Self-Care in Difficult Times

January 30, 2017

I just returned from a very invigorating (both mentally and physically - it was pretty chilly!) protest in downtown Rochester, Minnesota.  It was called Stand with our Immigrant, Refugee, and Muslim Neighbors and was a protest to the recent Executive Order from our new POTUS banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for at least the next 90 days as well as stopping the admission of all refugees to the United States for four months.  


It felt good to be part of a large group of people who want to fight for justice and to uphold our nation's most basic rights.


I met a couple of friends there, and I was telling them that I've been feeling physically ill the past few days because of all the political turmoil happening in our world, and both friends said that they've been experiencing the same thing.  You may be going through something similar.  I started thinking today that we should consider how to handle this extraordinary stress so that we don't get burned out.  Regardless of your political affiliation, we must remember to take care of ourselves, especially in difficult times.


Here are some things to consider to make sure that you stay strong:


1.  Breathe.  Deep breaths always help settle your body, physically, which can benefit your mind.  Take time to breathe purposefully.  Consider breathing in for the count of 5 and exhaling for 10 counts. This is especially helpful when you are involved in any sort of conflict or confrontation with someone in person or on social media.  It's a good idea to slow down before you speak or write.


2.  Get enough sleep.  Practice good sleep hygiene.  Avoid being on a screen for the 60 minutes leading up to your bedtime.  It's always a good idea to continue exercising and eating well.  Letting those healthy habits go by the wayside will be especially detrimental to your body at this time.


3.  Choose your battles.  This is a tough one at this time since there are many things going on.  It's an overwhelming time.  No one among us will be able to tackle all the issues.  Consider working with a group of others and dividing up the work.


4.  Consider scheduling your actions so that you are not constantly thinking about issues.  Choose a couple days per week to work, read, write, protest, etc.  This is a difficult one, because in times such as these, it feels like we need to be constantly working and vigilant, and I think that's true.  But allow yourself at least a little bit of "down time."  Remember the old oxygen mask principle from airplanes.  You can't take care of others if you are unable to breathe.


5.  Take time with friends.  Do your work in a group of like-minded individuals.  It's helpful to know that you are not alone in your fight.


6.  Be aware of "feeding the monster," which is when you are doing nothing but seeking out input that will cause you feelings of anger.  It is essential that we continue to be educated, but it is also necessary to know what your threshold is, beyond which the only result of your education is feeding angry feelings.  We are much more able to handle stress if we feel some sort of control over it.  When all we have is negative input, stress will be much more destructive.


7.  Be kind to everyone around you.  Remember that we all have our own unique outlook on the world and current events.  


8.  Take a periodic break from media.  Breathe, sleep, eat, exercise, talk with friends about something that doesn't raise your blood pressure.  It'll be there when you are ready to come back to it.


None of this is to say that you shouldn't fight for what you believe in.  On the contrary.  We have the amazing privilege of being able to stand up and speak out.  We just need to make sure that we keep ourselves healthy and strong so that we can continue to fight for what's right!  Keep on fighting the good fight!!!




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