"Self-care. Please self-care."
Some thoughts on preserving yourself / ourselves in a complicated time
by Kristin Russo
hello there, lovely readers.
for the past six years, most of my advice has been rooted in my lived experience. when you came to me with broken hearts, i told you how my own broken hearts had felt, and how i made it through to the other side. when you were having trouble with parents who didn’t accept you for who you are, i shared my own experience as someone who came out to a very catholic mother. when you found yourself in love with your best friend, i told you how i, too, fell hard for mine (and survived).
now, though, in this post-election world, we are facing some pretty big feelings together, in real time. i haven’t walked through this particular mix of sadness, confusion, and grief before – in big part because of my own cis, white privilege. perhaps you are more familiar with these feelings of confusion and grief than I am or, perhaps, you have found yourself just as embarrassingly railroaded by them as i have.
one thing i believe to be true for all of us, though, is that – now more than ever before – we must take care of ourselves.
some of us have been angry for days, others of us have fallen into a pool of sadness; some of us have been quiet and scared, others have taken to the streets with loud voices and painted signs. this fight has been and will continue to be one that requires our stamina, our strength in the face of hardship, and our resolve to hold each other up. this is a short list of ways in which i think we can do just that:
• give as much value to turning off your phone as you give to turning it on. yes, it is important to know what is going on in the world around us. i, too, know the deep pull to constantly check my social feeds, to share my thoughts, feelings, and findings with others, and to gather, collect, & critique that information. that is important, necessary work. however, those dives into the land of digital information can (and do) often snowball down into a dark, weighted place – especially in times like these. we must take breaks. don’t bring your phone into your bedroom at night. if you need it as an alarm? put it in airplane mode. set boundaries: don’t look at your phone or digital media of any kind during mealtimes, and give yourself at least an hour before bed and after waking up before re-engaging.
• talk to your friends. laugh with your friends. when the world feels heavy, sometimes we feel we are not allowed to let light in. please, please, let the light in. make a concerted effort to plan time together with those you love. facetime with your long distance friends, meet your amazing cousin for a drink, gather at your best friend’s house to have a coloring party, or schedule a weekly movie & grilled cheese night (!!). you are allowed to have fun. you are allowed to laugh. if fighting this fight is the exhale, consider these moments of laughter and levity to be the inhale. they must exist together.
• go outside. this planet is a beautiful, magical place. leaves change color and fall from their branches, streams bubble over rocks as they have for centuries, clouds make ever-shifting shapes in the sky. make time for yourself, at least once each day, to appreciate this beauty. put your work, your phone, and all else aside and commit to taking a walk outside every day (even if you have to bundle up in the cold weather!). those shifts in perspective & moments of reflection can underpin some of our most important ideas.
• look for new ways to engage with community. i recently received an email from a friend who told me that, in the wake of the election, she had decided to reach out to all of her old high school teachers. in her letter to them, she offered to be a pen pal or resource for any high school student who might be feeling stuck in her conservative home-state of south dakota. now is an incredible time to engage with our communities in ways we haven’t before: volunteer at local organizations who serve LGBTQ or other marginalized communities, help arrange a book-drive, look into arranging a digital meet-up, write letters to the people who have inspired you to keep fighting. engage.
• read old books, new books, used books, all books. we have a little ongoing list over here on facebookof books that are exceptionally important to the work ahead of us. you should read them. add your own recommendations to the list. read them along with your friends! heck, go ahead and start a book club! bring cheetos to share!! you can even read more than one book at a time. my wife does this, so i know it is true… she stacks them up in a big pile and then depending on how she is feeling and what she needs from a book, she chooses accordingly. you can have a horror-book and a queer-book and a comic-book and even a cooking-book all at the ready for whenever you are in need. books are like the fucking super-food of self-care.
• if you are able, be active. physical activity gives our bodies a way to use all of that whaaaaaattheeeefuuuuuck energy in ways that, at the same time, make us stronger. do ten jumping jacks when you wake up. learn how to do a sun salutation. go swimming. start running. rearrange your bedroom. organize your garage. dance to tegan and sara on full blast. do all of these things or some of them or even just one of them!
• create. there is a very silly myth that some people believe, which is that in order to create you must be good at creating. not. true. write a poem, sing a song, draw a picture, braid your hair, finger paint, make a collage. you do not have to make art for anyone but yourself, but spend some time each week on creating something… anything. remember that it isn’t the end-product that matters, it is the process itself that allows us to find new spaces of healing.
• ask for help when you need help. it is okay to struggle. reach out to those you love when your heart is breaking, when you get stuck on the couch in a whirlwind of sadness, when you sit at your desk surrounded by papers and due dates and rage, rage, rage. talk it out, yell it out, lean on those close to you, and keep a list of hotlines handy should you find yourself in need of more professional care. the trevor project is available at 866-488-7386 and the trans lifeline is available at 877-565-8860.
• breathe. like, literally… breathe. breathing regulates our entire nervous system. there are many different breathing exercises that you can learn, and you can even make it a fun new project to try a new exercise each week. my go-to is square breathing, where i breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and repeat. close your eyes, find a quiet place, and do this for ten minutes each day – if you can, do it right when you wake up. in moments of extreme anxiety, use these breathing techniques to help you find your center.
my dears, i am going to hold tight to this list fiercely over the coming weeks, and i ask you to do the same. it is easy to feel like we cannot take a moment away from the fight because it is so vital, so critical to our own survival and to the survival of so many… but we cannot sustain it if we do not sustain ourselves.
remember that when you take time out to do these things, you are still fighting.
clear eyes, full hearts,