Some people get stress headaches. Or skin rashes, or cold sores. For others, it’s stomach battles, or just a crushing fatigue. And some just find their immune system failing them, picking up every little virus that comes around.
For me, it’s usually a flare-up of my TMJ symptoms, which can manifest in crushing neck and shoulder pain. Some mornings I literally can’t move.
The point is, our bodies have many ways of letting us know when we are under stress. And I know that I’m not the only one feeling the physical toll of constant outrage these days. It’s especially rough for women at the moment, and has been since Mr. “Grab ’em by the p***y” occupied the White House. But this week … this week has been especially rough.
As one, then two, then three women stepped forward to levy allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, many women had to relive their own trauma. Even those who’ve never been raped are mindful of the many ways we’ve been harassed, diminished or silenced. The ways our bodies have been judged, controlled and manipulated. The ways that the world tilts against us, and powerful men work to keep it that way.
The unfolding drama on the national stage is compounded by the comments section: where men, some of whom we know in real life, dig in their heels and demand “proof,” reinforcing the reality that a woman’s word is never going to be considered proof enough. Even with a sworn affidavit, even with multiple witnesses.
Then weigh in the gross irony that this man stands to gain a seat in the highest court in the land, and could make a ruling that further controls and manipulates women’s bodies on a scale we can scarcely imagine …
It’s a lot. And it’s making us sick. Literally.
On the one hand, I want to encourage women to keep raging against this machine that works to keep us silent. I want to remind you to resist, to engage, and to speak truth to power.
But also, we need to take care of ourselves. Men and women alike, we live in a toxic climate; the vitriol, the injustice, and yes, the outrage works like actual poison on the body and the spirit. Yes, we need to work for change. But we can’t do it if we’re run down and depleted. Here are five self-care practices for trying times.
- Care for your body. Exercise, even if it’s just a walk. Eat vegetables and take vitamins, and PLEASE get your flu shot (this is for the benefit of others, and not just yourself). Go to bed at a decent hour, even if you have trouble sleeping at night. Maybe don’t watch the news at night. Do some light reading instead, and no screens for an hour before bed.
- Care for your emotional health. If you are reliving the trauma of abuse, surround yourself with people who care for and support you. In the adult professional world, it is possible that you have to deal with difficult people who drain you sometimes. Minimize these encounters as much as possible, and double-up on time with people who give you life. And steer clear of the comments section. Literally and otherwise. Speak your truth, however and wherever you want; but remember that you don’t have to engage, ever.
- Care for your mental health. If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, PTSD or any other concerning symptoms, seek whatever support you need, whether that is therapy, medication or time away. If you are in a religious community or a family system that tells you mental health is not a thing and you just need to pray more and “Be strong …” get the heck out of there. Do what you need, for you, to be well. No shame.
- Care for your spirit. It may sound trite, but: daily prayer. It’s a thing. A blessed, centering, life-giving and meaningful thing. It is not a tool to fix or be fixed by, but a means of finding something holy in the self and the world. It can’t be overstated that a spiritual discipline—whether that is meditation or journaling or prayer in a group or a long quiet walk in the woods—can sustain us through the chaos of the world.
- Care for your community. As you find the time and energy to do so, engage where you can and control what you can. Contribute to something larger than yourself; whether that means volunteering at the food bank, working on a political campaign, tutoring an at-risk youth or helping out at your church. Focusing on the needs of others for a time not only puts some good into the world, it can change your mindset and give you energy. Most importantly—”doing” some tangible good is empowering. Take some of your power back from all this ugliness, and help others at the same time.
When the days are dark and the news is ugly, we can be proactive in caring for ourselves, and live to fight another day. And while we’re at it—let’s take care of each other too. It’s rough out there, folks. Stick together.