This post, originally, had a completely different introduction where I talked about all of the mundane things in my adult/parent/privileged life that can make the day-to-day feel heavy and hard. And while I still firmly believe that there is truth and validity in all of our individual and vastly varied, human experiences, I also feel like…. Today, the day after the man who murdered Philando Castile was found not guilty of all charges and allowed to walk free….this day deserves more. It deserves to be honored and met where it is, instead of where I am. His family. His mother. Him. They all deserved more.
So, rather than talk about how to care for myself throughout the real stress that is paying off student debt, and being an adult and keeping tiny humans alive, can we talk about the real stress that is living in 2017 America? In a system that seems to continually uphold the narrative that if you are dark skinned, you matter less than your white skinned counterparts. In a country that has placed a madman at its helm, who thinks nothing of reducing the official communication practices of the “most powerful leader in the world” to tweets and blatant lies told on repeat, while slashing every supportive program for those in our country most in need of assistance. When bomb threats, and mass shootings, and new anti-LGBTQ laws, and yet another long standing and respected institution is silenced from speaking out against the injustice are becoming evermore prevalent – How do YOU get through it? How do you push forward? Activism, letter writing, marching, voting with our ballots, voting with our dollars aside. When shit is really hitting the fan, and it feels like the world is upside down and all you really want to do is burn it to the ground…. How do you keep going?
For me, it is essential that I have a full arsenal of coping mechanisms. Things that help me unplug, find joy, reclaim myself, feel strong again so that I can continue the fight (the everyday battles and the moral ones). I’m talking about self-care, and for our family, especially right now, self-care is non-negotiable. It is vital for our individual health and for the overall health of our family culture. We prioritize self-care the same way we prioritize grocery shopping, paying the bills and packing lunches. And, when we don’t, because we allow other things to take the front seat, we pay. Because, when one goes down, we all go down.
I’m really interested in hearing how this looks for other families, so please share your wisdom. Because, in the end, we all have to live on this planet. We have to find a way to get through this together. I really believe that there are more people who want to live in peace with each other than there are people who want to throw rocks in the path. I have to believe that there is still good in the world and that somehow, we will find a way to overcome this darkness. So, the more brains contributing their knowledge, experience and wisdom, the lighter the load for all of us. Please share, I can’t wait to hear what works for you.
This is what works for us:
- Planned nights out. Chris and I make a point to regularly schedule nights out. Sometimes it’s just a night out for me. Sometimes it’s a night out for him. Often, it’s a babysitter and a night out for the two of us together. Whatever it looks like, it’s become super important for us to have time away from our daily grind, away from home responsibilities, away from our kiddo. This rejuvenating time allows us to connect, have adult conversation, spend important time reconnecting with friends and reminding ourselves that we are humans who need to unplug, relax, and enjoy the company of others.
- Planned nights in. Similar to number one, we make a point to regularly schedule nights in. Many times these evenings will include inviting some of our favorite like-minded people over to share a meal and some laughs. Filling my house with the laughter and stories of the people I love the most, fills my heart with a soul infusing energy that I can’t even explain with words. When things are especially tough, being in my home, surrounded by the love and light of my family and friends heals me in a way that few other things in this world can.
- Music therapy. We are musicians, so some of this is also a natural, inner fire that needs to be released. Kind of like a steam valve we can turn to release tension. For Chris, that often looks like pulling out the guitar or watching a music concert on his phone (this is something that I don’t get, but it works for him so who am I to question it?). For me, it looks like singing in my car, or cranking up the music and having a dance party with Jonah in the living room. I challenge you to not smile while doing your best (or worst – who’s watching?) funky chicken to “Get Down on It” in your pjs. Seriously, it works.
- Workout. I admit it. I’m not great at working out. But, every time I do, I feel so FANTASTIC afterward. So what gives, right? Truthfully, this is one self care tool that I need to use more often. Last summer, I started running in the mornings around a nature preserve close to my house. It was the most beautiful, peaceful time. Often the ground was still dewy and the air smelled so fresh. On my runs, I would be greeted by families of deer, or sometimes groups of wild turkeys scavenging for their breakfast. It was also really perfect time for me to be in my head. Sometimes I listened to music. But most of the time I just enjoyed the quiet and being with myself, in my body, with my thoughts. And that sort of high, elated feeling after a run (or a brisk walk, or yoga, or rock climbing, or dancing – pick your poison). Yes. I need more of that.
- Eat well. Chris and I are self-proclaimed foodies. We are eaters by nature. We love food, and moreover, we love GOOD food. I also happen to love to be in the kitchen trying out new recipes. But, even I have days when cooking is that last thing that I want to do. Luckily for us, we live in a city with unlimited choices of unbelievable places to satisfy our cravings. I have been known to say that I would have a hard time paying $100 for a good pair of shoes or jeans or anything you could wear really (I love my consignment shops) but I would happily fork over a fair chunk of change for a really delicious meal. Add in some great friends and a good glass of wine or brandy and it’s a perfect way to melt away tension, relieve stress and quiet my inner food monster.
