How are you? How are you handling the events of the past three months?
There is so much going on in the world and in our communities right now. The Covid-19 virus, the grief and outrage over rampant police violence, political unrest, and the other pandemic - stress.
I write this not to distract from the other things going on. I write to bring your attention to the well of your energy to deal with these global issues that hit us all where we live. While our attention has been on these nightmare plagues, we have been ingesting and living in rising levels of stress.
It is manifesting in boiling point thoughts and emotions, roller coaster energy and physical damage. We are acclimating to the stressors of life. Sure we may be doing something about it, but some of those things are detrimental to wellness if we don't recognize what we have normalized.
Maybe we are numbing stress with alcohol, food and things that help sooth the rawness. Maybe we are finding solace in escape - books, Netflix, the internet, or complete retreat and shutting off. We normalize it by laughing it off and seeking more of it.
Some are looking to healthy ways of treating the mind, body and spirit - exercising, meditating, eating well and putting angst into social activism. It's important to remember that overdoing these healthy things can also be a numbing mechanism.
Some have partaken in all of the above. We've had a lot of time to explore out of interest, need and boredom. Maybe we recognize ourselves in this game of numbing.
Stress is seductive and sneaky. It is dangerous and
is wearing us down. I have read over the past several years that we are living with higher levels of fight or flight and have actually normalized that. We are adjusting - yes, but ceding to this kind of stress comes at a cost. It is damaging us physically, energetically, emotionally and mentally. The toll of this will undermine our ability to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, to make sense of political and social unrest and our own personal contributions to support positive change. It will undermine our ability to grow positive change in our own lives coming out of this global Staying at Home.
This is very much about "putting the mask on ourselves so we can help others." And let's not confuse this with wearing a face mask. This is a gut check on what is stressing you and what you need to do to address your personal stress levels. This is putting aside our cavalier attitudes of "I've got this" and being compassionate to ourselves. How can we be compassionate and effective in the world ravaged by these pandemics if we can't see, care for and lift up ourselves?
I'll share a personal example. I like to think I'm scrappy and when the going gets tough, I get going. I am, but at a cost. A recent routine medical check up shows that my kidneys are taking the brunt of my strong will. This is ironic, since the Kidneys house our Will. This was certainly a wake up call that even though I thought I was managing and taking time for some self caring, it was not enough. My stress levels were higher and deeper than I reckoned. While my doctor says not to panic and no rush to get to a specialist for treatment, I am taking it seriously and examining how I got here. I can see contributors to this that I stubbornly stepped over - for years - a daily dose of Advil to get through back pain/sciatica and other over-use stress I put on my body, not drinking enough water, pushing through when I was tired...all the things I was cavalier about. And yes, the four cases of snack size Cheetos and 12 lbs of Twizzlers consumed over the last 4 months didn't help either. Damn you, Cheetos and Twizzlers!
I'm no one special. This is happening to all of us. Maybe not with Cheetos, Twizzlers and Advil, but what are we blatantly ignoring in our own true self reflection and self care?
This Covid-19 pandemic and George Floyd's unnecessary death are disruptions to force us to change - to get out of the comfortably numb grooves we have lived in. This is a wake up call to notice the things that need to be taken care of like the political unrest and now, most poignantly, the social unrest that is now vocal, active and gathering the attention and energy it needs to make positive change. It is also the wake up time for examining how we live our lives. How much garbage are we avoiding and shoving deep down? How much of our stress is self inflicted? What are we doing to really take care of ourselves and those around us? What are we doing that puts us in bubbles where we shield ourselves from things that make us examine what we are doing, how we are acting and how that impacts those around us?
My wake up call has me examining how much time I devote to work vs home. I am looking at what I am eating and why. I am reflecting and seeing the path I have dragged my kidneys down. I am reflecting on my own behaviors that invite stress. It's not pretty. It reminds me of when I was a kid. I didn't like to wear my glasses. Who did in 4th grade? My father would inspect finished chores to determine when we were done and could go out to play.. "A job well done is worth doing well." My dish washing wasn't up to snuff. I took issue with that and fought him, but when I put on my glasses, as he suggested, I could see that I wasn't seeing everything I needed to see. I hadn't done the chore to his satisfaction - only mine. And when I saw that, I wanted to not fight, but to do better - because I could.
Life is opening up slowly but surely. With the time we have left with this staying at home, can we see where we are in terms of our own stress levels and set an intention to take better care of ourselves and ultimately others? Can we recognize the price of ignorance? Can we recognize that life will be hard and stressful going forward? Can we recognize the need to have the fortitude to move forward, not feeding the same old crap that got us to this place of political and social unrest and disfunction? Can we vow to take better care of ourselves and others beyond the superficial?
Yoga, meditation, walking, hiking, biking, running, writing...there are so many ways to find yourself and to sit in the truth about the effects of this other pandemic. Find what works for you and do it. Do it with kindness, without violence, without judgement. Do it with compassion.
The vaccine for this pandemic is self awareness and compassionate actions. If we administer it consistently, frequently and mindfully, it will then be available for us to apply to the other pandemics.
Take care and be well. Do what you can do to create peace for yourself and others. Remember, we are all just walking each other home.