I know things are tough out there because I have had many more calls and emails than usual asking for help. Although we are in a new year and soon it will be spring, things are still feeling a lot like last year. It’s going to be a while. Folks are still struggling, or struggling more and again to comes to grips with this ‘new ABnormal’ as I call it. Having some new rituals to support ourselves through it is key. It gives the brain something else to focus on and as a new activity, it can bring new pleasures in this now moment. The proper types of self care will do more for you than any amount of bingeing with new shows online. Even though that can be fun too at times, it can quickly bring our body, mind and spirit out of balance. I know this because I’ve done it, plenty, during this pandemic.
I’ve also done plenty of getting up and checking the news and social media and ending up upset as a way to start the day. I have resolved to do something more positive every morning even if it’s looking at funny videos. The best days are when I start with being present with things I can be grateful for and just breathing those in and out. The wonderful thing about the internet is there are literally thousands and thousands of guided meditations and visualizations and it’s no harder to find them then it is to look up articles or social media on your phone.
What one small choice can you make this day to make you feel more hopeful, joyful, powerful, playful or steady in your life? Stuck? Read on!
I recently read an article called ‘Finding Steady Ground’ and I’ve adapted some tips there for not only steadying your day but steadying your whole week. The first one I’ve already talked about—deciding daily when and where you get your news AND what to do afterwards. Will you need to restrict how long you look at news or which sources you look at? What will you need to do with your body after, especially if you are upset?
Can you remember before you look at any news or social media that they are designed to trigger fears, sell products or addict you to their source? Can you remember that we all usually seek out information that reinforces our pre-existing beliefs? We all do it and only by seeking out alternative information can we challenge these schemas. One question to ask yourself before you indulge is ‘do I really need this information for my living or can I obtain it from observing the world around me?’ What would change for you if you tried this?
Another critical piece of being steady is having a direct, human to human connection with someone daily. Online just doesn’t cut it, despite the usefulness of things like video chats. Nothing beats even a conversation with the clerk at the grocery store. We humans are just built for real, 3-D connection.
One natural response to fear and isolation is to freeze up in despair but we must work against this urge. How will you stay in motion? Writing letters, volunteering, helping others, doing art, moving your body to music or breathing or yoga are just some ideas. Going outside is critical and now that we know more, we know that going outside is only going to benefit you. Recognizing what your ‘freezing’ looks like is important because the longer you stay frozen the harder it is to move and take care of yourself, the planet and what matters to you most.
A few times a week, read or watch something inspirational to you—a story of overcoming injustice or oppression or anything about overcoming hardship. We are an inspirational species. It’s out there in movies, books, podcasts, storytellers and in our own ancestors. Ask questions of your family and elders if you are lucky enough to have them. It’s another great way to connect and do the next steadying action.
Once a week, use some form of meditation or prayer to connect with yourself and others who may be suffering. Start with holding compassionate space for yourself and all of your feelings. Breathe through it and extend that compassion to all the others in the world who are suffering. Then take time to notice that is not all of your reality. There are still things to connect with that bring joy in the world and to you–music, song, dance, nature, people rescuing animals and saving the environment for example. Find what still is joyful in you because joy is a necessity, as is F.U.N. (see my other musings on this). When you find this place of joy, extend it to others, even if just in your thoughts and prayers so that we will all have the energy and hope for the struggle. How would it feel to you if you knew someone in Bangladesh was praying for your joy?
Much of what has happened in the last year has made many people feel helpless and afraid which can breed passivity and powerlessness. It’s never a good time to be pulled along in what can feel like a rip tide. One way to stay in touch with a sense of our own power is to create something weekly—something. Whether it’s something you cook or make—food, art, a game to play, a dramatic reading or act, a sign, knitting something, playing an instrument, etc. Anything big or small keeps us in touch with our humanity and keeps us away from helplessness.
At least once a week, take a complete break for a whole day from social media. The research is clear: social media leads to increased anxiety, disconnection and isolation and mental distress, even while it seems to be doing the opposite. Fooled ya! It’s designed to sell and that’s about all—selling inadequacy and addicting behaviors. Graphic images and inflammatory language set off our stress brain reactions so we need healthy boundaries, especially in young people who are most negativity affected by social media use. Again, the research is quite clear on these effects for our upcoming generations.
Lastly, every week commit to sharing with someone else what’s helping you. We need each other now more than ever. Helping others is an absolute antidote to isolation, loneliness, anxiety and depression. Helping each other PLAY is a clear path to mental and physical wellness.
Remember F.U.N. is what I call a Fundamental Universal Need so go out and start your day and your week with some play, include others, create something, and get inspired by the good going on in the world and you’ve got your week and your life covered! Stay connected and we will all get through these hard times and be better off.
If you need some help with these questions and challenges I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for counseling or coaching and your F.U.N.!