It has been months since I’ve written a blog post. After publishing my book “Successful Strokes – A Realistic Guide to Creating a Lucrative Massage Business” last March and spending energy promoting it, I needed to take a break. I have three other books partially written but haven’t decided where to focus my attention. So, taking my own advice, I decided to take time off and just do nothing for a while. For me, doing nothing means taking lots of walks, spending time in my garden and getting lost in a book.
I was starting to feel relaxed. Allowing that void to be empty, knowing that creative ideas would soon form.
Then the election happened and I was totally unprepared for the result. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Really? How could this be possible? There must be some mistake. Is this really going to happen?
My adrenaline, which had settled into a nice, quiet tide pool was suddenly churning in tsunami waves. Suddenly all I saw in my Facebook feed were articles that scared me to death. I felt sick. My stomach was in knots. I no longer needed to watch my diet as I had no appetite. It was immobilizing. All I could feel was panic and a sense of dread.
I want to live in a world that works for everyone. Unrealistic? Maybe, but truly, that is what I want. I know we are a very long way from that ideal, but I have seen over time that the quality of life has improved in countries around the world and slowly things have been getting better. The thing that blindsides us is that technology and communication have made information so much more accessible than it ever was, so we hear about more terrible things happening than we ever did. But, in general, people have more freedom and a higher quality of life than they did, say, 50 years ago.
Things were getting better in our country, too. The economy was better, there was more advancement on human rights and equality.
Then I woke up to an election that favored a man who wants to set us back 70 years, back to times of terror and struggle, who wants to undo so much progress we have made over hard fought battles.
I have been seriously distraught, unable to write or make anything. I even thought maybe I’d start working on a sewing project but realized my creative juice is zapped.
Anyone else feeling like this?
As I sat with this, I knew that it is not healthy to allow oneself to turn into a tight little ball of fear and that I had to keep going somehow, so I tried to analyze what was going on.
I feel like I just woke up in the middle of a dystopian novel. And it’s a cliff hanger.
And that, dear friends, is what’s driving me crazy.
Right now we don’t know what to do because we aren’t sure what’s going to happen. And so we read the scary headlines and we panic and despair.
Uncertainty is hard. When there is a crisis, we figure out what we need to do and we get to work. The surge of adrenaline gets channeled into action. If we see a vicious storm coming, we batten down the hatches and lay in a supply of food. Right now it’s unclear what to do and yet we want to do something.
It is emotionally overwhelming to focus too much on things over which we have little or no control. The key to mental health, is to take action on things where we do have some control and that’s what I’m doing now.
I have taken some steps to cope, and I’m sharing them in case you’d like ideas of how to get through these times as well.
- Take breaks from the news and social media. This has become a major habit of mine, since I’m constantly checking to see what my friends have to share. New rule: no news or Facebook after dinner. I do not need to see upsetting articles as I’m winding down from my day and preparing for sleep.
- Do small, simple tasks that make you feel better about your life. For me, that amounts to tidying up my house, cleaning out drawers and going through piles of accumulated papers to make my environment clean and orderly. I have been getting my garden ready for winter, pulling weeds and mulching the beds. It gives me peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment to see messy things get tidier.
- Connect with friends. During stressful times it helps to channel more love. I’ve been calling people I haven’t spoken to in a while and making dates to get together and that makes all of us feel better.
- Do random acts of kindness. Hug people. Smile and chat with strangers. Help whenever you can. As much as possible.
- Donate to organizations and causes you believe in. I started a few recurring monthly donations to human rights organizations and other places I want to support. Even tiny donations add up and feel good to do.
- Do simple tasks you enjoy. Cooking has always been a way for me to express myself and I especially love to cook during the cold winter months. A couple of times a week I whip up something hearty and satisfying for my family. It’s productive, its fun, and it’s appreciated by others.
- Focus on things you can control. Back in August I started a fitness program that combined healthy eating with exercise and I have religiously kept that up, sticking to a healthy eating plan, doing frequent brief workouts and walking eight thousand steps each day. So far I’ve lost 9 pounds and am almost at my goal. The walks are especially helping as I love walking among the trees and enjoy the patterns of fallen leaves as I go down my neighborhood streets.
- Read good books. Just finished “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. She’s the writer for the TV shows “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.” It’s hilariously funny and very uplifting.
- Participate in things that uplift you spiritually. I occasionally attend Center For Spiritual Living, a non-denominational church that recognizes all religions and spiritual paths as having value. I’ve been going more often.
All of this is helping. And hey, I just wrote a blog post.