What is your position on the news these days? Do you read/watch it, or do you prefer to keep yourself insulated from the horror of the 24/7 news cycle? Things are really intense right now; the economy is rigged in favor of the rich, the white house’s policies skew racist and in favor of corporate interests, and misogyny and a culture of violence permeate every aspect of daily life.
It’s exhausting, isn’t it. Especially getting information from the internet. The easiest thing to do is keep your head down and just push forward, tuning out the news of the day as if it didn’t exist. But many of us want to stay informed. Even if our goal is to seek out local news or even human interest stories, we have to wade through and endless sea of vitriol and terror. Personally, I read the news every day because I write for a few different media outlets and I need to stay generally informed. I’ve been spending less and less time on social media, but there is still an aspect of what I do for a living that necessitates some kind of consistent presence there.
Since I am beholden to exposing myself to the awfulness of the internet (I don’t have tv, which is definitely it’s own kind of awful), I’ve thought a lot lately about how to protect myself and keep myself sane and at least somewhat happy in the face of the global hellscape of 2018. There are some things I do to keep my emotions healthy – so I thought it might be a good time to share them, particularly as we careen headlong into midterm elections this fall. A holistic view of wellness includes mind, body and spirit.
MOVE! Move often! It is absolutely remarkable how much tension and bad energy our body can hold on to for us if we don’t move it through with some kind of physical program. Dance, yoga, plyometrics, running, biking, rock climbing, swimming, whatever your favorite kind of movement is, do it! I obviously love coming to the studio to shake out emotional pain, but I also love to cook and “putter” around in my kitchen, it’s own type of movement. It’s comforting to do something I do well and enjoy the feeling of muscle memory taking control so my mind can rest. Other times, learning new choreography or focusing on isolating muscles is a great way to give your mind a break from thinking about the world at large.
Immerse yourself in mother nature. I am a well known hoarder of house plants and weird stuff I pick up on the forest floor. I love feeling like every room in my home has a tiny jungle in it. Plants, bones, branches, stones, feathers, they make me feel relaxed. One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday is to “borrow” my two best dog friends and go off into the woods for a few hours. It is so comforting to remember that the Great Mother is always holding us, and that the world beyond the tree line is just a construct – it has no meaning outside of that we assign to it. Watching the dogs go wild and tap into their ancient selves – chasing, sniffing, running, being a part of “the pack” and protecting me – reminds me of my ancient self. It’s easier after a touch with this experience to remember that my personhood and my spirit do not have to be affected by others unless I allow it.
Set a firm time limit on how much internet you will consume. This is a big one. So many of us will abide by a 30 minute lunch break at work, setting time limits on personal space and relaxation, but then spend all night endlessly scrolling through Facebook. Set a timer! Look only at the things you find most meaningful and important. Just because the internet is there does not mean you have to let it in any time the impulse strikes. Treat it as you would any other toxic pleasure, and set limits on what you will allow in.
If a disaster or some other big event happens, wait a few hours or days to inform yourself about it. I remember last summer – right around this time, August 12 – thirty people were injured and one was murdered at the Charlottesville rally. I received a call from a good friend who was upset about it. After I hung up the phone, I had to work to resist the urge to get on the internet and read about it. The thing to remember is that the huge reactionary emotions that set in immediately after a trauma are very, very heavy. And you don’t have to take them on by going on the internet and reading strangers’ emotional reactions. It’s always a good idea for our emotions to take some time after experiencing something important before we respond to it. I often find that if I give myself time to think through something, my gut-reaction emotions pass and I can approach things with more kindness and perspective.
Set an intention to consume GOOD news too! There are plenty of web sites and social media accounts that are either dedicated to or make room for wonderful stories about good people doing good things. Read them! Just because a lot of bad stuff is happening doesn’t mean that there aren’t also good, heartwarming, gentle and compassionate things happening too. And mix a little humor in! This twitter account that only posts positive memes is the ONLY twitter account I read. It makes me feel like a million bucks and it makes me laugh. Win/win.
Do something that impacts someone positively. It is not grand gestures that fuel human interaction, it is tiny kindnesses and small details that characterize who we are and how we affect the world. Fear can often paralyze us; we think that no matter what we do, we are vulnerable and at risk for more pain. Turn the tide!
There are volunteer opportunities aplenty in Maine (and everywhere) to connect with and help people who need it. Or just help a friend. You don’t have to solve big problems, but you can do whatever is available to you at that time to help someone. A ride to the airport, a kind and supportive text in the morning letting them know you care if you know someone is feeling down.
Listen and ask questions. I think that one of the biggest issues that the internet exacerbates is that, because we have the ability to feel an emotion and instantly express it, we’ve forgotten that emotion and fact are not the same. Sometimes I don’t know what’s right or wrong, but I can always ask for the opinions of others – particularly other people who haven’t had the exact same life experience as me. Hearing that others have different opinions can make you feel better about things – and asking because you don’t know how to feel about something is nothing to feel bad about.
Lastly? Breathe. In yoga and other movement practices, there is always a focus on the breath – there’s a reason for that! Breath helps us control our body as well as our mind. There are a lot of breathing techniques out there if you want to control your anxiety. If you feel a panic setting in, take a step back and spend 90 seconds just breathing.
Remember, we’re all going to be ok! Things will be how they will be, and no matter the outcome, if we do our best and live with intention and integrity, our contribution to the world will be positive; our legacy will hold good things.
There are two wonderful workshops coming up that can help with the intention to protect ourselves – Stacie’s Meditative and Multi Sensory Yamuna Ball Rolling workshop on August 17th, and don’t forget about Liz’s Graze for Peace flow in Durham on August 19th! Getting outside, being with the animals, moving and breathing is so good for us. Sign up here! If you can’t make it up there, I look forward to seeing you in the orange room soon.