I know these are difficult times for many of us, as women.
There is an emotional current of uncertainty for our future mixed with waves of fear and anger. No matter what side of the political spectrum you fit, the recent events may be negatively affecting your health and increasing your pain!
There are a few practical mindfulness tools that I want to make sure you have in your tool bag to ensure that you are proactively addressing emotional stress.
Trust me, the time to tend to your emotional needs is now. Whatever they are, it’s OK. The purpose of this practice is to help you acknowledge what is going on inside and cheer you to keep moving along your rightful path to peace and wholeness!
First, let me assure you that if you are feeling upset about the current political climate, you’re not alone. In 2017, the American Psychological Association found that more than half of all Americans reported the political climate as a very significant source of stress and 2 out of 3 people felt uneasy about the future of our nation, Democrats and Republicans alike. I would be willing to bet that those numbers are much higher now with the various controversies that have developed over the Summer and Fall of 2018.
In my 1×1 work helping women navigate chronic pain, I find that more so lately we are going back to the basics to make sure essential self-care needs are being met. Symptoms that have been managed well for a while are creeping back in. Headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, anxiety, pain, and tension are on the rise.
It breaks my heart that women are facing such collective suffering, even more than what already comes from living with a chronic health condition.
It seems like overkill to address the reasons women are experiencing distress, but just in case you’re in doubt I’ll list a few.
- Women are more than twice as likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and PTSD or have an eating disorder.
- Women face more abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.
- In researching for this article, I learned that rape within marriage was legal until the mid-1970s! Seriously?
- Add to that the fact that people representing us in political office are 80% male.
- Sadly, there’s still a major disparity in workplace equality and treatment of pain in health care for women.
Women have been playing the “catch up game” for decades and it continues… it’s exhausting and for some women may cause an underlying sense of vulnerability and vigilance.
Mindfulness Tools for Stress Management
I am always saying that there’s no such thing as “stress reduction.” That’s because I believe that living in our modern society is inherently stressful. Instead of striving for the elusive state of “balance” I recommend learning smart tools to manage the ongoing stress of life.
In the Mindful Pain Relief Method, the first step to changing what you’re feeling is to learn awareness skills. That means that you can tune into the subtle changes of what’s going on physically, emotionally, and mentally and develop the vocabulary to label the states that arise. When you can turn off the noisy mental chatter and listen inward, there’s abundant information your body is communicating.
It starts with the “Check-In” practice. Stop what you’re doing and take 3 slow breaths. Really pay attention to the fact that you are here now – simply breathing. Notice your physical state of being (at this moment) and label it. Some might say achy, tired, sore, heavy, or energized, light, strong. There’s no wrong answer!
Do the same thing to notice your emotional and mental states right now.
Are you feeling emotionally sad, lonely, fearful, anxious, angry, or frustrated? It’s ok to acknowledge that. How about your mental state? Are you mentally fatigued, foggy, or dull? Own it!
Stay present to what you’ve noticed from your check-in for a few moments (without judgment). Do you notice any tendency to shut down or distract yourself away?
After seeing more clearly what’s going on inside you (aka mindful awareness) now it’s time for a compassionate response.
It’s sort of revolutionary, but I want you to do something that is self-loving…right now.
By that, I mean that I want you to do something that honors what you noticed in the check-in practice. Similar to what you might suggest to a friend in your situation, but this is about YOU.
So often, clients are willing to give their loved ones everything they have, but when it comes to being just as generous to themselves they really struggle. Does that sound familiar?
What is a simple act of self-kindness that you can take right now to help regulate what you’re experiencing?
How about the warm, loving touch of your hand on your cheek? Saying something sincere to yourself like, “You’re hurting. It’s ok to feel this way.” Or something friendly like, “You’re not alone. Other people feel this way too.”
The key is to acknowledge your experience without minimizing it or being critical.
For many women, being compassionate and gentle with themselves is a new and almost radical practice. That’s because far too many of us don’t have positive role models teaching us what strong emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life. Instead, we have grown up learning from women that are unconsciously embarrassed about their bodies, minimize their emotional needs, and deny their self-worth.
Here’s the thing. You are downright AMAZING. Everything about you is a miracle. You give, give, give. Now it’s time to receive and to do so first from yourself. There is no act of kindness greater than this.
There is nothing more healing to the world than the ability to reflect inwardly, acknowledge what is truly arising, and feel safe responding to your own needs.
So take wise action. Don’t just read these words. Do something now!
Know Your Limits
There comes a point where you need to understand that the media is pumping out drama to amp up your nervous system so you feel driven to continue watching. Don’t let the media doop you. Turn. It. Off.
It’s very important to be mindful of how much news and social media is ok for your nervous system to tolerate. It’s also important to be smart about when you consume it.
First thing in the morning and before bed are absolutely unhealthy times to be scrolling your phone or reading news. Trust me that you can make big strides in repairing your stress response and sleep cycles if you avoid media in the hour after waking and two hours prior to sleep. Recognize and resist the temptation.
If you feel very sensitive to the news lately then consider a digital detox. Choose a duration that works for you to turn it off and keep it off. Sometimes 24 hours away (from screens, magazines, newspapers, and radio) can feel very refreshing and other times it may be best to go for 72 hours or more without any exposure.
Be Mindful of Your Coping Behaviors
Coping behaviors are the things that can get you into trouble. They can be the driver of unwanted pain and other symptoms, especially insomnia.
At some point in the past, we all chose the coping responses to stress that seemed like the best choice at the time. Unfortunately, what happens is that the decision went on auto-pilot and gets repeated without consciously thinking it through the next time. That’s how behaviors like staying up too late, drinking alcohol regularly, scrolling on your phone, and overeating turn into habits. They seem minimal, but in reality, they are wreaking havoc on your physiology and impacting your quality of life.
Plus you are older, wiser, and more resourced now! One of my most favorite mantras is when we “know better, do better.” Every day is a new chance to bring awareness to the old habits that may be keeping you stuck and suffering.
What I’ve found in my personal practice and after working with women over the past 10 years is that by doing the Check-In practice on a daily basis you will develop the skill to choose differently.
Armed with the knowledge of what’s going on accurately inside you helps you discern how to respond mindfully instead of going into auto-pilot mode.
Behind our screens, we get isolated even though it seems like we’re so “connected” on the internet. As I do with my private clients, I encourage you to seek real emotional connection and a sense of safety with those in your social circle. Pick up the phone and call or meet up with someone you care about.
Set Your Intention On Joy
Lastly, as simple as it sounds this isn’t to be minimized. Something as easy as an intention to experience one moment of joy each day can really help give you back your sense of control and happiness. Far too often, women lose sight of the importance of joy and pleasure in their everyday lives.
Nature is one thing in particular that can help you feel more connected to yourself and the world around you while also being joyful. Get outside for a few gentle breaths and savor the sensations coming from all 5 senses.
You are not alone as you journey through life’s challenges, including the current political tensions. I stand beside you and walk with you on the path to wholeness and inner peace. This is sacred work and it takes courage to stay mindful and practice self-compassion.
Every time you are mindful to your own experience and take wise action in response, you are helping to resolve your pain and heal the world.
Want more tools like this one? If you liked this then you should check out the tools I teach you in the From Fear To Hope 5-Day Guided Video Series. It’s FREE and will help you restore hope, ease pain, and kickstart pain recovery. Click here to register!