As a mentor once told me, "when your airplane is going down, always put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else." With so many national tragedies--multiple hurricanes, flooding, inadequate responses to a hurricane, and the deadliest mass shooting in US history--occurring in close proximity to one another, the collective unconscious of the nation is in a state of chaos. And the first thing that we need to do is take care of ourselves.
Ask yourself, what activities help you alleviate stress, anxiety, sadness, and anger? Whatever that is for you--do it. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to self-care, trying something new during difficult times can help increase your mental and emotional energy--empowering you to stay motivated and focused on achieving your goals. Read the list below to discover 13 unconventional ways to improve your mental and emotional wellbeing following national tragedies.
1. Write a long Facebook rant (and then avoid looking at the responses for at least 24 hours).
The truth is, social media posts are modern day journal entries. So why not try to release your feelings into the internet? Externalize your thoughts and then turn off notifications and disconnect. That way, you'll release some of your energy and have something to occupy your free time tomorrow.
2. Distract yourself with superficial entertainment (and schedule a mindfulness meditation).
Spend extra time playing games, looking at ESPN, watching Netflix, and consuming other light-hearted content. A little dissociation after difficult events is a natural part of distancing yourself from uncomfortable feelings--and that's okay. Just make sure to schedule time in the not-so-distant future to bring yourself back to the present moment--that way, your needs for relief will be coupled with future growth.
3. Find an unwanted household item and then (safely) break it.
Instead of allowing your unconscious fear and anger to fuel prejudice, discrimination, and the unfair treatment of your dog, get it out of your system by breaking an object. Throw it, punch it, rip it, or bash it with a baseball bad. When done safely, this will provide a helpful emotional release and set you up for a better tomorrow.
4. Be lazy and spend extra time in bed (go to the gym tomorrow).
It's okay to take down time and relax, especially when you're experiencing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Be compassionate with yourself and trust that you have the mental fortitude to get back on the bike.
5. Pay it forward by doing something nice for a random stranger.
Multiple benefits here: you make someone else's day better, you slightly improve your mood, and your gesture symbolizes the healing that we all need to experience--compassion and empathy from others.
6. Treat yourself to some rich and unhealthy food (and then resume healthy eating).
Give yourself permission to eat unhealthy foods while setting the intention of eating better tomorrow. This increases insight into your coping patterns and allows for some flexibility during difficult days.
7. Take a short, unscheduled break during your work day and walk around outside.
There's nothing like some fresh air and spontaneous oxygen to improve your mood.
8. Grab a pillow and then hit or scream into it to release your anger and frustration.
This is another healthy way to deal with anger that doesn't hurt anyone. The healthier methods we each use to express our anger, the safer and less violent our world will become.
9. Schedule a specific time and date to worry about friends, family member, and the nation.
Literally put it in your calendar. This fun psychological experiment often has interesting results. Try this and then see what happens!
10. Pick out a favorite song and sing it at the top of your lungs.
Let those emotions (and your fear of being ridiculed for your out-of-tune singing) go! Singing and dancing are great ways to move through feelings and regain composure.
11. Bury yourself in your work (and then schedule a counseling appointment).
Be honest with yourself. Acknowledge that you're overworking and hyper-focusing on achieving success as a way to deal with your own insecurities. And then do something about--call a professional so that you can start addressing your feelings and start improving your health, focus, and future growth.
12. Burn sage, smudge yourself, and visualize cleansing your energy field.
Don't knock it until you try it! I know this sounds strange, but the article is about unconventional and unexpected ways to cope, so what did you expect? Sometimes it's the unconventional methods that give you unexpected results.
13. Focus on providing support for friends, family members, and peers (then ask for their support tomorrow).
Natural healers tend to focus on other people's needs to avoid dealing with their own. If you find yourself drawn to caring for others following difficult events, you are a warm and empathic person who is actively making the world a better place. And you need to acknowledge your behavior so that you can also get your own needs met.
Always put on your oxygen mask first. Before you can meet the demands of your clients, business partners, peers, and family members, you need to take care of yourself. Practice greater self-compassion. Prioritize your own wellbeing so that you can continue being the effective agent of positive change you want to see in the world.