On Saturday I marched in the Women’s March in New York City. I marched because I am appalled, grief-stricken, and terrified by what this election means for the world.
As a woman who works to empower the health of other women, I am particularly concerned with the new administration’s obsession with passing legislation that puts women in medically-compromising positions with very serious health risks. So when I read the full-scale results of the march I was blown away by the staggering global response (ALL SEVEN CONTINENTS!), making it the largest protest in world history. I could cry writing that.
I’m going to be honest — I don’t love admitting this — but I did not realize the depths of our country’s sexism issue until this past election. I knew there was sexism, of course, and I’ve been subject to it many times. Sexually and emotionally in relationships that were unbalanced, in a work environment dominated by men who don’t listen because they spend the entire time you’re talking waiting to reply, bi-monthly in my paycheck. Socially as well, like when I express to someone that I do not want to have children and they respond, “Just wait...you’re not old enough yet. I said that, too, and then when I turned [insert age here] everything changed!” (Yes, sexism can be perpetrated by one woman to another.) Suffice it to say, the politics of 2017 are educating me in a big way.
I was so proud of what our global community of women and women-supporters accomplished on Saturday, and spent the rest of the weekend on a high, soaking up photos of clever signs, teeming crowds, and giddy faces of friends and strangers who proudly and peacefully stood up for gender equality.
Then Monday morning arrived, and the negativity rolled in. I saw female friends over and over again trying to calmly but firmly address negative, unsupportive messages being dropped into their Facebook feeds. I watched one friend try to stave off a family member’s diatribe against her right for reproductive freedom while accusing her of not sharing his religious beliefs. I witnessed another woman stand up to someone who was trying to diminish Trump’s history with sexual assault by sharing her own experience as a sexual assault victim, as evidence that yes, sexual assault is devastating and wrong. As is vile, braggadocios talk in support of it. As is a President who goes so far as to proudly embrace both.
My good mood fell. I spent the afternoon feeling frustrated, anxious, withdrawn, and on edge. I had conversations with these women, where we admitted we felt utterly exhausted by this new political landscape already, and wondered how were we supposed to sustain this energy for the next four years? I went to sleep agitated, which of course meant I woke up every three hours. I’m sure you can guess what kind of mood I was in the next morning.
This is obviously not sustainable for any of us. And if I’m feeling this way, I have no doubt you are as well. It’s easiest in these times to put ourselves last. To let this type of stress consume us in ways that impact our ability to sleep, eat a proper diet, and relax. We can’t fight the good fight if we’re exhausted and emotionally wrecked.
Below I offer six simple ways to recharge yourself, alleviate stress, and tune out political negativity. There’s nothing life-changing about how they read on the page. In many ways they seem simple and obvious. But in daily practice, their ability to relieve stress and create peace in your life is profound.
My challenge to you is to choose at least one of these a day and become an activist for your wellbeing. Even if you have to devote 15 minutes on a Sunday building these acts of self-care into your calendar that week. Allow it to become a ritual, something you look forward to, and can guarantee will be a soothing moment in each day.
Cook something for yourself
It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be a morning smoothie, decadent five-course dinner, or every pie from This Rawsome Vegan Life’s mind-bending dessert lineup, but take the time to mindfully prepare a meal in your home. Cooking is therapy, especially if you focus on making it a relaxing, indulgent experience. Pour a glass of wine or make a mug of hot tea, light a candle, play your favorite music or a podcast, and settle in. Feeding yourself thoughtfully is a gorgeous act of self-love. Plus when it’s all over you’re rewarded with something delicious. No one hates that.
Move your body
There’s a reason people are saying they’re going to spend the next four years in a yoga studio. When it comes to mood elevators, there are few things better than exercise. It releases endorphins, boosts serotonin, gets the blood moving, lifts the mood, improves brain function, and reduces depression and anxiety. It’s also one of the first things to go when we feel down or unmotivated. Yoga, spin, some stretching in your apartment, a long run, a walk with friends — it all counts. And when you're feeling resistance towards getting up and out, be motivated by your future self and how that version of you will feel once you've finished. Have you ever completed a workout and said, “Well, I’m REALLY upset I did that.” Exactly.
Read something not on a screen. Preferably fiction.
One hour before bed. Put the phone away, shut the computer off, stash the iPad. This is your most precious opportunity to prepare your body for peaceful rest. Not only does it give your brain a rest from absorbing information that stresses you out, but these devices literally interfere with our brain’s functioning, making it an actual challenge to fall in a solid, deep sleep. Try as hard as you can to make this a habit. In the meantime, build in time every single day to read something that is printed and not news. This is a gift to yourself. Some days I only have 15 minutes, other days I carve out hours. Even when I think I want to sink onto the couch and binge watch The Real Housewives, or a television show with actual merit, working with my brain and reading literature is a much more positive experience than trying to melt it with TV.
Dehydration is the root of all evil. It makes you tired, cranky, hungry for simple carbs and sweets, it gives you a headache, makes it impossible to focus, hard to sleep, makes you feel weak, supports cramping, and it creates adverse effects when you consume things like coffee or wine. All of these things suck, and they also happen to mirror symptoms of PISS. Drink water. (But not too much right before you go to bed, so you’re not heading back and forth to the bathroom all night!)
Most people do not breathe properly, believe it or not, and deep breathing can help eliminate stress, hunger pains, help you regain focus and clarity, and encourage you to slow down and tune into yourself. When you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed by a situation, it can be as simple as closing your eyes and taking three deep breaths in and out through your nose. Try it out — how do you feel when you have three moments of mindful breathing each day?
Be kind to someone
One of the worst parts of being exposed to negative energy is how it makes us first draw into ourselves, and then radiate that negativity out to others. It's completely counterproductive. It's not healing, it's isolating, and it perpetuates the very stressor that affected us in the first place. When you're feeling your most stressed, take a moment to be kind to someone. Having a positive interaction with another human being reminds you of a few important things: that the world is not all bad, that community is vital, and that you have the power to refuse to own someone else's negativity. Plus, it makes people want to be around you more. And when you're a light in someone else's day that is a big, fat win for humanity.
Part of being affected by PISS is the despair that comes from feeling powerless. No matter what it is, do one thing every day that is purely for your own wellbeing. Even when people are trying to take our rights away, we still have agency over our bodies and minds.
As always, I'm here for you. Never hesitate to reach out.