The day after Paying Attention was published, I received a thoughtful email from a friend and faithful reader of my posts. She usually writes back to let me know what the post meant to her, asks me questions, and at times challenges me to go deeper. These email conversations have become our little ritual, and I love it.
After I posted Paying Attention, I sat with what I had written. I felt that the post was incomplete. There was more to say about how each of us is handling the tremendous stress and pressure we’re experiencing. There’s nothing straightforward about our current, collective experience.
When I received my friend’s reply to the post, something she said gave me pause. I asked for permission to share one of her comments and decided to jump-start a conversation based on her experience.
This is what she said:
I have found lately that I have wanted to be less introspective. I think I am less willing to look inward now even though the time is there. Probably because everything surrounding us, is hard enough to figure out. The antics of a maniac president, an out-of-control population, and confused experts and leaders make me want to take comfort in routines and not think too hard because there doesn’t seem to be even a flicker of light at the end-of-the-tunnel.
Reading her comment, one could think, “This is not a time to take a break, give up, or hide our heads in the sand. We need to keep going. We need to fight and save what needs saving. There is no time for complacency.”
And, although I understand the urgency of showing up every minute of every day and taking meaningful action, I sensed exhaustion and burnout in her statement.
Why wouldn’t she or you or anyone else feel exhausted these days?
My friend has always been a strong, hard-working person who is socially conscious and tries to do right by other people. It makes absolute sense that, given the unexpected levels of social trauma we’re dealing with and the daily onslaught of bad news, she feels the need to take a break and seek comfort in her daily routine and rituals.
The waves of change that are crushing on the shores of our psyche won’t be slowing down any time soon. We are in it for the long run, and to make it to the other side, we need our strength, health, and sanity. We need to persevere and be resilient.
Resilience, Perseverance, Health, Strength, Sanity … these are some big words.
To navigate our current reality, and negotiate these profound changes, we need the wisdom and clarity inner work brings. We need to access our compassion, stay present with difficult emotions – ours, as well as those of others – and show up with a hopeful attitude, no less.
How can we possibly accomplish this when we’re exhausted and burnt out? Taking care of ourselves needs to be a priority and part of our daily routine.
Remember the instructions you receive right before a plane takes off?
“In case of an emergency, please put your oxygen mask on first, and then help the person next to you.”
Begin by checking in with yourself.
- Do you feel tired? Exhausted? Lethargic? Foggy?
- Is your energy level low?
- Are you getting enough sleep? Do you feel rested when you wake up?
- Are you doing any emotional eating?
- Do you catch yourself being cranky and short-tempered?
- Have you been getting increasingly anxious and worried?
- Do you, at times, feel a “dark blanket” coming over you?
If you answered yes to any of the above, it’s time to do something about it. There’s no shame or guilt in wanting to take a break and recharge. We can all be a lot more effective and helpful when we’re feeling healthy and strong.
What comes to mind when you think about self-care?
Taking good care of ourselves encompasses everything we do that promotes good health, a sense of overall well-being, and inner peace.
- Begin with the basics. Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat nutritious foods.
- Don’t underestimate the value of habits, rituals, and activities that make you feel whole and refreshed. For me, gardening, cooking, knitting, writing, and photography, help me relax, focus and ground myself.
- Find ways to spend time in Nature, the best and most trusted healer.
- Take a break from social media, your phone, and TV. We’re caught in a never-ending cycle of bad news that’s affecting our mental health and invariably, our energy levels. I’m not advocating disengagement. I’m suggesting that you make time in the course of a day to recharge.
- Attend to your spiritual needs in a way that feels right to you.
- Keep your tribe close. We may not be able to touch and hug each other but we can find ways to stay connected and support one another. Go ahead, pick up that phone, call your person, vent, laugh, listen, talk, and prop each other up.
- Pay attention! Make it a habit, as you go through your day, to pause and look at what’s right in front of you. Take it all in. There’s beauty and little miracles happening all around us. Breathe in, breathe out!
I’d like to close by sharing this poem I came across yesterday. I hope it gives you the moment of pause and recognition it gave me.
You don’t want to hear the storyMary Oliver
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen
to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.
And anyway it’s the same old story –
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
for a simple reason.
And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
Let us all take good care of ourselves and be there for one another.
I invite you to comment and share what helps you stay healthy and sane. Let’s learn and inspire one another.