It can be hard enough to get through a typical week keeping stress in check. As we are constantly pelted with troubling news from both near and far, it’s no wonder that many of us feel a sense of grief, overwhelm, and even paralysis.
During times like these, it’s vital that we are extra mindful of caring for our mental health. I’m not suggesting you add yet another thing to your to do list. Self care can be as simple as feeling the rush of happiness from making someone smile, or taking a few seconds throughout the day to pause and sense your breath. Just feeling the breath fill your belly and hearing it go can be enough to reset and refresh.
There’s no shame in feeling deeply affected by what’s going on in our world — in fact, it’s a sign of compassion, and a first step toward action. Sometimes, however, it’s hard to process the gravity or enormity of these types of events, and talking to a friend or loved one (beyond Facebook comments and Twitter chatter) can help. It’s more important now than ever to reach for support from friends, loved ones, or a counselor.
Of course, taking time to destress isn’t easy for most of us. Self care is a practice, and it takes time to become a habit. As I know from playing nurse, counselor, head chef, Miss Manners, and educational and social organizer (among other things) for two young girls while balancing work and relationships, it’s easy to exhaust ourselves caring for others while spending too little time caring for ourselves. If this is true for you, try something that motivates me to care for myself: imagine treating yourself as you would your kids or loved ones. How can you be kinder, gentler, more respectful of your own needs?
Amid a surge in communities struck by violence in past few weeks, we are sharing our top three ways to de-stress when the 24 news cycle gets you down (or overly wound up):
1. Just Breathe
As noted above, there’s no need to stop what you’re doing. Just notice, without judgement, a few (maybe just one) natural breath come and go. If you want to add something to focus on, you can choose a word or phrase to focus on during the inhale and exhale.
I like breathing in “I” and exhaling “am,” the rough meaning of an ancient mantra called “So Hum.” Rooted in the notion that everything/being is interconnected, “So Hum” (aside from being said to be the sound of the inhale and exhale) is as much an incredibly simple statement as it is beautifully expansive, reminding us that we are but one speck amid a huge system of matter. Reflecting our interconnectedness, it is like saying, I am everything/everyone. The notion of “I am” can also center us on the present. To say “I am” is to sit with what is — no matter what that looks like in that moment. It reminds us that in our most imperfect, stressed out, panic-attack-about-to-strike moments, we can accept, let go, and hold space for uncomfortable feelings.
2. Change Your Mindset By Moving Your Body
In a moment of overwhelm (recent world events) or stagnation (staring at a blank page of a grant application comes to mind), I have been known to throw myself in a handstand at the wall. I find that by literally turning myself upside down, so too goes my emotional state. If you’re feeling low, moving your body — it does not have to be upside down — can invigorate you. If you’re feeling like a nervous wreck, the change in perspective and sensation can center you. Whether it’s a few jumping jacks or a few moments in a seated forward fold, changing the energy in your body can center you on the present.
My wobbly handstand is a humbling experience: It reminds me that perfection is an impossible pursuit that only serves to frustrate, that beyond the crisis of the hour or unconscious worry about the future, we all struggle with one thing or another, and in that experience, we are united. We’re all just riding the waves that come along with trying to do our best — and occasionally being smacked in the face by an unseen swell. Whatever the equivalent “change-the-energy-by-changing-your-physicality” movement is for you, give it a try.
3. Guided Meditation
When my well of motivation for self care is dry, relying on a teacher to guide and inspire can “fill my love tank,” as my five-year-old likes to say. The Headspace app is one my favorite mindfulness tools — the free version is great, and you can do it from the privacy of your smartphone (insert headphones and be transported to the present). Here is a 1-minute guided meditation to get started:
Finding your way to the present moment, one breath at a time, is one powerful way to cope with an extra heavy burden of tension. Whether it’s meditation or exercise or taking a walk, find the things that work for you to unload stress. You are worth what it takes to care for your mental health.
What are ways that you take care of yourself? Post a picture below or tweet us at @P4SM.
If you’re having thoughts of harming yourself, please text 741-741 (free) or call 1-800-273-8255.
Chantel Garrett is the founder of Partners for StrongMinds (P4SM). In addition to her passion for prevention of brain-based disorders, Chantel is a marketing consultant, certified yoga teacher and mother to two young girls, seven chickens and one comical cat.