It's been a long year. There were achievements and disappointments that took a toll on many of us, both emotionally and physically. And now, as 2016 comes to close, it becomes a time for reflection and preparation for the incoming year. Here are 4 methods of self care to consider during this crucial and timely transition:
Taking care of ourselves in a nation that doesn’t care enough about us is a radical act. When we choose to connect to ourselves and our communities even more deeply in the face of tremendous risk, we’re safeguarding our most precious resources.
This is why it is vital that we breathe, maintain our well-being, and keep perspective so that we can act clearly and wisely during these precarious times.
The process of regaining perspective is also called grounding.
Among those of us for whom nature is a prominent part of our lives, we are grounded when we have clarity about our immediate situation, an ability to navigate our choices, and act accordingly.
In other words, if we are grounded, it means we have a sense of balance regardless of what may be happening around us.
Here are four ways to practice.
1. Stay in Your Body
Our bodies tell us everything that we need to know about how we really are. It carries our emotional storage that we can access. And often, we can restore our sense of balance if we release or redirect emotions that are packed inside our bodies.
When I say “stay in your body,” that suggestion is unique to each person. Each of us learns our own body’s language and how to respond to our own body’s language.
The best place to start is to reflect on the ways that you feel connected to or at home in your body. But there are many of us who don’t fully feel at home in our bodies or have experienced trauma so that we are disassociated in certain ways.
To the extent that you are able, recall body-involved activities that you once enjoyed or can imagine yourself enjoying.
Some examples include:
- Joyful movement like walking, swimming, or low-pressure team sports
- Movement meditations like stretching, yoga, t’ai chi, or dance
- Sensual activities, such as baths or hair care
A specific area of focus to stay embodied during the winter is foot care. Our feet are our primary connections to the earth herself. Therefore, the better care that you offer your feet, the more connected you will feel to the ground, and your feet to the rest of your body. Foot care is a sacred practice of many traditions for these reasons.
Consider foot self-massage with a cream or oil that smells and feels nice to your touch. Foot soaks are also tried and true practice. Whether you simply soak your feet in hot water or incorporate essential oils, herbs or scrubs, it is a powerful way to maintain a relationship to your body.
If we are able to treat our bodies with deep care and intention during times of heightened stress, then we gain a consistently better sense of how we actually are and how to devote our energy.
2. Focus On Your Meaningful Relationships
Being held by our most meaningful relationships is one of the best ways to gain foothold. This is valuable time to appreciate the connections that we have, deepen our intimacy with loved ones, and celebrate togetherness during a cultural moment of fear and uncertainty.
Quality time with loved ones allows us the opportunity to be seen and to be held. Reinforcing connection is an answer to political forces that are encouraging suspicion.
If you choose to spend time with your kinfolk, it doesn’t mean that you’re not open to others. Rather, it means that can claim a level of safety and support to contribute toward radical transformation.
Make the step of intentionally carving out time with the people and beings that most nourish you. Set aside enough time to have plenty of breathing room. Choose the most comfortable setting available. Unplug and make sure that there is space to deeply interact.
Of course, there are many for whom this time – the holiday season – surface complex feelings or stories about relationships. We need to assume that the meaning of family, loved ones, and community is storied for each of us and offer support to the parts of ourselves as well as people in our lives who require it. In other words, at this time, it’s all the more important to reinforce connection in the ways that we are able.
For those of us who have strong networks of support, it’s incumbent for us to be community building.
Invite people into your space who you may not know very well, but who share in similar spaces and you trust getting to know better. Create time for tea or hearty soup or a hike.
We can create space for others with a sense of ease. If the space you’re creating feels very stressful, then reassess your approach or own capacity.
Investing into our most meaningful relationships (including ones with ourselves!) can get lost in the post-election reaction. Be sure to measure from your own barometer. Typically, the urgency that follows a destabilizing event is misleading.
There are many ways to wisely and responsibly respond to a crisis – and spending time with those who we trust can play a pivotal role in gauging what’s next.
3. Take Time Away From Social Media
While social media is an essential means of connection for many of us, it’s also a form of consumption through which we fill up, so to speak. We need to give our mind and heart a chance to digest, too.
If we’re constantly filling up with virtual information or interaction, then the feeling of overwhelm is almost inevitable.
We should remember that the ways we consume social media can be a form of materialism. Instead of taking the time to truly be with our feelings, we go onto social media to get the latest news, jump into a debate, or laugh at a meme.
Choosing to intentionally unplug means that we can process or release stress in other ways.
Some strategies that you can try:
- Turning your phone on silent and putting it away two hours before going to sleep
- Removing notifications from your social media phone applications
- Committing to other low-barrier activities during your unscheduled time, such as carrying an awesome fiction book to read (I recommend Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler)
Taking a break from social media in the weeks after the election is especially helpful because it regulates our consumption. We can gain a better sense of how much we can consume and which kinds of information is best for us to consume at a given time.
The key is allowing ourselves an opportunity to discern rather than our engagement becoming a reflex driven by stress.
4. Use Music As Meditation
Music contains tremendous healing properties that can be crucial for post-election life.
On one hand, scientific study is starting to confirm what spiritual traditions have known for a long time: Music possesses therapeutic elements, which evokes emotional responses that can help us relax. We can release our anxiety through music in ways that few other mediums can do so easily.
Music also contains the unique power of speaking directly to the heart.
I use contemporary music, along with sacred drumming, in my shamanic work because the right combination of sounds, rhythms, and words can unlock a person’s subconscious thoughts and surface their buried feelings, almost effortlessly.
Unlike so many other technical forms of meditation, it doesn’t require more than choosing a style, genre, or artist that resonates with your emotional state, and bringing your full attention to it as the music plays.
In particular, if you choose music that is meaningful to you whether because of your life history, or lyrics, or the culture it’s from, its healing can be even more profound.
I can share a personal experience. The weekend after the election, I was returning back to DC from a weekend getaway with some friends in rural West Virginia. I was listening to every podcast that I was subscribed to about the election from polling to media. My body felt tight and my mind was cluttered.
Then, I found Alt Latino’s episode “Post-Election Meditation: Music for Healing.” I turned the radio up so that the music from across the world immersed the car. I immediately felt relief and noticed my breathing again. I was soothed by the time I arrived into the city. I released stress that I wasn’t even aware that I had and was clearer in my thinking.
If you join those whom you care about in music meditation, it can be a powerful way to bring together each of the grounding tips – a way to be in your body, away from social media, to ground into the present moment. Singing and dancing is always encouraged, too!
Remember that to be grounded is temporary. We must be vigilant about whether we have a sense of perspective and balance.
Once we’re aware that we’re not where we want to be, we can return to the practices that allow us to feel more deeply connected to ourselves and our innate power to maintain our well being.
Clearly, our feelings of fear or insecurity probably won’t dissolve over the coming weeks as we await a Trump presidency. In fact, they may grow as we gain a sense of what’s happening and determine which courageous action we all need to take in the names of safety and justice.
All the more reason that we must return back to our earthiness to act wisely.
As long as we can maintain our connections to ourselves and communities, we will find a way to survive and transform.
Originally published on Everyday Feminism.
Richael Faithful is a folk healer and healing artist based in Washington, DC. They serve as Shaman-in-Residence at Freed Bodyworks and are founder of Conjure! Freedom Collective, a constellation of creative healers committed to ending racial caste and creating a love politic.