July 12, 2016
Self-Care for the Grief of the World
Sometimes the world breaks our hearts. Here are some strategies when it’s all too heart-breaking.
Be respectful toward yourself
In whatever state you find yourself, be respectful toward yourself. You deserve empathy in the midst of this sometimes-broken world.
Nap or put your legs up the wall
If your nervous system is exhausted, it may be time to sleep. Afternoon naps can be particularly regenerative. Just make sure you get cozy and turn off all your screens and devices.
If sleep feels like too much, practice legs up the wall pose, a yoga pose that’s wonderful for sleep and relaxation. Basically, you lie down on your back, butt against the wall and allow the legs to drape upward along the wall, heels against the wall. (More here.)
Hydrate and take long showers or epsom salt baths
What’s going on right now is a lot to move, energetically. Trauma, even secondary trauma can live in our bodies. Make sure you drink lots of water. Take long showers or indulge in an epsom salt soak, which can be detoxifying and great for sore muscles.
Allow yourself to be cleansed.
Literally, go feel your connection with the earth. Squish your toes in the earth, place your hands on a tree. If you have a garden, go tend to it. Place a small bowl of salt on your altar. Eat hearty, nourishing foods, like root vegetables and dark greens.
Take deep breaths and feel into your body and into its relationship with gravity.
Connect in real life
Instead of relying on text, email or social media channels, plan a small get-together. Get tea with a friend. Go for a walk in the park with a co-worker. Host a potluck gathering. The point is to draw beloved people close and share meaningful interaction.
It doesn’t need to be a somber affair either. It’s okay to laugh sometimes! But it can also be supportive to talk through your feelings, if you are feeling affected by the world’s events. Try to listen with empathy.
If you can’t gather in-person, a phone call is still far better than text.
Practice good boundaries
Saying no is a high form of self-care. This is a good time to get very clear about your boundaries, your needs, and what you need to avoid. Maybe you need to avoid graphic content. Maybe you need to not subject yourself to loud music or movies that (even fictionally) depict violence.
Guard your energy with kindness and communicate your boundaries clearly. Also: when airing your grief, consider context. Offer support to those who may be more deeply affected. Seek comfort with those who may be less directly impacted.
Give and receive trigger warnings
If you are posting content that may be disturbing for others, consider posting a trigger warning and disabling auto-play. This is good manners, but it also protect vulnerable people in your life from being blindsided from something they weren’t prepared to see.
Likewise, if you see a trigger warning, consider whether you are grounded and steady enough to consume it. There’s no shame in looking after yourself so as not to inflict trauma on yourself.
This is a form of being gentle with yourself and others.
Journal it out
Journaling can be a useful tool when you don’t know what to say out loud. Violent events can trigger a whole range of emotions, thoughts, and interior questions that you may want to process silently. Through journaling, you can release that, without needing to be “right” or have the answers.
You can simply investigate, be curious, be angry or sad, ask the questions that are on your mind, offer yourself some solace without needing to reach out right away.
Practice mindful isolation
If you feel particularly affected, you may engage in a little mindful isolation. Try to set this isolation for a designated (mindful) timeframe. Within that, you don’t need to be connected with anyone or do anything but simply be and absorb. You don’t need to read the new or be on social media, you can simply hibernate for a little while.
While you do, you might like some of these practices.
Be brave and get uncomfortable
This may seem counter-intuitive, given the above, but listen. Especially if you are a person with privilege (this might include being any of the following: straight, white, male, able-bodied, and upper-middle or wealthy.)
People who are in positions of power need to get brave and commit themselves to getting uncomfortable. Have difficult conversations with family (in the context in which I’m writing this, that’s you, white folks). Find ways to center black voices. Donate to bail funds and for long-term organizing. Seek to understand. Deliver meals to the people who need to tap out. Make signs and march if you can. Say their names in your prayers and over breakfast.
Be brave. Let yourself make mistakes. Commit to doing better.