Self-care in times of uncertainty
Thursday, October 12th, 2017
Written by: Heidi Notario, M.A., Director of Implementation and Social Change; and Micaela Ríos Anguiano, Project Manager; Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network.
Audre Lorde thought of self-care as an act of political warfare. For many of us, the notion of taking care of ourselves often proves difficult or intangible, at best. Today, in particular, for those involved in social justice work, self-care is an imperative. It feels as if our lives depend on the ability to nourish and nurture ourselves while working and living at the crossroads of many identities under siege.
Practicing Patience (Tips from Heidi Notario)
As I read through the pages of Pema Chödrön’s book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, I found myself drawn to writings on the practice of patience. In Buddhism, cultivating patience is a key quality for the development of the mind and the nourishment of the soul, the body and the entire person. As a practicing Buddhist and an activist, the thought of being patient, particularly in our times, made me want to vomit at first. I had a visceral reaction to this paradigm or ideal which felt out of reach. Yet, according to Buddhist teachings, patience is the antidote of anger.
The challenge for me this day is being able to sit with anger and what often comes after, a deep feeling of hopelessness and exhaustion. I noticed that it is at that precise moment when I become ineffective. Then, it occurred to me that my visceral reaction to the practice of patience came from a place of misunderstanding. I equated being patient with being a doormat: I would just sit there, and patiently take it.
As I reflected on cultivating qualities to deal with what is, and how to respond effectively, I realized that the practice of patience was a radical act of self-care. Patience allows for a space to sit with all the feelings that make us brittle; impotence, rage, desire to leave, confusion, and hopelessness. Patience gives us the ability to sit with it all, be present and pause. Just for a moment. Just long enough to take the next breath. Patience allows us to reach into our ancestral wisdom and respond with clarity because none of the current challenges are new.
Building Community & Connections (Tips from Micaela Ríos Anguiano)
As we learn to pause and breathe through the practice of patience, I am mindful that we are not alone in this process. Self-care requires both self and others.
Recently, I found myself wanting to hold my loved ones tightly to protect them from pain and hurt when in reality I wanted to be protected. Through this journey I have learned that it was not in fact protection I was seeking, rather it was connection. And in order to connect, I needed to create my haven—a group that would hold me in a space of love where transactional relationships could become transformational.
In the book Trauma Stewardship, we are reminded of the important role our family, friends and community have in creating a microculture that provides both encouragement and accountability. This idea of encouragement and accountability helped me choose who I would share this connection with. That is the beauty of this journey – you have full control of inviting what serves you and discarding what does not serve you.
These connections opened an opportunity for me to pause and build my own narrative around healing. I adopted a multi-dimensional and ongoing healing process that includes pain, hurt, fear, connection, healing and restoration. Through this multi-dimensional process, a new sense of wholeness was born. I encourage you to connect and initiate a haven where healing is invited on a continual and transferrable basis. When we are whole, the entire group naturally becomes whole.
As you find your way toward practicing self-care, patience and connection, we invite you to do this simple grounding exercise that will help you clear emotions that deplete you and restore energy that replenishes you. If breathing exercises do not resonate with you, go outside and take a walk, touch the ground with the soles of your feet, write in your journal, experience a laughter yoga session, allow yourself a good cry, or simply draw or paint – do something that will clear your mind. This is one of hundreds of exercises you can start off with. We encourage you to try different self-care practices to find what works for you.