I don’t know about you, but too often lately, I’ve felt a total overload in my nervous system. Some of it has to do with the feeling that pretty much everything around me is in chaos. Our government at the top levels seems to be swinging around mindlessly much of the time. There’s a frightening sense of threat from North Korea that hovers outside my consciousness. People I love who have health care because of the Affordable Care Act are threatened with the loss of that vital safety net. And that’s before we add in the terrifying mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Even writing that makes me sigh and click away from the page seeking distraction from the heartbreak and headache I experience when I look too closely. What’s a person to do?
Here are a few suggestions for how to care for yourself in these days.
Firstly, take whatever small actions you can to help the world get better.
There’s a story that I learned in the early 1980’s about a 3rd grade class in which the teacher asked the children if they feared nuclear war. Almost everyone held up their hand, but on child sat calmly with hands in her lap. When the teacher asked about what gave her hope, she replied that her parents went to meetings and protests and were helping to make a difference. It gave her hope for her future.
So, I urge you to find those small actions: attending a meeting about a cause that you care about; offering a few bucks to someone in need on the street or keeping care packages in your car to hand to the folks looking for help at intersections or freeway entrances. You can get to know your legislators better, and be in regular communication with them, cheering them on when they fight for what you believe in, offering them your strong opinions if they’re not working for the good you wish to see in the world.
Do you know about Resist-bot? It’s a program that will send faxes to your representatives, both Congressional and state. It’s an easy way to stay in touch and to have your say to the folks who represent you in government. All you do is text the word “resist” to 50409, and they’ll walk you through the steps. It’ll even remind and encourage you if you want.
Secondly — and related — don’t doubt that your small actions are having an impact.
Back in the days of the Vietnam War, my family took part in every march we could. Sometimes my mother would take us out of school to go along to events that she felt were important. We walked silently by the White House with lit candles once or twice, we shouted anti-war slogans. When we were at some rally and couldn’t hear a single word the speakers were saying and I complained, she explained that having our bodies in the space was the purpose. We were communicating that we disapproved of the war just by being there.
What we didn’t know until much later is that those marches and vigils and actions changed the course of American participation in the war. My body made a difference in what happened.
Margaret Mead is often quoted to remind us of the power of small actions:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Even if it appears to be futile, trust that it will make a difference if only in your own sense of hopefulness in the world.
Finally, be mindful of excellent self care these days.
I’ve recently renewed my yoga and meditation practices. I’m focused on eating healthy food in moderation. I try — sometimes successfully — to turn off my devices and step away from the constant hammering of news from social media of the latest news and sorrows of the world. My husband reports that I seem more centered and calm, even a little happier.
You may find your self care in different places. Get out for a walk. Go somewhere beautiful. Watch the sunrise or sunset, clearing your mind of all vexations and troubles. Be good to your body and your spirit. Make connections to people you love, and perhaps especially to people who help you to laugh.
Climate chaos, our political system in chaos, and the usual bumps and bruises of life and feel overwhelming. It is essential for all of us to take those moments to act, to hold on to hope and to take good care of ourselves and others these days.
What will you be doing? You can let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org