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  • Alison Newvine LMFT

Self-Care in the Face of Horror

Updated: Jun 23, 2018

Many of our nervous systems are overstimulated from the individual stress of our own lives and from the impact of everything going on in our world. I've been feeling it acutely in recent days, as I know many of you are too. Caring deeply about the world and feeling the suffering of others is what makes us fully human. It can also tax our nervous system, keeping us in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight response. Self-care is essential to remain the deeply caring, deeply feeling people we truly are. When we immerse ourselves, without rest, in the trauma that is literally all around us, our systems become overwhelmed and eventually we lose the ability to engage. We become apathetic and disconnected, not only from one another but from ourselves. Fortunately, a little self-care can go a long way.

I'm guessing that you already know some great ways to take care of yourself, to give yourself a break from the intensity of living and feeling in this world. Many of the suggestions below take very little time and can subtly, sometimes profoundly, impact the nervous system and make you feel better.

* Walk. Even if its only 15 minutes. You'll increase your circulation, breathe more deeply give your brain new input by noticing your surroundings and lift your mood. If you are able, do this in nature, and do it for longer, the more the better. But also give yourself permission to be okay with walking up and down the stairs in your building a few times if that's all you have time for during a busy day.

* Set aside time throughout the day to unplug. It could be 15 minutes every couple of hours or your lunch break. We need to titrate between stimulation and integration of the stimulus otherwise our nervous systems go haywire.

* Notice how you transition to sleep. Watching or reading stimulating or stress-inducing material close to bedtime will interfere with your sleep and you need those precious hours of beauty rest to fully release the physical, mental and emotional holding patterns from the day.

* Be sensible and flexible with what you put into your body. You know you. You know what makes you feel better and what makes you feel worse.

* Drink more water. Because we really don't, most of us, and being under-hydrated sets off physiological alarm bells that increase our stress level without us even knowing that this is the problem.

* Connect with the people you love. Hug more. Take in compliments and appreciation fully. Our nervous systems respond in a truly amazing way to giving and receiving care.

* Connect with Creativity. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece, or anything you even share with anyone else. Collaging, drawing, painting, writing a poem, making music, making jewelry, cooking an innovative meal, dancing... the possibilities are endless.

* Find short stretches, yoga postures or breathing techniques that you can use when you are feeling particularly anxious or distressed. In this video, I share one such technique. This breathing exercise is aptly named, "Meditation to Handle a Grave Situation" and has been super helpful for me in a variety of stress and panic-inducing situations.

Take care of yourselves, and each other.

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