Why Self Care Is Power in Dealing with Uncertainty and Injustice
We can heal the world by starting with ourselves
As a society, we are going through much needed, long due change. #BlackLivesMatter movement is finally “moving” people, helping them acknowledge the truth and take ownership.
The byproduct of this unrest and uncertainty is that we will have to go through discomfort to dismantle the old systems and patterns to create true equity.
It can be difficult to admit the blindspots, mistakes, and biases –whether you intentionally played a part or not. With Covid-19 prevailing and racial-social injustice outcry raising, we are being pushed to realize that we are all connected. Fragmented justice, hoarded wealth and opportunity hurt certain groups first and then all of us.
We are realizing that we can’t afford to neglect the wounds of society or assume it’s someone else’s job to improve the conditions.
Seeing the pain we collectively created is hard, though necessary. Knowing how to respond in the best way isn’t always straightforward. Dealing with freshly exposed emotions like a tangled ball of yarn (guilt, courage, anger, compassion all at once) is daunting.
So, how do we best contribute to the change we desire while experiencing internal turmoil? The quality of our contribution is determined by how we feel inside.
If we can get in touch with our emotions and find a way to center them, we can then tap into courage and clarity. We can uplift other people and help them discern their truth.
Think about it this way: If you are drained and depressed by bigotry and unfairness, you won’t feel the energy to act to make a change. Most people avoid watching the news because they feel bad after doing so –the real reason is they don’t know how to process the emotions/thoughts being evoked in them.
More importantly, Covid-19 and racial inequality have had a disproportionate emotional and mental toll on Black and Asian Americans, spiking anxiety and depression. It must be incredibly hard to reach for hope, let alone go out to protest.
And then there is anger. We see that a lot of people are harnessing anger to push for change. I believe anger plays its role since many attempts to make a systemic change up to this point weren’t heard fully.
In the short run, anger can be channeled for good, mobilizing and waking people from hopelessness. However, when anger is over-utilized, it turns into hate. It damages us inside out. So, knowing how to let go of the anger after it serves its purpose is crucial not only to the individual mental health but to the harmony and peace in communities moving forward. Creating a calm center within is the strongest tool to deal with the external chaos and imbalance.
When we show up strong and clear, we are most useful to our communities. Self-care, although it may sound less important amid drastic need for collective care, is the starting point to doing our best.
Here are a few self-care practices you can use to deal with uncertainty, unrest, and change:
Listen, allow, and voice emotion
Whether you are white or a minority, you are a human first. We all have emotions– sometimes they can be hard to own. When you realize you’ve contributed actively or passively to injustice, the inevitable emotion is guilt, or worse, shame.
As a Turkish woman living in the US, I am part of the minority community. Yet, I can’t claim to know what it’s like to face invisible or visible barriers and oppression because of skin color. I can’t claim to understand the “white guilt” that I see referenced in the media either. But, I do experience confusion and remorse when I think about my actions/inactions in response to social injustice.
Although the burden of experiences and emotions are different for each of us, we all deserve compassion.
Compassion to allow the emotions to raise, be felt, and healed. Compassion for our own blindness and disconnection. That way, the rotting stuff inside that is causing harm outside can be seen and released.
So, find a way where you can voice your emotions without any judgment. You can journal or share it with a trusted friend. Consider these prompts:
I feel responsible for…
I feel <name the emotion> in my throat/heart/stomach etc…
Maintain your mental hygiene
Mental hygiene is an intentional effort to sustain your emotional and mental balance. The only way we perceive and respond to the world around us is through our mental functions. The ability to emotionally regulate, see events objectively, and choose our thoughts and actions all depend on the health of our mental functions. There are many ways to maintain mental hygiene:
Spiritual practices like praying or meditation. Personally, meditation keeps me sane and centered, allowing me to hear my intuition.
Connection with others. Support from family, friends, and community makes us feel safe and loved so that we can emotionally regulate.
Carefully choosing what you consume. Most media material is designed to be sensational and exploit emotion. Monitoring the quality and amount of social media/news material is pertinent in creating peace in mind.
Anchor yourself with the things relatively permanent and positive in your life
When everything is up in the air, anxiety creeps in the psyche. It becomes hard to imagine a better future with so many unknowns.
The truth is life is always in flux. The difference now is that our attention to changes is heightened. It is like seeing patterns you haven’t seen before and not knowing how to interpret them. It is foreign and uncomfortable. Since our brain is wired for survival, it automatically reacts to the unknown with a fight, flight, or freeze response.
The good news is that when we become aware of the brain’s tendency to act automatically we can start to interrupt the patterns. We can train our minds to find balance, focus on the present moment, and cultivate peace.
One of the best ways to do this is by noticing and reinforcing positive things in our lives. Sure, our daily lives look so much different now. But, there are so many other constants that can anchor us; a loving family member, friend or pet, nature that calms our minds or takes our breath away, or a simple object that gives you comfort. For me, my relationship with my partner and journaling are like the eye of the storm regardless of what’s happening in the world.
What unchanging objects/facts/person(s) can I be grateful for in my life at this moment?
What are the positive happenings that I can pay more attention to?
Reach for love and connection
We are not meant to do life alone. The outrage we are experiencing now is an extreme demonstration of how disconnection has poisoned us. What’s interesting is that disconnection happens at the individual level first. When we isolate ourselves avoiding vulnerability and connection, life becomes a hard, dull battle. Feeling unhappy inside creates pain which then leads to neglect, separation, judgment, and even hate towards others. So, to create unity within a community we must start within, finding love and connection.
This looks like both self-love and love towards other beings.
Self-love consists of:
Developing a kind inner dialog and forgiveness
Giving priority to taking care of the body and mind
Feeling deserving of love and care
Maintaining a peaceful mind (most of the time)
Love towards others looks like:
Being open-minded and non-judgmental
Reaching for compassion and forgiveness as much as possible
Revering the life force within each person
Caring for others’ needs
Recognizing yourself in others
Being of service
Being vulnerable and generous while showing an act of love
Showing up for your community; contributing financially, emotionally, or any other way.
And the list goes on. What matters is you find your own way, feeling love inside and out, for that love is the strongest transformative agent. Use the resources already available
For more practical ways to ground yourself and contribute to the change, here are a few resources:
Creative Capital listed amazing resources for education on the Black Lives Matter movement, ways to contribute as well as the wellness sources.
It goes without saying: Black Lives Matter site has similar resources.
This comprehensive Self article lists people, brands, organizations, podcasts to follow
This brilliant Medium article talks about 75 things white people can do for racial justice
A conversation guide for Racism, Racial Equity and Racial Healing with Friends, Family, Colleagues, and Neighbors
As we are figuring out the mess we created, I hope you can find the courage and compassion to face the difficult emotions and conversations so that you can show up honest, open, and powerful to make a change. I hope the change is not only about what “others” must do, but the work we all need to do inside out.