The news is horrifying. On Oct. 7, the world, as many of us knew it, seemed to change forever. We are living in an ongoing tragedy, each day feeling more out of control than the one before it. There is tragedy across the world, across our country, and now, waking up today, there is tragedy in beautiful, foliage-rich Maine.
Many poignant words are being written right now—the poetry and prose are heart piercing. As someone devoted to helping adults (professionals, parents, grandparents) support young people, many pieces are floating by addressing “talking to young people about”—fill in the blank, a tragedy, a war, a shooting, antisemitism, social media. The list goes on. Much of the advice is wonderful. We have pulled together in small and large communities to try and protect our young people as much as possible from a world that feels out of control.
And now, it is also time to put the oxygen mask on ourselves. We can’t sustain this if we are not taking care of ourselves. And, it takes time that we don’t have, and it takes energy that we don’t have. It feels wrong to be frivolous and selfish at a time like this. There are so many reasons we are unable to care for ourselves, but we truly cannot care for others, like so many of us want to do, if we deplete ourselves.
You know better than I do what feeds you, what gives you strength, what enables you to go on. However, if you need some ideas, below is a list.
Begin by taking stock of your body.
Do a body scan, take deep breaths and notice. Where is the tension? Maybe it is your stomach, your back, your hips, your jaw? The possibilities are endless. Notice your body, notice the aches, the pains, and begin there.
Find a physical way to address the tension and needs in your body. Find something you enjoy. Walking, biking, running, an exercise class, a yoga class? Do you need a good body stretch? Does working up a sweat make you feel good? If so, do that. Pay attention and think about what your body needs.
Pamper your body.
Maybe it’s time for a massage, an acupuncture treatment, a manicure, a pedicure?
Nature is healing.
Try to notice sunrise or sunset. Be aware of the trees, the shrubbery, the flowers around you. Look up at the sky for a minute or two. If you are near a body of water, spend a little time at it.
Take deep breaths.
It is impossible to overstate the power intentional breathing can have. Meditation can be both relaxing and energy giving.
Be sure you are consistently taking the vitamins and medicine you need, and be aware of what you are feeding yourself.
Many of us are stress eating. We find certain foods comforting. We may need that, but try also to be sure to be feeding your body the nutrients it needs and eating foods that will make your body run well. You know your body.
Give your head a rest.
Take a break from the news. Do something that forces you to concentrate on something else. Are you a jigsaw-puzzle person? This could be a time to break out a peaceful but challenging puzzle, something you can do in small doses that doesn’t need a lot of time.
Be creative in your own way.
If you are a painter, paint. If you are a poet, write poetry. If you are a baker, bake a cake or even something more complicated that will capture your attention. Are you a musician? Play your instrument. Are you a music lover? Create a calming playlist that you can put on for a short reprieve. Do you knit? If you want to be absorbed, find a complicated pattern. If you want to be more meditative, find an easy one. Either way, enjoy the yarn store and find a yarn that feels good and is soothing.
Phone a friend.
We do most of our communicating via screens. We text, we email, we use social media. Give yourself a gift and call a friend. Hearing their voice can be more comforting than only seeing words on a screen. Or better yet, FaceTime where you get a face and a voice.
Gather in a supportive community.
Many communities do not feel supportive these days, but if you can find one that is, it will give you strength. It might be a religious community, a neighborhood, a mahjong group, sewing circle or book club.
Add some calm to your home.
Buy yourself a plant or flowers. Give yourself something to smile about when you look around so that it isn’t just the news you are seeing. Burn some candles. Light a fire.
It can be hard to sleep these days. If you need something herbal or medicinal to help you sleep, this could be the right time for that. Try and develop a pre-sleep routine that includes some relaxation.
This list isn’t exhaustive. And none of it will solve the big problems of the world. My hope is that it sparks you to think about what you need, to think about the things in life that bring you comfort. And to remind you that caring for yourself is not selfish and not indulgent; it is an important way to support young people.
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