Heads up: This article is LONG. There is a lot of information in here, and the intention is for you to have it as a resource and framework to return to whenever you need. Feel free to read the whole thing, pick out bits and pieces, or bookmark it until it’s time to digest it. <3
This world we live in can feel crazy pants sometimes, and I really want to acknowledge how many of you are experiencing a LOT right now – both personally and as part of the collective culture we are in. When you are processing a lot of emotions, energy, shifts and changes, sometimes feeling “normal” can feel really tough. Sometimes you have more capacity to take care of things, and sometimes the simplest tasks can feel insurmountable. This is totally normal, and whether you are personally going through something, are feeling the precariousness of the world, and/or would simply like some reminders for deep self care, this article is for you.
Personally, these are the things getting me through right now. I started writing this article several weeks ago, a few days before my mom passed away. She was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer almost two years ago, and while we knew her time was coming to a close, it happened more quickly than we expected, and, I think that no matter how much we try to prepare for loss like that, there is only so much we can take care of ahead of time. We still have to go through it.
Reading back my own words and ideas for how to take care of my body, my heart, myself have been the exact medicine I need, and continue to use as I navigate each day.
By the way I say body, and what I really mean is all of you- yes your physical body, as well as your emotions, your energy, your ability to feel nourished and present and to keep showing up in the way that is right for you throughout everything you are experiencing. Since we process emotions and energy through our bodies, since we require our bodies in order to take action and move forward and live our lives, everything here is viewed through the lens of your body.
We all have a comfortable capacity for feeling things- whether that be joy, discomfort, sorrow, tension, anger, etc.- everyone has a different set point for how intense things can be in our bodies before it starts to feel like “too much”. When you don’t have the tools and practice with navigating higher intensities than you are used to, those feelings and sensations often get diverted into habitual coping mechanisms (numbing out with tv, food, etc.), your body feeling overloaded (read: more tension and aches and pains, more tired than usual, hormonal imbalance), and more.
These tools and practices will help you navigate higher intensities as well as help you gradually increase your capacity for navigating tough times beyond maybe what you ever thought was possible. The key is practice, not perfection, and a LOT of permission to be exactly where you are in any given moment.
With each of these tools, I’ll be sharing specific ways I’ve been using them as examples of how the tools are a framework, rather than a checklist, and are based in presence and awareness rather than “getting it right”.
Things to Pay Attention To and Be Aware Of When Things Are Tough:
When you are stretching your capacity for feeling and experiencing intense emotions and circumstances, some of the best ways to take care of yourself are the simplest but can feel really difficult. None of these tools and practices are effective without the willingness to feel, to be aware, to get present, and to be honest with yourself in any given moment. Not that you have to be perfect at it, or even know how to do this all the time- but being willing to find out what’s truly required to care of yourself, and being willing to choose it (even if it takes awhile) are absolutely essential.
I could write an entire chapter in a book on each of these things (and probably will someday) but for now, an overview of what to pay attention to as you take care of yourself:
YOUR INNER CRITIC
That voice that comes in and tells you you aren’t good enough LOVES when things are tough. It sneaks right in to remind you all the ways you aren’t living up to certain standards, and will be the first to direct your focus to your “flaws”. This happens in part as a protective mechanism- if you’ve hit your capacity for feeling intensity, part of that critic’s job is to find a way to control that intensity by diverting it into familiar avenues in order to keep you “safe”.
The main way that shows up for me? I start getting critical of my body and my appearance, nitpicking over things I haven’t worried about in years. I’ve learned that that doesn’t mean I’m sliding back or everything is falling apart, it’s now a point of awareness- when I start getting critical, there is something that needs to be addressed, felt, processed, and moved through.
Trust me, it feels way safer to pinch at my belly and come up with a restrictive eating and exercise program than to face the full weight of the loss of my momma, or to read more and more horrors about what’s happening to children and families at our borders.
Notice when that voice comes up the most for you- sometimes it’s around deep feelings and fears, sometimes it’s when you are stretching and growing and reaching for dreams and visions. Paying attention will shed a lot of insight into where to direct your energy, your attention, and how to care for your body.
Our brains always want to have a logical explanation for things, a rationalization, something to move on from. When we slam up against that capacity for intensity and tough stuff, it can be so tempting to talk circles around the feelings and experience rather than simply moving through it and being with it.
Bypassing happens when you try to throw a blanket of positivity or reason onto something that is dark and messy. It also shows up as trying to get to the other side of something and clearing it out quickly, rather than allowing the fullness of what you are experiencing (even the icky parts) to simply be there with you.
There are plenty of spiritual teachings out there that teach “no negativity” and “good vibes only” and while I understand where those sentiments are coming from, we can’t pretend that bad stuff doesn’t happen, or that we have no responsibility for what is happening and what we are feeling about it.
Like, I can create a really pretty speech about the perfection of our lives, the timing of everything, and how there are many reasons known and unknown as to why my mom died and the way in which it happened and how beautiful it all really was. And there’s a lot in there I believe. But if I do that without also feeling the waves of sadness and anger and the raw hole in my heart right now, I’m not really processing and moving through it- I’m just pretending that part isn’t there.
Notice any desires to rationalize what’s happening, to make excuses for other people or yourself, to feel guilty for what you’re feeling, or to pretend that it’s actually all okay when perhaps in fact it’s more complex than that.
WOW I have so much to say about boundaries I don’t even know where to start. To keep this relatively brief, when you are going through tough stuff, boundaries will get tested- both boundaries you’ve set up for yourself and boundaries with other people. Simply being aware that this will happen can do wonders for navigating those boundaries and conversations when you need to. And, boundaries may need to change when you’re in the middle of something. I generally have a rule I reply to all emails and text messages and social media comments within a certain amount of time. That was thrown out the window for a few weeks, and now I’m circling back to (and playing with) the timing that works for me. This is a simple example, but a reminder that boundaries aren’t rigid- they can shift and change as needed for YOU, and you and you alone. are the one who gets to determine your boundaries.