- Be still. Sometimes when life really feels like it’s flying around me at 100 miles per hour, the best and only thing that I can do to quiet the din is to just be still. I wrote in a previous post that I’ve come to greatly appreciate and protect my morning routine of sitting in the quiet with just myself, my thoughts and a cup of dark coffee. That one hour in the morning has helped to set the tone for how I want to approach the rest of my goals for the day. That time, (which I have dedicated and promised to myself) has allowed me to tackle the rest of my day from a place of intention and peace. It has transformed the way that I feel and respond to whatever challenges I may face throughout the rest of the day. To be fair, there are definitely mornings when this doesn’t work. On those days, I still try to take a little time for myself (even 15 minutes if possible) to sit somewhere quiet, listen to the breath coming in and out of my body, acknowledge how I might be feeling in that moment (whether anxious, or angry, or exhausted, or peaceful) and remind myself that I am powerful and loved and meant to be here.
- Dream about the future. I recently joined a fabulous Mastermind group for women entrepreneurs. Aside from the fact that it is amazingly restorative and inspiring to be among like-minded, powerhouse females, it’s also given me the opportunity to explore processes and concepts that I’ve never really given formal attention to. One of these processes was to write out what our ideal, our dream, our fantasy life would look like one year, three years, and ten years from now. A lot of our focus related to our businesses, but some of it was about our lives in general. What are our hopes and dreams for the future? Where do we want to live? What does it look like? How does it feel? It was surprisingly uplifting, and motivating to visualize what I truly dream of for the future of my family. Even though it also felt like I was indulging a bit, I was also creating a concrete vision – which was incredibly grounding. I know I will continue to look back on it, tweak it, and daydream a little whenever I need that boost of inspiration and motivation.
- Get dirty. Dig in the garden. Plant a tree. Splash in mud puddles with your babies. Take a pottery class. Do a mud run with your best friend. Why do we have to be so clean all the time? There is something very freeing and surprisingly therapeutic about getting dirty. Give yourself permission to let it all go and just get some mud on your hands. And a little sweat while you’re at it. Seriously. That’s it. It’ll feel good. I promise. And if not….. Well hey, it washes off.
- Take a bath. If getting dirty ain’t your thing, then maybe a nice long soak will do the trick. Set aside at least 30 minutes. I sometimes do this after I put my toddler to bed at night, so I don’t have to worry about any interruptions. I run the water as deep as I can, add in some delicious bath herbs or salts, and a few drops of lavender or ylang ylang essential oil. Sometimes I light candles and listen to music or a podcast. Other times, I bring in my laptop and catch an episode of a favorite show. Sometimes I just sit in the soothing quiet and allow myself to just be. Either way, I’m unplugging, sinking into deep relaxation, and allowing the warm water to melt away the tension. Bonus points if I have a glass of wine or something chocolate.
- Get outside. This kind of falls in line with other things on this list, but the sunshine is amazing and healing. Go to a festival. Take a walk. Sit on a blanket in the park. Take a stroll through the farmers market. Eat on a patio. Roll your car windows down. Sip coffee on your front step. Take your lunch outside. Feel the sun on your face, soak in all that vitamin D, and remind yourself how good it is to be alive. To be here. To be you. And if you need help with this, invite a friend along with you and let them remind you of how essential you are.
- Travel. You don’t have to go far to feel far from what makes you anxious at home. Sometimes just a little road trip will do the trick. Travelling is great for many reasons. It’s like a magical reset button that allows you to completely unplug from your normal life only to return to it refreshed and more ready to take on it’s challenges. Having a trip on your calendar is also something to look forward to. It’s a motivator, promising sweet relief from the day-to-day stress. Travelling inevitably takes you somewhere different, with different people, different food, and different culture. All of this difference is inherently disarming. You’re no longer focused on the things that are weighing you down when you have to figure out how to get from point A to point B, or where you are going to eat dinner, or which National Park you should visit. Getting out of town for a week or for a few days is something that we try to do as often as we can afford it. Having mini adventures to look forward to has become the balm that helps us come back happier and healthier people.
- Talk to people who are different. I heard a quote recently that went something like this, “When I take the time to really get to know people and ask them to tell me about themselves, they are teaching me about them, but at the same time, I’m also teaching them about me.” True tolerance begins with asking questions. Having conversations. Sometimes, tough conversations. But, only if we continue to dialogue, especially with folks who are different from us, will we create that necessary middle space, where we can all lay down our arms and try to coexist. The more we talk, the more we realize how many more things we have in common than we have differences. And the more we connect, the easier it becomes to find those differences less and less important.
I think I could easily come up with another twenty things to add to this list, but instead, I want to hear from you. Tell me what works for you. How are you getting through all of this? I need you guys. We gotta hold each other up.
Can’t wait to hear from you.