Even though we knew turning the calendar to 2021 wouldn’t change everything, it’s still been difficult to reckon with what’s going on in the United States over the past week. We have witnessed a lot in the last year and change, and the unimaginable just keeps coming. If you’re feeling unsure of how to take care of yourself after the events of the past week, where an armed mob of white supremacists stormed the Capitol building to overthrow an election, you’re not alone. How do you practice self-care in a time like this? How can we cope when every week, it feels like the ground shifts beneath us again?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions because we all have different ways to cope.
Sometimes, though, it can be hard to even come up with effective ways to cope, especially when we’re in the midst of something intense, like an attempted coup.
If that’s the case for you, here are some ideas for ways to cope after a hard week:
Marginalized folks: Rest + recharge
While many people were stunned watching the violence unfold at the Capitol on Wednesday, it is hardly a surprise in this country when law enforcement polices white and Black/brown bodies differently. What we all witnessed on Wednesday will undoubtedly have a larger impact on folks of marginalized identities, like BIPOC people, LGBTQ+ folks, Jewish people, undocumented people, and Muslim folks to name a few.
Remember – you don’t owe anyone any explanation of how you’re coping with the events from this past week. If you’re taking a social media break or drawing firmer boundaries about what you’re allowing right now, that’s totally fine. You don’t need to make yourself available to non-marginalized folks to process their feelings on this. You’re allowed to step back and do what you need to do to feel safe at this moment.
Don’t separate yourself from this version of whiteness
If you are white, now is the time to reckon with what that whiteness means. Even if you think you’re not one of “those” white people, all white folks need to recognize the problem of white supremacy and actually do something about it. What are the ways that privilege has helped you? Who in your community can you call in and educate on these topics? It is not the job of BIPOC folks to solve the problems white supremacy has created in the US, it’s the job of other white people.
Radically accept reality
Radical acceptance is a DBT skill that is taught to help alleviate mental suffering. Often, when there is something we are struggling with, we fight against it. We wish it weren’t true. We keep fighting to change the reality of the situation, even if that’s not within our power. However, the constant battle to change what’s happening can actually lead to more suffering than just recognizing that reality is reality. This is called radical acceptance. Radical acceptance means accepting the situation exactly as it is right now, which can be helpful when you’re trying to cope.
If you’re feeling shocked by what happened in our country this week, that’s a normal response. However, we can’t let our shock prevent us from seeing this reality and understanding what it means. This could be a helpful time to write some thoughts out in a note on your phone or in a journal. What happened this past week? How did you feel about it? What emotions did you feel? Where did those emotions gather in your body? How did the reactions you saw in the media make you feel? What is something that would be comforting to you right now? It can be hard to process things when you’re shocked so take some time to explore that in writing a bit.
Try not to shame yourself
Remember, we aren’t meant to deal with this amount of trauma. We weren’t designed for being able to contemplate suffering on a global scale. If your brain is feeling overwhelmed, don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you. We’re all trying to make sense of a lot of confusing information right now, and shaming ourselves for being overwhelmed only adds to the struggle. Your feelings, whatever they may be, are valid.
Relax your muscles
You might find yourself more tense than usual this week. Many people carry their tension in different places in their bodies – some in their jaw, some in their neck or shoulders, some in their back, etc. Try to pay attention to where tension collects in your body. Put a little sticky note on your mirror or on your computer to relax that area every once in a while. A lot of times we tense up and don’t even realize it, so you may need an external reminder to release that tension.
Ways to release the tension include stretching, massage, gentle movement, body scan meditations, and breathing exercises. What feels good for your body to release the tension? Try a few different things and find what works best for you.
Make sure the basics are covered
Are you making sure to stay hydrated and nourished? Have you changed your clothes or washed your face? Even though we’re still stuck at home during all of this, make sure you’re taking care of your basic needs. It can be easy to forget to eat meals when it seems like days just bleed into one another. If that’s the case for you try to give yourself some reminders to eat and drink. It can also be comforting to bathe and put on a fresh pair of clothes. You deserve to be taken care of, even by yourself.
Do something away from screens
The news will be there when you get back. Social media will still have posts for you to look at in an hour. Do your best to give yourself screen-free time. Go for a walk outside (with your mask on, please!), read a book, take a long shower, roll around on your floor and stretch, bake something comforting, cook a meal you love, doodle in a notebook – anything you can think of that will keep you distracted for a bit. It can be tempting to give in to the pull of the 24-hour news cycle, so try to build some boundaries around it. Maybe only check the news once or twice a day. You can also limit the screentime for certain apps on your phone to help remind you.
Talk to someone you care about
This is especially important since most of us are feeling separated from a lot of the people we care about right now. When shocking events happen like what happened at the Capitol this week, it can make us feel unsafe. When we look for ways to cope, we want things that will make us feel safe again. One way to help yourself feel safe again is to check in on the people you care about. Take some time to talk to someone and process your feelings together. It can help to talk out your feelings with someone you trust.