With war raging, catastrophic floods, the lingering threat of COVID, and an endless stream of political shenannagins, self care may be the last thing on your mind.
But, when things feel overwhelming or unmanageable, self care is exactly what you need.
I’m not talking about face masks and bubble baths. This is about setting energetic boundaries and tending to your nervous system so you can weather this continuing environment of change, uncertainty and instability.
Here are 4 practical steps to create resilience, right now.
1. It’s okay to look away
There’s a lot going on in the world and I want to reassure you that it’s okay to look away. Yes, there is an innate privilege in being able to look away but sometimes that’s exactly what you need to do.
Psychologist and author Dr Rebecca Ray spoke recently about vicarious trauma, a process that occurs when you over-empathise with trauma that is happening around you but not directly to you. It can affect your sleep, concentration and your overall ability to function. It can also generate anxiety and guilt but, because the trauma isn’t actually happening to you, there’s no outlet for that energy, no obvious way to diffuse or discharge your stress response.
As a Highly Sensitive Person, this is something I’ve struggled with for years and I now understand that it’s okay to step back or look away. Turn off the news, disconnect from social media or minimise your consumption.
This is not about turning a blind eye to suffering; this is about preserving and managing your mental health.
2. Assess your capacity
If you feel a strong call to action, this next step is for you.
Before you jump in and offer to help, assess where you’re at right now: physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically.
Do you actually have the capacity to lend a hand? Do you have the energy and physical stamina required? Are you feeling resilient? Is your nervous system in a state to handle action, whatever that looks like for you?
My heart breaks for people who lost lives and livelihoods during the floods and I’ve also felt guilt; guilt that we weren’t affected. So, when I saw Brisbane City Council put out a call for volunteers for Mud Army 2.0, my immediate inclination was to lean in. Fortunately, common sense kicked in and I remembered that I don’t have the physical or mental capacity to help out in a practical way. That may seem selfish but I’ve been dealing with health issues for coming up to 3 years now. Despite extenstive testing and treatment, I’m still sleeping for hours each day and doing the bare minimum in every area of my life. Realistically, I’m in no position to help.
Assess where you’re at – physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically. Once you’re clear and grounded, you’ll have a better understanding of where and how you can provide support. And the action that you do take will have far greater impact.
3. Be selective
You don’t have to speak out about every cause. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out and say you cannot speak out about every social issue – it’s not sustainable, it’s not feasible, it’s simply not possible to have an in-depth understanding of every single issue.
For example, I don’t have a solid understanding of the complex matrix of conditions that led to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Certainly not enough to speak out about the situation with any authority. And, if I’m really honest, I don’t have the desire or will to. And it would be disingenuous to talk or post about issues that I don’t fully comprehend simply because I feel pressure to do so.
Africa Brook speaks about this on her podcast, Beyond the Self with Africa Brook. Africa says we’re all moved by different causes and the issues that fire her up, such as female genital mutilation, are likely different to the things that you’re passionate about. And that’s ok.
Consider this your permission slip to be selective about the causes you give your time, energy and money to.
4. Reach for the low-hanging fruit
Over the last few months, it feels as though the tools I’ve gathered over the past 10 years feel out of reach. Yoga, meditation, reiki – all of it feels too hard, and requires more energy than I have available.
If this sounds familiar, try reaching for the low hanging fruit instead.
Maybe you can’t drag yourself to a yoga class but you could manage 10 minutes at home in a restorative yoga pose. If meditation seems out of reach, could you take 5 slow breaths every time you stop at the traffic lights?
Please don’t think small gestures don’t count. They absolutely do. And, often, it’s the small things that have the biggest impact when it comes to self care.