Every client I met with last week said (a variation) of the same thing:
"With everything that's going on in the world right now, taking care of myself feels low priority."
I get it. Things are really wild right now. We're all holding A LOT: a pandemic, an uprising. We're faced with our mortality while examining our thoughts, behaviors and actions that are either a solution to the problem or part of the problem. We're talking about hard stuff every day while trapped in our homes.
This is uncomfortable stuff.
It's also the stuff that changes the course of humanity. So keep doing the good work...AND let's get you back to caring for yourself while you're doing it.
I keep coming across the flight attendants' reminder from the beginning of every flight: put on your oxygen mask before trying to help someone else with theirs.
This idiom reminds us that before we can do any good for anyone else, we have to first do good for ourselves.
If you read nothing else on this page, read this: You are no good to any movement or cause or community or human, animal, or environment if you are not good to yourself.
How you care for yourself right now might differ from how you cared for yourself before the pandemic hit the US. It might differ from how you cared for yourself before George Floyd's murder. The self-care you need now might be totally and completely new to you.
Have you taken the invitation to explore that and make a self-care plan that's just for you in this specific moment in your life?
Shelly Tygielski (@mindfulskatergirl) has authored a number of articles on this topic for Mindful.org related specifically to self-care during the pandemic. She gives 3 good reasons why taking time to do some internal inventory and create a plan for caring for yourself is not just important but critical. I think these are especially important for those of us who are activated by recent events in Minneapolis and the movement they sparked in our nation and world.
Here are Tygielski's reasons to make a personalized Self-Care Plan:
"Customizing a Self-Care Plan is a preventative measure." Ultimately, you can prevent all kinds of suffering by taking some time to reflect and strategize. You are going to be much better ally and activist when you are NOT in crisis mode. This movement needs you thinking, feeling and communicating clearly and effectively. That is not possible when you're exhausted, burned out and fueled by caffeine and sugar.
"Having a plan takes the guesswork out of what to do and where to turn in moments of crisis." Don't wait until you're fried and inconsolable to decide how to care for yourself. Plan ahead, so you can respond instead of react to your circumstances and what you're experiencing in that moment.
"A Self-Care Plan helps you stay the course." You don't need to put your health goals aside to participate in protests and social activism. You don't need to put yourself last because this moment feels bigger than you. This moment is bigger than you...which means that we need you to be your absolute best right now! And we need whatever action you take to be sustainable - this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Now that you know you need a Self-Care Plan, follow this link to get Tygielski's directions on creating one for yourself or download this worksheet I made adapting her recommendations to a visual form.
Time for true confessions: this is hard for me too. My stress response is to freeze. I have felt frozen in anxiety and fear for months now. I try to care for myself by eating regularly, exercising and meditating, but I'll go days - or even weeks - without any real success in that department. I'm more successful with my favorite dissociation techniques.
I followed Tygielski's prompts to come up with my own self-care plan. Here are some activities I'm working on in my Self-Care Plan right now:
Eating at regular intervals. Instead of stress eating, I tend to neglect eating when I'm stressed. This leaves me feeling my worries even more acutely. Not helpful! I'm setting a calendar reminder to go off midday every weekday to remind me to take a lunch break and again mid-afternoon to offer a snack break.
Start the day with movement. Moving my body is my 2nd favorite medicine following closely behind my #1: eating delicious food. I tend to come up with all kinds of excuses about why I can't exercise as the day goes on, so I'm working this into a morning routine. Which brings me to...
Meditate daily. I am needing more grounding and focus right now. I am still sheltering in place, which means my life schedule is lacking the kind of structure I had before of going to the office and the gym, etc. I am not good at maintaining a routine, so without structure to my day I feel untethered. Meditation helps me connect to myself in a very helpful way. I'm working on 20 minutes every morning after my morning movement.
As you're working on your own Self-Care Plan, notice any resistance you have to giving to yourself. Here are some wise words from Rachel Elizabeth Cargle (@rachel.cargle) that helped me put this in perspective for myself this week:
"...Meditate AND call your senator.
Go to yoga AND go vote.
Breathe deeply AND donate to causes that matter.
Go on a retreat AND go support small businesses.
Enjoy your essential oils AND check people on their bullshit in the community."
I love food.
I love thinking about it, talking about it, writing about it. I love growing food, cooking and eating food. I use this space to try to convey that. Follow me on social media for more day-to-day inspiration on these topics.