues that are before us, I implore you to care for yourselves. When you're not sure what to do, it could be the most giving, most tangible, most useful thing you can do.
I want to make one point about this exceedingly clear. Caring for yourself is anything but selfish. Don't confuse caring FOR yourself with caring ABOUT yourself. The subtle difference between those two words is monumental in how it plays out in our actions. Caring about yourself denotes an attitude that you are out for #1. That your needs trump all others' needs, and that your energy and focus is solely on yourself with little regard to others. By contrast, caring for yourself is the first step in caring for others. Not to be trite, but... it's filling your cup so you can pour it out for others... it's putting on your oxygen mask first before you can help others put on theirs, it's refueling in order to go the extra mile for someone who needs you. Self-care isn't always "fun" and rarely is it luxurious, as the spa ads would have you think (not that I don't enjoy a spa day as much as the next person!).
In all that I do, in my work and my personal life, I always comes back to these 6 Pillars of Wellness:
SLEEP so you can think and act with a clear mind.
EXERCISE to keep your body, heart, and lungs strong for those who need your physical assistance.
Give your body and mind the NUTRITION it needs to stay healthy and energized to do your good work.
Practice good TIME MANAGEMENT to focus on what matters, and not waste time on what doesn't.
Keep your tool box full of STRESS MANAGEMENT techniques so your angst doesn't spill out onto your friends, family, social media platforms, or the checkout guy at the grocery store.
Finally, pay attention to your LIFE BALANCE. Too much of anything (even helping others) is too much. Make time for fun, rest, hobbies, laughter, etc. Ask a teacher, clergy member, stay-at-home parent, nurse, counselor, or social worker about this one. I imagine they may be able to lend a thought or two.
I live in the real world. I try to walk the fine line of not letting myself slip into blissful ignorance nor media addiction. But sometimes, I allow myself to fantasize about what this world would be look like if we all cared for ourselves so that we can better care for others. What a beautiful dream it is.