You know when you fly they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping anyone else, even small children? Well, it is time to apply that advice to our real lives. Right now and for the weeks to come. We need to make a plan for self care.
On top of everything else 2020 threw at us, a lot of us have been consumed by the election and everything for which it stands. Some of us feel like we’re in the fight of our lives. We’ve called, texted, written letters, protested, showed up and, unfortunately, that fight doesn’t end tomorrow, regardless of the outcome. Not to mention, we likely won’t have that outcome for days, maybe weeks, and possibly months.
We neglect our mental and emotional health constantly. Maybe it’s the stigma, maybe it’s because we feel selfish focusing on ourselves, or maybe it’s because it sounds corny. Whatever the reason, we’re doing ourselves a disservice and ultimately hurting our community.
What does self-care even mean? To start it means that taking time and energy for yourself is essential. Non-negotiable. It’s not selfish to refuel, refresh, relax and feed your soul. It should be part of your daily routine. You cannot truly help anyone else if you’re burned out, depressed, distracted, anxious or angry. Not in the way that you want to.
Full disclosure: I have serious panic and anxiety disorders. Honestly, I’ve been low-key freaking out for years, but the last few weeks the tension and nervousness have been building to unprecedented levels. I’m irritated all the time, I’m not sleeping, I’m feeling overwhelmed and unmoored. And I know I’m not alone. So, it’s time I do something about it. Here’s my plan:
When I wake up, I’ll meditate for 10 minutes. I’m terrible at it, but it will get easier. It helps me breathe and focus on the here and now instead of the ‘what ifs.’ At lunch I’ll take a break and watch an episode of a favorite show that makes me laugh. After work, I’ll go for a walk with my partner to get some exercise and release some tension. I’ve started doing a meal kit service at dinner to get excited about recipes and cook something different every day. After dinner, I’ve started drawing again- first time in decades. I just did the #inktober challenge and it was incredible. The improvement over the month was astounding and the input from my friends, family and even Instagram strangers has lifted me up. I’ll volunteer with a local community organizer to help improve my neighborhood. All of this has brought me some peace and fulfillment, and I’m able to see things more clearly and act more thoughtfully.
My friends are boxing, baking, crafting, learning to brew beer, forming cat meme group texts- whatever it takes.
Breathe. Walk. Exercise. Take up something new. Challenge yourself to develop that hobby or talent you always neglected because there’s no time or because you don’t think it’s important. Take a virtual yoga class, meditate. Bake some sourdough bread. Learn how to play an instrument. It doesn’t matter what it is. Think about something small you can do that is just for you. Try it out. Then build on it.
I recommend something that challenges you a bit but isn’t overwhelming. Try a few things. Take baby steps. It’s how we all learned how to walk anyway. Then commit. Make a plan for what you’ll do daily, weekly, even on those once-in-a-blue-moon “treat yo’ self” moments. And commit to yourself. You deserve it. And you don’t need a reason more than that.
Take care of yourselves so we can take care of one another.
EDIT: The Headspace meditation app has a program called "Weathering the Storm" that is free to anyone. Available on iOs and Android.
The Calm app also has some free features, they're even available after the free trial period ends. Also available on iOs and Android.
I've also heard good things about Serenity, which is free for the most part. Also available in the usual places.
Let us know if you have other good resources! We'd love to share.
- Donna B.
Donna is a staunch advocate for positive mental and emotional health, but she’s no expert. If you’re feeling truly overwhelmed there are resources available to you. Locally there’s 888-NYC-WELL, which you can text or call. Nationally, NAMI is a great organization with tons of resources. You can reach them at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FYI, Here's one of my first drawings in decades:
Three weeks later: