How do you guard your tender heart while you are still trying to heal your damaged soul?
The breaking news alerts that pop up on my phone are almost never good. It’s always something terrible about our president, or a natural disaster, or, most recently, sexual assault. I don’t know why I have them on at all. Today the headline was “Bill Cosby Gets 3-10 Years In Prison.”
While I am glad to see that Cosby will have to do at least some time for his crimes as a lifelong sexual abuser, I’m not glad to have to read about rape, sexual assault, and guys just regularly wagging their wieners in women’s faces like they think we want to see that nonsense. It’s just too much. Between Kavanaugh and Louis C.K. and Harvey Weinstein and Woody Allen and a high school 10 miles from my hometown, I have reached my sexual assault saturation point. I feel so often these days like my life is a walking trigger – but without any warning.
How do you protect yourself in a world of constant trauma? How do you guard your healing heart while you are still trying to heal your damaged soul?
I don’t exactly know, but I am trying to figure it out. This is more than the “self-care” buzzword. It’s more than “get a massage” or “treat yo’self.” This is not fluffy, this is a fortress for your mental health. For many of us, it is desperately needed. For many of us, it is absolutely necessary.
Here are some things I’d suggest:
1. F*&k The News
My dad instituted “F&*K The News” when I was in high school. He had just had enough of sadness and grief so he turned it off and didn’t turn it back on. At the time I remember thinking that was a terribly irresponsible act, ignoring the world. But now, I see the value in this.
We’re not meant to have constant access to all information at all times. Your brain is not made to handle that level of ever-present overwhelm in a healthy way. It’s ok to take a break, to cut down — even to cut it out. You can’t make the world better if you constantly feel like you’re in crisis management mode. That doesn’t help anyone — especially you.
I recently went one week without news and (if you read that article) you know that it was a wonderful week full of everything except stress about the state of the world.
So turn it off. Turn off the notifications. Stop reading it. Avoid the newsstands. I know from experience, it’s not easy to do this. I also know from experience, it is absolutely worth it.
2. Leave (or curate) your social media.
I don’t think a social media break is ever not a great idea. If you can’t bear the thought of leaving, at least remove or unfollow the accounts that cause you the most stress. You do not owe any person an interaction. Not even your mom.
3. Say no.
Say no to things you don’t want to do. Just say no. To people. To events. To anything you don’t feel like doing.
There is so much power in saying no. Power is a salve for the healing heart. Say no and reclaim it.
4. Alternatively, say yes.
To yourself. To things you want to be involved in. To people who offer to help you. There is no shame in needing help. There is no shame in asking for it and then graciously accepting it. Ask for what you need and then take it from the people willing and able to give it to you.
Our culture loves to make us believe that suffering is some kind of noble cause. That’s bullshit. Don’t buy into that crap.
Do things that make you feel good. Leave the rest behind.
You Might Also Like: Emergency Self-Care: Tips For Loving Yourself During A Crisis
5. Go to (or find) a therapist.
I like to say therapy is my religion. There is not one person whose life wouldn’t be enriched by a good therapist. Don’t settle for a lousy one. Fire every lousy therapist you end up with until you find one who speaks to your soul.
If you are too overwhelmed to go out, Talkspace is great.
I believe therapy is a basic human right, just like all healthcare. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world that agrees with me. This is where the internet is an ally instead of an antagonist. There are online resources for you if therapy isn’t possible right now.
Here is a list of 67 resources for you.
6. Don’t forget your physical needs.
Seriously though, when we are in pain it is often easy to forget that we need care. The most basic of care. Don't forget.
7. Do something that seems simple but is actually magical.
Snuggle an animal. Take off your shoes and put your toes in the grass. Connect to the earth (literally and metaphorically.) Write it out, whatever ‘it’ is (you know what it is), crumple it up and burn it down. Get lost in a book. Get lost in your bed. Hug another human for at least 30 seconds (that’s how long it takes for all the good hormones to get flowing.)
When things seem really terrible, remember that they seem terrible because we are talking about them.
And talking about them is the first step in the direction of change. People are fired up. Women are becoming less and less willing to endure suffering quietly. Change is coming.