With the current humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine, I’ve been feeling a sort of exhaustion that doesn’t come from my daily routine, it’s more an exhaustion swirled with existential dread. I think former Tending the Hedge subject Sara Calvarese said it best recently in a post about chronic stress, “The world is hard & we are tired.” If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please know you’re not alone.
I don’t believe I have any particular insight that has not been explored, but as a business focused on radical self-care, I want to share my experiences. I often think of my self-care practice as concentric circles that build upon each other, like the Fibonacci sequence/golden spiral, or a beautiful shell.
In the innermost circle is caring for yourself in the most immediate sense. Some of the questions I ask myself here are…
- Am I hydrated? Have I eaten something in the last 4 hours? I see a lot of judgement around food in wellness and self-care related spaces, a focus on “clean” eating, etc. If you’re in a place where all you can manage is a pint of ice cream, no shame.
- Have I taken any necessary medication/supplements? Remember, always consult with a medical professional before taking any medication or supplements.
- Am I rested? This is a big one for me, I’m someone who doesn’t function well when I’m overtired, and my pre-sleep ritual, which includes Somnus dream balm, has become sacrosanct to me. Do what you need to get your 7-9 hours, and try not to overdo on caffeine if you’re not meeting that goal.
- Can I engage in joyful movement? Go for a walk, do yoga, hoola-hoop for 15 minutes—don’t push yourself to do a triathalon (unless that’s your thing!), just explore the sensations that come up when you’re moving.
- How can I make space for mindfulness in my day? I really believe that having a mindfulness/spiritual practice can anchor us in challenging times. Meditation, reading tarot, journaling—explore what feels best for you.
- How can I support my mental health? Say it loud, say it proud: THERAPY IS FOR EVERYONE! I don’t think it’s at all hyperbolic to say that I am here today thanks to therapy. Do you need to talk to someone? For my sober friends, sometimes an AA/NA meeting is a lifesaver. Sometimes folks need something else, and there are resources ranging from “You Feel Like Shit: A Self-Care Game“ to The Depression Project to Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Whether it’s a monthly check-in session with a counselor or an immediate crisis intervention, know that you are not alone and that there is no shame in needing help.
I believe that it is after this first circle where our cultural focus on self-care stops, and I believe falls short. There have been times when doing the first circle felt like all I could handle, and I want to honor that reality for others. But self-care is not just about staying hydrated and finding time to chill—it’s also about conscious engagement in our relationships and our environment. In the second circle we explore these themes, asking questions like…
- How is my environment impacting me today? Sometimes I need to give myself some grace and leave dishes in the sink or laundry unfolded, but sometimes these things can make me feel worse. I have found it very helpful to set a timer for 20 minutes and do whatever I can to clean up during that time. At the end of the 20 minutes, I continue for another 20 minutes only if I feel it’s helping, and if it’s not, I give myself permission to stop without guilt.
- Are my needs, desires, and boundaries respected in my relationships? This goes for our personal platonic and/or romantic relationships as well as our professional relationships. Therapist and author Nedra Tawwab does great work around these topics, and I can’t recommend her work enough. So often self-care is limited to things like relaxing bubble baths, and don’t get me wrong, I love baths. But I believe it is more important to build a life in which we do not feel the need to escape or avoid interactions/relationships. And this leads to my next question…
- Can I turn to someone who loves me? Friend, family (of choice or of origin, define as you see fit), intimate partner(s)—turn to someone who loves you and cares about your wellbeing. If they are someone trusted and you have respectfully confirmed that they have the bandwidth to listen, talk about what’s going on with you. Too often I have found we can feel isolated in our own experiences, unaware that those we care about are feeling or have undergone something similar. If you’re not up sharing, be honest with your friend/loved one—sometimes we need to lose ourselves in something completely unrelated, and I deeply appreciate the friends who can say, “Okay, if we’re not going to address XYZ today, let’s focus on ABC for now.” And remember, hugs are magic.
If you’re feeling like you’ve got the first and second circles under control, well done, you! That is a legitimate accomplishment, but I don’t think it’s where radical self-care stops. In recognizing our interconnectedness, our mutuality, we understand that helping others helps us as well. I’m not talking about engaging in white saviorism or doing something helpful only for the positive feedback, but I believe that giving of ourselves to the collective can make us feel better too. There are always ways to give back, but focusing on the specific crisis at hand, here are a few ideas…
- “Here’s how you can help the people of Ukraine,” NPR
- “How to help the people of Ukraine,” The Cut
- “13 Ways to Help the People of Ukraine Right Now,” Forbes
It doesn’t need to be financial—educating ourselves, sharing only fact-based information, and sharing our concerns with our reps in government are free options that can help. If you do have the means, there are some great organizations that are making a difference right now. I gave to CARE, “one of the world’s oldest humanitarian aid organizations… poised to help at least four million Ukrainians with immediate aid and recovery in the form of food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support services, and cash assistance.”
It can feel like our help is just a drop in the ocean, but remember, persistent water drops can wear away mountains!
SHOP TOOLS FOR SELF-CARE
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or a mental health practitioner, and share for information purposes only. My sharing is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and cannot be relied upon for care. Please consult with a licensed medical and/or mental health professional regarding your wellness choices.