Don’t worry, the following aren’t political thoughts. This is about how to take care of ourselves so that we’re better citizens, family members, friends, and humans. That’s what I much prefer to talk about here. That’s a non-partisan issue.
No matter where you side on any public issue, we all collectively benefit when we’re at our best. And I don’t know about you, but when being out in the world feels like having to dodge mud slings like we’re in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s hard for me to feel like I’m at my best.
That’s why I’m writing this to myself, as a reminder of how to take care of myself during volatile times. Perhaps it’ll resonate with you, too.
1. Don’t wait your turn to speak. Instead, really listen.
I wholeheartedly believe that a lot of our rhetoric and policymaking would be different if we all would do a better job of listening to each other. Not listening only so we can wait our turn to speak—just listen.
All “sides” are guilty of this. And man, what we miss out on by not hearing each other’s stories and perspectives. It’s harder than it seems, but it’s a penlight in the dark when it happens.
Try it sometime today. Find or join a conversation, online or off, and pull up a chair with the sole purpose of listening and learning. Not to jump in with talking points, a meme, or a quote.
2. Eat, drink water, get exercise, sleep. Repeat.
These foundational touchstones of self-care are more important than ever right now. If you choose to engage in activism or discussion, you need to go above and beyond in making sure you prioritize life’s essentials.
Toddlers aren’t the only ones who get hangry. We can’t subsist on coffee. I don’t think rationally if I haven’t gotten enough sleep. And I feel a million times better if I at least go on a daily walk.
These are always essential, of course. But we can so easily forget our most basic needs with childlike abandon.
3. Walk. away. from. the. screen.
Offline time is perhaps the most essential gift you can give yourself right now.
Engage in offline conversations about issues, sure. But just as important—read a book. Go on a hike. Play LEGO. Draw. Work on a home improvement project. Listen to good music. Bake a cake. Make dinner for your neighbors. Listen to something that makes you laugh, like The Popcast or an audiobook by a comedian.
Read poetry. Engage with nature. Good glory, engage with nature. Little else sets the reset button quite as effectively.
Think about other things. Adjust your eyes to natural light. Be “all here” in your surroundings. I’m gonna repeat this: Offline time is perhaps the most essential gift you can give yourself right now.
4. Kindness always wins.
When you are online, set parameters. Before you reply to someone, ask yourself this: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it helpful?
Remember that scene in You’ve Got Mail, when Kathleen Kelly tells Joe Fox that after she said exactly what she wanted to say at the moment she wanted to say it—she felt terrible? There’s a lot of truth there. Those zingers aren’t good for anyone—including the zing-er.
Whenever I choose to engage kindly, civily, and even with humor, I personally feel so. much. better. Dropping “truth bombs,” responding only with snarky memes or gifs, or replying in anger doesn’t hurt only the recipient. It’s not good for our souls.
5. Choose three things.
I’m still not getting into politics here, and a quick Google search will show you all you need to know about what’s going on in the world. The obvious results? There’s so many issues out there, it’s hard to know where to begin.
We can listen to everyone who crosses our path. We can be good global citizens by listening and learning from others as much as we can. But none of us can take up the torch of every single issue.
I like this simple Google Doc by Jennifer Hoffmann. In it, she suggests you pick three issues you care about, and dive deeply into those. I like that.
Diving deeper into fewer issues instead of doing an inch deep and a mile wide is not only better for your sanity, it’s probably more effective for these causes as well.
6. Set healthy parameters when you are on screen.
When it’s time to be involved, still set limits for yourself. I use and love Freedom, and have created self-imposed boundaries that help me stay focused on my work. For me, that’s no social media from 9 am to 1 pm Tuesday-Thursday, and no social media, Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon from 10 pm to 7 am on weekdays. On both my laptop and my phone.
It’s made a world of difference to my sanity and my work habits.
I also benefit from checking my sources and opening myself to as many perspectives as I can. All Sides has been eye-opening for me, and helpful.
I personally don’t watch video news clips unless enough people I trust say it’s worth watching. My blood pressure stays lower when I stick to reading the news, and I feel more in control of how I respond to an issue.
And I’ve made extra efforts to not scroll down to the comments section of news articles. They usually make me weep for humanity more than actually help me stay informed.
Don’t check out—we need engaged, thoughtful citizenry more than ever. There are times when involvement matters, when reasonable adults shouldn’t bury their heads in the sand. It’s actually good for your own soul to engage responsibly.
7. Listen to your soul.
All in all—know yourself. Listen to what your soul is telling you, and respond. Put your health first. Pray, journal, meditate. Know that you’re loved deeply by God, and that, blessedly, you’re not God. And no one else currently walking the earth is, either.
Remember that you’re only human. And also remember that the people you engage with, offline or off, are also only human. Yet we are humans. We all matter. So much.
Art of Simple readers come from all sorts of backgrounds, locations, and worldviews, and therefore have many different opinions that span the spectrum. You’re also some of the most thoughtful commenters I’ve seen online. Please share any tips and tricks you’ve found that helps you take care of yourself during tumultuous times—I’d love to hear more! But know that I’ll delete any comments that have anything to do with specific issues or sides to issues—that’s not what this essay is about, and that’s not what the comment section below is for. Love you guys. XO