This is the second of four parts.
(2) Listen to Your Body...and Care for It Deeply
Stressors that exceed our capacity to manage them make our bodies go haywire. The volume and intensity of emotion that is currently flowing through the American people is definitely above and beyond our national capability to process in a safe and productive way.
How to stay out of the looney bin?
Listen to your body.
The impact of excess stress is a physical phenomenon. It is not theoretical. It happens in the tissues of our very real, tangible bodies.
One way to respond to what is going on is to stay very much in your head and get swept away in all the anger, fear, anxiety, outrage, etc. Overload the system. Pump your body full of stress hormones which will have a series of deleterious effects on your physical, mental, and emotional selves. The result - a considerably more crazy expression of yourself, spreading the national malaise.
Drop into the experience of your body. Acknowledge it. What sensations is it having? What sensations does it want to have? What does it need to be more resilient? To rise to the challenge?
Provide it a compassionate nest in which to rest, enjoy pleasure, feel, process, heal. Then poke your head out again. Make use of your newfound insights, wisdom, and compassion. Participate. When your body goes "Holy crap! Alarm!" respect its request for assistance. Retreat. Hang out in the healing nest. Repeat as needed.
In this second scenario, the crazy buck stops with you. You show up and participate as the wise version of yourself, spreading your much-needed love. The stress symptoms of your body are not annoyances to be ignored or shoved under the rug. They are cues for when and how to participate.
Overwhelmed by all the ways to #resist? Ask your body.
Sit quietly. Rather than asking your mind whether you should sign petitions, make phone calls, volunteer for this or that, etc, ask what your body wants. Practice humility and realize that you cannot do everything. Trust that there is a role for everyone. Trust that there is a contribution that you can make, sustainably. Do the piece that makes your body feel better. Maybe you are best suited to making art work, or doing admin, or organizing your neighbors.
And sometimes, maybe you are best suited for a nap.
If you are feeling like a wound-up, stressed out, crazy person, there is nothing wrong with you. It is a sane response to an insane situation. Treating your body like crap and expecting it to endlessly suffer harm does not help, it perpetuates the insanity. Taking time to heal and love it up begins to shift not only yourself but the whole world to a more Loving place.
"But wait!" you say. "How can I possibly retreat? Shouldn't I be participating? Shouldn't I be helping?"
Yes, you are right.
The thing is, we are all connected. Healing yourself helps others. Showing up like a tense ball of anxiety doesn't. (But it does feed our ego - "See, I'm helping! I'm good! I'm worthy!" Taking time to heal means we have to believe in our inherently worth...that we are "good" even when we are not "productive"...oooh...juicy personal growth edge there...)
Deep, nourishing, healing work as an individual is a very real and radical way to participate in national healing.
Imagine how different the national mood would be if everyone had high emotional intelligence, and the ability to access support for their emotional reality. It would make solving the problems of the material sort much easier and more efficient.
Treat that body of yours lovingly.
A simple way to start this process is to scan your body before reading or watching the news. (I like to start with a foundational mindset: "Let the news remind me that my love is needed in the world.") Continue only as long as your body can handle it - let tears fall, let anger wash over you, melt with compassion...but once those emotions are clogging the system or feel bigger than you can handle in that moment, it's time for a break.
A key cue to watch for? Tension. Tensing muscles are a sure sign that your body is trying to contain or clamp down on emotion, rather than let it flow through. Tense muscles are one way the body puts emotion into storage - which it then has to carry around until it has the safety to process and let them flow out again. Which is usually a lot messier and more convoluted than just allowing them to flow in the first place.
While there is a time and place for this survival mechanism of storing emotion through tension, it does exact a toll. Tense muscles can lead to really rotten health problems (take it from the lady whose severe muscle tension led to a nasty chronic pain disorder. That was not fun.) So it's good to be aware of when you are letting emotion flow and when you are paying the tension toll and act accordingly.
Cherish your sensitivity. Listen to and LOVE your body.
More on thriving next week!