Extreme Times Call for Extreme Self-Care

Do you want to cry – or scream right about now? I sure do.

Pittsburgh. Package bombs. Hate, blaming, mind games and hateful political ads 24/7. The news was already too much – and then, another mass shooting. In a place of worship. What has happened to our country?

I’ve been around a lot of years and I’ve never experienced anything like the current state of affairs or state of anxiety in our country – in children or adults. I’m hearing the same thing from friends and colleagues. And that goes for people on both sides of the aisle.

In addition to the recent violence, the testimony of Dr. Ford seemed to have touched a deep nerve for many women, bringing up their own experience of sexual assault – or of someone they know and love. The #MeToo movement has been arousing our collective angst, sadness and fury over the injustice women have endured for too long.

Add to that the hourly barrage of news of murders, rapes, abductions and the “end of our democracy”. It’s enough to make the most even-keeled moderate a basket case (not a clinical term).

My unofficial poll of local women shows that nearly all are “far more stressed” than usual. They are worried about the state of the country and the world; they’re worrying about their kids and their health (which has been affected by stress, sleepless nights, too much Fortnite!, etc.).

What you choose to do about the state of our democracy and our world is up to you. (But please, VOTE.) After that, here are some things we can all do to adjust the dial on stress. Extreme times call for extreme self-care.

  • Unplug. Seriously, turn off cable news and reduce social media. You’ve heard this before but have you ever tried it? I have and it helps. A lot. Give it a serious try for a week and you’ll be hooked (or unhooked).
  • Journal. Either free-form like you did when you kept a diary as a kid or try keeping a gratitude journal. Research shows writing down the things you are grateful for daily is therapeutic. Try “The Morning Pages” a pen and paper writing practice espoused by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way (you don’t have to be artistic to benefit).
  • Connect. Health experts say “loneliness” is an American health epidemic with serious health consequences on par with obesity and smoking. Are you tending to your close relationships? If not, make the time. Seriously, go call a friend. Or, if you need to, talk to a professional. Get the support you need and realize you’re not alone because you’re not. We’re social creatures and we need friends, encouragement and connection.
  • Volunteer. A great way to connect with others is through volunteering. Often when we’re feeling down, helping others is a nearly instantaneous way to shift our mental state. We get perspective, purpose and we make a difference in the lives of others. Everybody wins.
  • Move. Take a walk, run or work in a garden. For general stress there is no better way to detoxify than a good workout, whatever that is for you. Get your heart rate up and get moving. Fresh air and nature are a magic elixir for stress.
  • Breathe. Meditate and/or Pray. Be still and listen. What do you really need now? What is calling to you? What changes do you long to make to be happier, healthier and living on purpose? If you have a hard time being still, apps like CALM and Headspace can help you ease into a practice.
  • Sleep. Get more of this brain and beauty treatment. Lack of sleep contributes to obesity, dementia and depression. If nothing else, those are very good reasons to prioritize quality and quantity of sleep. Keep a log, track sleep on your Fitbit or AppleWatch and notice if you feel better when you sleep more. What’s your ideal number (some people need 9 hours – others 7)? Find your sweet spot, set a goal to get that amount and sleep your way to better health.
  • Cat Videos. Pets in all forms are good medicine. Studies show that petting our pets does calm us and makes us happier.  So hug your cat – or dog or watch funny pet videos. Check out this cute kitten – and bat all the bad things away. Laughter is great medicine too!

These are all evidence-based strategies that will help boost your mood, increase endorphins, reduce feelings of isolation and help to calm you in this storm that is this crazy, modern life. And if misery does indeed love company, just know you have A LOT of company.

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