Letting ourselves of the hook…
I’m hearing from so many people about anxiety and stress and overwhelm. I’m feeling much of this myself and for all of us there is not really an end in sight, no solid finale on the horizon, just more unknowns. This is nothing new of course, but in the face of the ongoing and very real threat to our health in the form of COVID, the deep discord and chaos within our largest systems and institutions and the resulting suffering of our friends and neighbors is quite frankly a lot to deal with. Then top it off with climate chaos finding its way closer to home plus the everyday “regular” trials that life throws our way and we have a recipe for very real daily distress. And distress, anxiety and overwhelm are totally normal and healthy reactions. So…what to do?
Imposed transition requiring attendance in the liminal space of grand change is destabilizing, disconcerting and discombobulating. For some folks, the tendency is to leap into action. To “do” something. For others, the tendency is to withdraw and to shut down. Both may serve us well but are unlikely to be sustainable over time. Finding equilibrium as individuals, as communities and as participants in the life of the planet can be incredibly challenging. So, I’m encouraging everyone I know to find ways of extending kindness, softness and grace toward themselves and others in the coming months. I for one have been working to give myself and everyone else a break and the benefit of the doubt. I am finding that lowering or letting go of my expectations altogether – of myself and others – as I muddle my way through all of this has been a huge mental health saver for me. In my humble opinion, we’re all doing a really good job given what is going on! Go us!
I’ve recently come across this concept of “Surge Capacity” and interestingly enough, when I looked it up, it is associated with medical systems and their capacity to cope with large-scale health events (like COVID). We are seeing echoes of this concept in other public support systems (the postal service and firefighting for example). The article linked above describes a personal version of surge capacity which I think is a valuable idea as we find ourselves mired in a confluence of overwhelming circumstances that fall largely outside our realm of control.
Part of our cultural story involves us all stoically marching forth “in spite of it all” or even better – improving ourselves in the face of challenging times (even the Surge Capacity article talks about “building resilience” as we struggle to simply cope). And it’s true, many of us may look back on these challenges as we have on previous ones and find ourselves grateful for the travails, for the lessons learned and the clarity gained. But at the moment, we have every right to simply be. To do Nothing-On-Purpose or to “do” only the minimum. I suspect that most of us understand that the hunkering down, the grieving, the comfort-food-snacking, the pausing to check in on friends or finding other ways to support folks in need instead of “soldiering on” is necessary. Not for self-improvement but for self-care – self as individual and self as part of a larger community. And that deep grounded care is chock full of no-expectations and often no “action” – only presence. Allowing ourselves an hour, a day, a few weeks…. longer if necessary or possible…to re-group, rest and recombobulate before carrying on is needed more than ever these days and I hope that we can all find a way to support this for ourselves and those around us.
If nothing else check in with yourself, ask yourself what you need right now and then see about allowing that to happen. I think that ice cream for lunch is an excellent choice when the world is aflame and that things often look and feel better after a decent nights sleep or a good nap. I welcome any thoughts that others have on ways to shift our expectations of what is needed in these odd times.
If you are moved to support folks affected by the fires, the links above will offer some ways to help. I’ve added another below. It’s a pretty comprehensive list.
Wishing you all an abundance of ease and grace and fresh air and naps.