Self-care for when the world is on fire

I want to first say, this post is not going to be about one specific event, but more about everything that has been going on. That said, I wouldn’t be using the platform I have available to me in the best way if I didn’t take a moment to honor the life of George Floyd and express how deeply sorry I am that we live in a world where his life was not valued enough to let him go on living it. I am sorry to his family, to his partner, to the black community, and to George Floyd. I want to take a moment to say on the platform I have that Black Lives Matter, and that they always will matter to me. And while every life is precious, it’s our black brothers and sisters who need us the most right now….to love them, to support them, and to value their lives. I encourage all of my readers to take a moment to educate yourself on white privilege, and to look at your own life and see what you can do with whatever platform you have to be an advocate for social justice and change. I am going to list some links of sites to go to for more education and to learn more about what you can do at the end of this post.

Even if you don’t watch the news, you would literally have to live under a rock to not know (and somehow be affected by) what is going on in our world, especially the United States right now. From a viral pandemic, to another kind of pandemic- hatred. Both are happening right now (although, one could argue the hatred pandemic has been going on for centuries).

All of these things going on in the world have left me feeling activated. In some ways, that activation has been good. My nervous system is hyped up and I am ready for action- I’m ready to protect, to care for, and to do the things. This is good- SOMETIMES.

You see, sometimes it’s that activation that calls us to fight to protect the ones we love, it’s what can drive people to stand up to injustice, and can help us take action when we need to take action. But sometimes this activation keeps us in that mode- let’s call it action mode. We don’t need to be there 100% of the time, nor is it good for our bodies to be there all the time. Why? Because one thing action mode keeps us from being able to do is think with our reasoning and logical brain. It makes it difficult to truly process and understand what we are actually feeling.

So what do we do when the world is on fire?

I will admit, this has been a struggle for me. When I heard the news about George Floyd, it was instant activation. I was angry, and emotional- I broke down in the middle of a work consultation…thankfully with other therapists who were able to just listen, and support me and nurture me. But not everyone has the luxury of having an amazing support group like I do. So what do you do?

I recently saw a video posted on Facebook posted by a protester in Minneapolis (I’ll try to find the video). This woman…let me tell you…she has her poop in a group. Here she was, a black woman participating in a protest in downtown Minneapolis and she was clearly impacted by her emotions…but those emotions were not in control. She spoke clearly, confidently, and nurturingly (is nurturingly a word?…well, I just made it a word). While I don’t have the exact transcript, she said something to the effect of “We have been down here, protesting on behalf of George Floyd to say that Black Lives Matter…and if you have been down here or you have been struggling with this, I want you to take a moment to just breathe. Do something for yourself to take care of yourself. Go home, rest and recharge…so you can get back out here and help us!”

Wow. I don’t know you lady, but you are on it. You know what you are talking about. Because after all, we can’t pour from an empty cup. Her short little clip gave me chills. Mainly because clearly this woman knows that in order to care for others, we must care for ourselves…and she was spreading that message to those she knew are activated deeply by this. And this is key. Self-care isn’t about not being activated or never being activated…it’s about knowing how and why to nurture yourself so that you can be the best version of yourself that you can be.

Okay, stepping off my soap box to give you some actual tools:

First, notice where you are at. Take a moment and pay attention to your body. What is it doing? Is your heart racing? Are your shoulders tensed? Jaw clenched? What does your body need RIGHT NOW? Try identifying what it is that you need in this very moment for your body to calm down. Maybe that’s taking some deep breaths. Maybe it’s a hot shower to relax your shoulders. Whatever that thing is, do your best to do it.

Next, prioritize. What feels the most urgent to you right now? I will give you a hint and if your body is on a rampaging fire…that is the most important thing to deal with. Once you have taken care of that, figure out what is the next most important thing to do. Ask yourself the question: What do I want to accomplish the most today? And then identify what resources (whether in yourself or from somewhere else) do I need to accomplish this? What could stop me from accomplishing this?

Another tool I love for prioritizing when I am feeling overwhelmed is the “Not to do” list. It originates from editor turned life coach, Sage Grayson. Essentially with this list, you list out everything on your plate at the present moment. Then, you evaluate that list determining what are other peoples responsibilities, what is out of your control, what drains you, and what doesn’t really NEED to be done right now. This helps me figure out what I need to take care of first, and what can probably wait. It’s a game changer when I feel overwhelmed. If you want the full list pdf, click here. To visit her website and get more useful tools, click here.

Once you have figured out what is a priority to you, now you can look at what do you need to achieve it. Self-care can also be prioritized by what needs are essential. Look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs– first you need your physiological needs met in order to get your safety needs met, then once your safety needs are met, you continue up to more mental states of self-care including relationships, esteem and self-actualization. I made the following diagram for you to use to determine where you are at.

And if you remember nothing else from this post, remember change is possible, take care of yourself so you can take care of others and for the love of all things right just love each other.

Until next time,

Jenn

PS! Here are the educational links I promised. Please take a moment to educate yourself.

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/08/brene-brown-defines-white-privilege-for-us-it-is-the-best-explanation-i-have-heard/

https://www.tolerance.org/professional-development/white-antiracism-living-the-legacy

https://www.goodgoodgood.co/anti-racism-resources

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