Charles Dickens could be writing current headlines:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”
A surging global pandemic, Mother Nature’s unrelenting fury, unprecedented national division and an imminent election that’s been labeled the most monumental in U.S. history—all these forces are continuing to collide and unfold as I write this column. Rising levels of anxiety, depression, violence and suicide reveal additional contagions infecting our society; and these ills reflect the subtle yet pervasive suffering so many are experiencing.
photo by D. Langhans
This advancing season also seems to provide a mirror of sorts: We all love the vibrant autumn leaves, but their inevitable deterioration strips and exposes vulnerable skeletons, laying bare trees and shrubs that once appeared so robust. The normalcy and certainty of our lives have, likewise, been deteriorating--Our fragile humanity feels brutally exposed by these current tribulations; they strip us of pretenses, defenses and, sometimes, effective coping strategies.
As a wholistic life coach, my strong recommendation during such times is self-care-on-steroids. Healthy habits, particularly around food, sleep, rest and exercise, are especially important when we’re taxed in so many ways from so many directions.
While I’m not a nutritional therapist, I can assert that, rather than using food as comfort and escape, it’s far more therapeutic used as medicine. Like it or not, that truth translates to fewer carbs and more veggies. As a bread/pasta/dessert aficionada, I understand how difficult it can be to limit what tastes and feels so good, especially amidst stress. Rather than total abstinence these days, I’ve found that 1-3 modest bites of yummies in smaller bowls can significantly diminish both my cravings and sense of injustice!
Sleep is often more challenging with heightened anxiety. When our slumber is compromised, rather than judge and resist that temporary state (which actually exacerbates both stress and insomnia), it’s far healthier to embrace our “awakeness” as an opportunity for counting our breaths, stretching our likely over-charged muscles, or reflecting on our blessings.
Speaking of blessings, one of the unexpected gifts of this pandemic has been our forced and extended periods of rest. Many of us have discovered how exhausted we actually are given the 25/7 schedules we typically kept pre-COVID! I have a sign above my studio window that reads, “to rest is to heal.” It’s true. Rest is one of the only times our body shifts from its chronic fight/flight/freeze mode to relaxation; & only then can it marshal its inner resources and heal. I often tell clients uncomfortable with “not doing anything” that, when they rest, they’re actually “doing” one of the most therapeutic things imaginable: they’re allowing themselves to reboot, restore and rejuvenate!
Did you know that regular exercise is crucial, not only for our body, but for our brain and mental health as well? Thanks to all the talented on-island instructors and online programs, a “move-to-groove” goal is easily accessible. And isn’t it wonderful that exercise needn’t be limited to gym-style routines! Dancing and brisk walking in nature are two of my favorite options.
I saved what I consider the most important self-care component for last: Exercise for our brain; mind training is another apt description. Buddha is quoted as teaching:
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.”
Learning how to tame our unruly, typically negative thoughts through practices like “Mindfulness” is one of the most empowering choices we can make, especially during difficult times. That deliberate paying attention to what’s going on around and within us in a spirit of curiosity and non-judgment is a sexy topic these days, and it’s no wonder: Brain scans show that even short, daily doses of formal mindfulness—meditation—literally grow the grey matter in areas associated with self-awareness and compassion while shrinking those associated with stress.
Both formal and informal mindfulness practice helps create an inner pause that allows us to see more clearly below the turbulent surface of our lives. That clarity helps cultivate self-awareness, compassion for self and others, resilience and equanimity (the balanced, nonreactive acceptance of what is), just to name a modest handful of therapeutic outcomes. Can you think of a more useful superpower for these times?
Strengthening self-care practices and skills with more confidence and consistency has never been so important. If you agree and you recognize you could benefit from additional resources, support and accountability this fall and winter, I invite you to reach out using the contact information below.
May I, we & all beings recognize the importance of self-care as well as our worthiness to receive it, especially when we’re suffering through difficult times.
Deb~ Journeys to Healing
Deb Langhans has worked in the wellness field as a coach/counselor, writer & speaker for over 25 years. She currently owns & operates Journeys to Healing on San Juan Island where she offers "wholistic" life coaching, mindfulness & grief recovery coaching, reflexology, Inner Journey Collage© & a developing line of products designed to encourage healthy habits.
Most services are available in Deb's studio or via phone or Zoom. For more information or scheduling, please go to www.journeystohealing.com (website). firstname.lastname@example.org (email), or 360.317.4526 (texts preferred).