As you might (or might not) have noticed, it’s been a while since my last post. Like everyone else, I have been overwhelmed with the bombardment of breaking news and political explosions, exhausting everyone’s ability to deal with the current political climate with the numerous and egregious violations of the law, human decency, and common sense.
In the meantime, I’ve been doing what’s admittedly not often a priority for me—self-care; devoting time to coping with stress. I think activists and general “helpers” are consistently so busy assisting others that they neglect themselves—at least until they’re exhausted, have a breakdown or get sick. So I’ve gotten better at tapping into what my gut is telling me, and then listening to it.
I set limits on social media: maybe I’m not able to turn it off all day, but I can set a timer to spend only a certain amount on depressing, panic-inducing articles. I can check news sites without having the notifications instantly appear on my phone. And sometimes I actually do put it down.
I do things that are expressive: I play the piano, or the guitar, color, and draw, scrapbook and make other crafts. Having a tangible product that is pretty, or brings someone happiness, is a great feeling.
I ground myself in the fact that things could be, and used to be, worse: I watch and read a lot of historical nonfiction, and participate in Civil War reenacting. The knowledge and awareness of the struggle of my ancestors gives me a macabre comfort for the potential futures of political and social discourse, and inspiration for the valiant principles for which so many Americans “gave the last full measure of devotion.”
I get out and do things that connect me to the world: staying active can be tough, with timing and physical limits, but my sisters’ inspiration has propelled me into yoga and Pop Pilates. Walking in the woods is always an option, and in the spring kayaking is another. I spend time with my family and a few friends. I bond with my pets and visit the youth center of my prior employment when I can.
Taking time to do “personal” activities sometimes feels guilty. There are times when the pressures, struggles, disappointments, frustrations and furies induce such a sense of obligation that spending less than four hours each day volunteering creates a stressful shame. But I continuously remind myself that one cannot pour from an empty cup. One of my intentions for 2017 was to not carry guilt for knowing my limits. Knowing limits helps to maintain balance and therefore longevity, which is more effective for the cause than an ambitious newcomer who burns out.
Some, like me, might cope by taking in a certain amount of news; others may want to avoid information entirely. Everyone copes in their own way. Just as with other types of trauma that people endure, there is great variance with what skills are effective. Some find a deeper connection with their faith, others feel distanced or betrayed by their religious community; some may choose to be heavily civically engaged, whereas others feel the need to withdraw from public life completely. Some people want (or need) to talk about the news, and others can’t bear to hear about it.
Ultimately each person has to do what works for them. Because one consistency among people is that the ability to deal with the stress and pain that comes from silently carrying anxiety and emotions is finite. Take care of yourself.