This month has been filled with challenging news events: anti-abortion laws, more deaths of children in immigration custody, the United Nations Global Climate Report, and the overall continuation of the toxicity the emanates from today’s politics. On a regular day, the news is a downer, but there are times when the planets align and it all becomes downright unbearable.
So what is a person to do?
Like many of you, it’s important to me to be an informed member of society. I may not listen to every single news podcast and I don’t know all the nuisances of every major political issue, but I still try to be engaged and learn wherever I can. This month, however, I had to take a time-out, and judging from my social media feeds…I wasn’t alone.
The weight of the world can at times be too much – especially if you’re an empathic person – and with our constant access to news in real-time it feels harder than ever to find respite. Personally, this triggered one of the strongest bouts with anxiety I’ve ever had. While painful, it caused me to really stop and be mindful of my mental health, something that I am quite frankly, blessed, to not typically struggle with.
When we think of mental health, we often think of the extremes. Those that seem to never have a bad day (aka unicorns) and those that are deeply affected by it through depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more. The reality is that most of us fall somewhere in between, and it can be easy to take this balance for granted, or at least I did. So after being hit with a week where it was challenging to feel excited and all too easy to feel overwhelmed, I had to stop and be mindful about what deep self-care means.
Self-care Is…Listening to Your Needs
I had been struggling with random feelings of anxiety for about or week or two before it really hit on of all days, a Monday. I got through a work day that seemed to last forever, only to end up at home with an unusually low supply of energy and absolutely dreading the workout class I had signed up for. I kept telling myself that a workout could only help, that it was good for me, and that I would feel guilty if I canceled. Until a voice went off in my head that begged the question, “Why are you voluntarily headed into something that you’re feeling miserable about?” Well, shit.
I cancelled the class and spent the rest of that night, and the next night, in bed. I didn’t stress about working out, or being social, or cleaning the house. Instead, I gave myself what I needed which was rest, and allowing myself to not feel okay.
Self-care Is…Not Forcing a “Fix”
I’m the type of person who gets shit done, and I don’t have a lot of patience with excuses or delays in that mindset. When I see a problem, I fix it. But that can be a counter-productive attitude when it comes to taking care of yourself. There are times when I can treat my self-care a bit like another item on the to-do list. I enjoy my wine and bath nights and tend to give myself a mental pat on the back for taking time for myself. That’s great, but it wasn’t the mindset that was going to get me through my hump, although at first I definitely tried.
I knew I was feeling pretty anxious and down. What I couldn’t stop doing was over analyzing why that might be. I figured if I could find the source of the problem, I could solve it. The news was incredibly depressing? Okay we’ll go on a news-cleanse. I’m overwhelmed about which cause to devote my time to? Okay, in the words of Jessica Lanyadoo – I’ll just pick one thing. The thing is, that wasn’t really helping, because then I began to get overwhelmed about what thing to pick, what news I was missing, and why others around me weren’t feeling the same way.
What I realized was that sometimes, it’s enough to just acknowledge how you feel. I had to shift my mindset a bit fro, “I feel sad about what’s going on in the world and overwhelmed about how to help.” to simply, “I feel sad”. That’s it. I had to quiet my mind so I could hear my heart.
Self-care Is…Being Vulnerable
Damn you, Brene Brown.
What made the biggest difference for me was speaking from my heart out loud to those I was close to. I won’t lie…I had some liquid courage. But nonetheless, I allowed myself to speak what had been weighing on me that week to a group of friends one night. Reactions were mixed: some didn’t quite understand, some jumped to the “fix it” mindset, but most simply listened. I didn’t go home that night with any new knowledge or immediate feelings of relief, in fact, I went home a little nervous about how I might’ve come off to them. But the next day, I began to feel more like myself for the first time in a couple of weeks. And I realized that regardless of what I said or in part, who I even said it to, I felt a huge amount of release from the pressure that had been building up.
It’s a bit scary to not feel like yourself. Yet, it’s something we’ll all have to experience from time to time as we grow and advance. For me, it was taking a low so that I could then reach a new height. It made me challenge my thinking processes, and also push myself to be more open with those around me – something I definitely struggle with.
Whatever your trigger may be, for me it was current events but in the future it could easily be something else, how you care for yourself is really about how you choose to love yourself. And in the words of my goddess, Lizzo,
“Self-care has to be rooted in self-preservation, not just mimosas and spa days”