Taking Care of Ourselves and Each Other

We recently began a conversation about how we were coping through the pandemic and our socio-political situation. We thought we’d share a bit of that here in case it’s useful to anyone else.

Melissa

In the spring I began making friends with the crows. It takes significant time and patience- but now I can count on them to get me outdoors even if I don’t want to go. When they are hungry, they are loud! Calm and stillness are required, so it builds in at least a few minutes every day to practice those things.”

Heather

“I’ve been letting go of expectations: of myself, of the people around me, and of the world…and appreciating as many individual moments as I can.  I long ago abandoned the “projects I was going to finish during quarantine.”  The only thing I’m demanding of myself beyond work obligations is that I get outside and move as much as possible.  I’ve also started writing real letters to old friends. When I get an actual letter in the mail, it makes me feel like a kid again! When I get down, I read my old standbys: Pema Chodron, Abigail Thomas, Karen Maezen Miller, and Louise Penny. 

I’m cherishing the extra time I have with my children. We are playing a lot of cards and finding funny TV shows we can enjoy together. We are talking about current events. We are educating ourselves about things that don’t get taught in school and donating to organizations doing good work. It gives me hope to hear them say, “our generation is going to change the world.”

Debby

I have increased my meditation practice and this has helped weather the solitude. We have a national Prayer circle which meets online every night and this has solidified my practice, praying daily for friends and world peace. And I try to stay away from news. I read more, sit on my porch with the birds, bees and butterflies. I have loved the additional time in nature. Oh and I am learning to bake bread!! Oh my gosh what fun! 

Diane

My primary conversation with myself over the last number of months has revolved around a question – “How can I love myself through this”. I find that this question keeps me in, and helps me return to, a place of compassion that is also proactive. If I sit with the question – especially in meditation – it clarifies and calms. It helps to get me out of the angst and spin of helplessness and hopelessness. It helps me look at myself and my painful emotions with more ‘kindsight’. 

I sometimes also remind myself that while, staying “positive” is great – and important – but it’s not the only thing that matters. I don’t want to look away from the suffering and injustices I am seeing right now – just because it’s disturbing. While balance is important, I think there can also be great value in temporarily losing equilibrium. Chaos is an integral, and even necessary, part of the process of change and growth. It can be in the midst of the discomfort and the pain of looking ugliness and horror in the face when we find and connect with ourselves in deeper and more profound ways, and become instruments of change. I don’t want to cling to my own peace at the cost of turning away from the suffering that is happening around me because it is disturbing. This perspective helps give me a sense of purpose that allows me to approach the work I am doing, and the grief I am experiencing, with more self-compassion.  

Susan

I have been caring for my parents since March 8. Some weeks more than others. And as much as I love them, I have repeating feelings of frustration, anger and resentment (sometimes at the same time) as the three of us move deeper into what it means to grow older and for the parent/child table to be turned.

I have found it very helpful to (attempt) regular little rituals of self care. Early morning coffee with my cat – I pet her and practice breathing exercises that relax my nervous system. Getting out in the early morning to ride my bike. Soaking in a warm tub at night. 

I have learned to exhale before speaking. Or to not speak when agitated. To also hold on to different fingers (as Diane taught me) – thumb for worry, index finger for fear, middle finger for anger, ring finger for sadness, pinkie finger for self esteem. It’s amazing how well that works! And, if a day comes that I just can’t manage anything remotely resembling self-care, I just let that happen. Eventually, I remember all I have to be grateful for…

Brandy

 I planted a wildflower garden – it was beautiful! With time slowing down I’ve really heard birdsong, crickets and cicadas. Really watch the seasons slowly changing and documented with photos. I’ve binge watched funny series with the family. I’ve never been a binge watcher, but it’s nice to disappear for a while.

I would say the most helpful has been volunteering. For 6hrs, 3x a week I think about other people and how I can serve them. It’s scary being out in the wild; too much hand sanitizer, a string of ocd behaviors just to use the public bathroom, how do I eat ? is this mask good enough? I can run though a ton of reasons to stay home, but I still go and I still love it. 

Blake

Honestly, with this I’ve been wondering.. how DO I cope?? ha. Some days I’m successful. But some day’s I’m really not. Actually, I have a lot of conversations with my next-door neighbor over the fence about that! We confess our struggles, commiserate together, and express relief to hear we aren’t alone in that. On really bad days I keep looking over to see if she’s in the yard. 

I’ve been trying to focus on balance for myself to deal with the stresses of the pandemic. Amongst helping everyone else in my family cope and keep calm, happy and busy, it can be hard to separate out what I need from what everyone else needs. I find being alone recharging: sometimes it’s being outside for my own solo walk, or outside pulling weeds and shoveling dirt, or sitting in a peaceful place enjoying an uninterrupted moment, maybe reading a book. But I have learned that I have to carve these out, make time for them, make sure everyone else knows I need it. 

But then in finding balance, I find that those times connecting with others brings me joy and peace. That can be in the form of reading out loud to my child, doing craft projects together, or those moments we all drag ourselves out of the house for a good long hike on the many shady trails of Greensboro. I especially love the lake trails, and we spend time looking for animals, or interesting plants. Being aware of nature, and enacting all my senses to the world around me helps to bring me out of my head, and it gives us all an excuse to move around, have fun, and get tuckered out. I notice we all sleep better on those nights!

Bianca

Melissa, talking to the crows sounds a lot like me. 

For me, it’s been talking to crows and various other neighborhood critters, including spiders which is very much not like me. Thank God for animals. The dogs and my weird cat have been quite entertaining. 

Lots and lots and lots of podcasts: Armchair Expert, Criminal, Naked Genetics, The Bitter Southerner, Family Secrets and more. 

Experimental cooking. 

Hiking. Mushroom hunting.

Talking to myself a lot. 

It hasn’t been easy and for us extroverts, incredibly lonely at times. But, it’s been a practice to self-soothe, to be comfortable with the quiet, the pauses. 

Austin

I have found a lot of inspiration in volunteering. I have found safe ways to help my community and it energizes me and gives me perspective. 

Moving my body is a must. I run the same route everyday so I don’t have to think about where I am going and it frees me up to let my mind wonder and improves my mood (dramatically). Running isn’t for everyone, but movement is. Just move. 

I pay attention to the news but try to do it in mindful ways by checking in only at certain times of the day. 

I am in constant communication with my friends. I need my people!!!

I watch a lot of Queer Eye. 

Also, … I love Armchair Expert…

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