It’s been a week since I posted my letter to Jennifer O’Brien. I shared it in exactly 3 local mom groups. The same 3 places I share all of my blog posts and get *maybe* a few hundred views on a very good day. I expected much the same on the letter, but instead it went viral.
I am blessed that I was given the words to express what I wanted to say to the family. I had so many feelings and released them in one of the only ways I knew how. I meant every single word and will continue to mean them. My offer of support in any way I could possibly be useful stands with no expiry. I am humbled by the amount of people who have echoed these sentiments – sometimes the most powerful displays of love and community come in the face of extreme tragedy. I had several comments from people telling me I had articulated exactly what they had been feeling but couldn’t quite form into words. Several more sending their prayers and thoughts to the O’Brien and Liknes families. The Huffington Post asked me to reblog it on their site. Quite frankly, the post took on a life of its own and I hadn’t expected it. And then I realized. More than vaccinations, or postpartum woes or Matt Walsh – this post resonated for people. This was raw. This was too close to home. This was more than just a scenario, a what-if. This was real. This was heartbreaking.
We were all affected by the horrific events of the past few weeks. We are still affected, still processing. It doesn’t matter if we personally knew the people involved – it still hit home. And in doing so, it can stir up a lot of feelings, anxieties and stresses, perhaps completely by surprise. Self-care is critical to our well-being always, but maybe even especially in the face of this (or any) tragedy.
So, how do you do it? Well, like most things in life, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy here. My solutions are yoga, writing and copious amounts of napping. If that sounds dreadful to you, that’s not your solution for self-care. You need to find what soothes your soul and do that. Need help? I’ve provided some tips for self-care below. Take what you need and discard the rest.
Feel the feelings.
Allow yourself to feel what it is you feel. There’s no ‘right’ emotion, and it looks differently for everyone. Trying to force sadness when you are actually anxious won’t help the process. Accept what emotions come to you, acknowledge them so you can start to let them go. If burying them is necessary for self-preservation at the moment, do that. We all need to survive. Just as a caution, though – emotions have a sneaky way of resurfacing ten-fold when we supress them too long.
Talk to someone.
Friend, spouse, family, pet. Having a sounding board can make all the difference. Even just saying what we’re thinking out loud can be immensely helpful. I personally find it useful to lay out what I need from my person in advance so I’m not stuck with a Mr. FixIt when really all I wanted was a sympathetic ear. A simple “Hey, I need to talk and I just need you to listen instead of offering solutions, okay?” can go a long way. Or the other way around if you are indeed looking for input. If you don’t feel like talking, try a journal instead.
If you find yourself consumed by your emotions, unable to function or if you just need a more skilled ear to help you work through your shit, consider seeking the help of a professional. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it, and most employers will foot the bill.
Or yell, scream, hit a pillow, etc. Sometimes a physical release is the perfect compliment to an emotional one. I took a bit of heat for my language in my letter but I was staying true to myself and my own way of processing. It isn’t meant to be insensitive. Sometimes things truly are fucked up and no other words will do it justice. I think it’s okay to say so. If you need an unconventional method to aid your healing, take it. Only you know what you need.
Find what soothes your soul. Then do it.
Not tomorrow. Not someday. Now. Got the urge to take your dog for a walk? Stop reading right this second, put on your shoes and go. Like to run? Hit the pavement and only stop when you need to. Just want to curl up and read a book? Find your comfiest pajamas and get cozy. What nourishes me may not nourish you. Find what your thing is and go do it. You owe it yourself to take care of number one, so that you can continue to take care of all the other things and people that need you.
Check the stats.
If you have an analytical mind, it may be useful for you to look up the statistics of whatever it is you’re feeling emotional about. Sometimes knowing the odds that your concern will become a reality helps you to prioritize where to spend your energy. Also, ask yourself if your worry puts those odds more in your favour: chances are the event is exceedingly rare in the first place and your worry does nothing but rob you of your joy.
Above all, don’t feel badly for taking care of yourself or for asking others to facilitate it. It’s critical for all of us.
Tell me – what do you do to practice self-care?