For Moving Energy, Keeping Your Body Healthy, Feeling Your Feelings, and Releasing Negativity:
MOVEMENT + STILLNESS
Movement and stillness are two keys for taking care of your body. Depending on who you are and your tendencies, you may be someone who never stops moving as a way to avoid feelings or just “get through the day”. *Raises hand* been there, many times. Or instead you may be someone who freezes and has a really hard time moving forward when your system is overload. Or you might be a little of both, depending on the day (trust me- been there many times as well).
Your body requires movement. So do your emotions and your energy. The key with movement is to become still enough and present enough within yourself to discern what type of movement is required in any given moment.
About six months ago I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and tension in my body and was having trouble sleeping. My habitual pattern with that in the past has been to stay busy and try to get to the root of my anxiety, usually running circles in my brain until I’m exhausted. Taking the time to get still wasn’t comfortable- it required truly feeling all the tension built up in my neck and shoulders and diaphragm, and giving voice to the fears lurking beneath the surface. When I allowed that though, and allowed myself to be witnessed and supported through it, I got to the message my body was truly trying to give me- she was asking for me to build strength and increase the intensity and frequency of my workouts so she could process everything happening in my world. As I added in weight training and HIIT and spin classes, my body released tension, I slept better, and found I had more focus and energy to create and work.
And? This is an ongoing process. Things can change day to day. In the weeks leading up to my mom passing and in the weeks since, there was a shift in what my body required. Draw back the intensity. Slow down. Move for longer periods of time, but more softly. Walking, foam rolling, stretching- asking for space to move gently and fully honoring everything releasing. Some days ask for no physical movement. Other days, when my body is actually requiring physical movement and I resist, that tension and brain fog and anxiety creep back in. I’ll say it over and over again- this is a daily practice of tuning in and building communication with your body and honoring your needs.
Where we can get in trouble or continually drain ourselves is in that space of kind of always moving, kind of staying still, and not being fully present with either.
True stillness might look like napping or reading or watching Netflix. These may also be distractions so you don’t have to feel or face what’s there. The difference is in your level of presence and awareness of what you need and are feeling. Sometimes stillness is doing nothing. Laying on the floor and breathing. Staring at the wall and feeling your bones. Sometimes we require just a few moments, sometimes we require hours. Stillness also releases you from distraction- which actually gives space for what’s happening underneath the surface to rise to the top. Once it’s there, you can acknowledge it, feel it, and allow it to process through you.
Part of the practice here is releasing the need to continuously be accomplishing something tangible. When there is tough stuff present, stillness will help you understand your relationship to what you are experiencing and creates the space for insights to come through (in different ways than movement).
Give yourself the gift of focused movement and focused stillness. Learning to be present with what is and giving your body what’s required will create so much more for you.
RESTORATION (NOT JUST REST)
First thing’s first: Rest is important. Down time, space to be alone, these are huge. And I really think the target of rest is restoration- to fill yourself back up.
In order to restore, you need to be aware of what’s draining you.
Current events taking a toll on you? Maybe it’s time to take a break. I’m not saying to check out, be uninformed, stop doing the work- but check in with yourself- do you need to read every single social media comment and every single article about what’s happening? Where does it shift between engagement / awareness and being sucked into the drama and chaos of it all?
Family or friend drama? Dealing with grief or loss or something similar? Scrolling through social media and going into comparison mode? Constantly on the go and overcommitting? Taking care of everyone else before yourself? I could write paragraphs about each of these, and, they all share a common core- energy drains.
To begin, start to pay attention to where your energy goes, and which activities / people / emotions / choices fill you up, and which ones drain you.
Regular energy hygiene practices are HUGE for restoration. Our energy fields pick stuff up from all over the place all day every day. When you sign up to receive my emails on this site, you receive a quick energy clearing audio, something that I use several times a day. I recommend starting there. If you need the recording, click here to sign up and receive it.
From there, tune in and ask- what will charge my batteries back up? What will create the energy I require to keep moving forward? Depending on your habits, the day, where you’re at in your cycle if you bleed, etc. – different things may be required.
Some days a nap is required, whether it be 20 minutes or 3 hours. Sometimes I close my computer before my to-do list is done. Sometimes I open up my computer at 9pm to complete something. Some days it’s going for a walk even when I feel glued to the couch. Some days it’s reading an entire book in bed. Some days it’s painting or cooking or ordering takeout or cleaning or purging my closet or making plans with a friend or cancelling plans with a friend… do you catch my drift? All sorts of things can help restore you – your practice and challenge is learning to go beyond your immediate definition of rest, getting present, interpreting the signals you receive for what you need, and choosing to act on those signals to ensure you have what’s required for your body and yourself.
Nourishment is beyond just eating healthy food. Nourishing and supporting your whole being are always important- and even more so when you are in a time of stress and intensity. Similarly with movement and stillness, what nourishes you during certain phases of your life may drain you in others, and a lot of presence and continual checking in is required.
Physically some things to pay attention to:
-What foods make me feel good right now? Sometimes it’s focusing on vibrancy and freshness, sometimes it’s focusing on comfort and grounding, sometimes it’s focusing on what’s easiest to make.
-Are you getting enough water? Water helps every system in your body process the way it’s meant to, and when you are well hydrated things will flow better (including emotions and stuck energy). Sometimes if water doesn’t seem to be doing the trick I add a pinch of salt in or an electrolyte tablet to help balance my body.
-Am I eating enough? Am I moving enough? Do I need more or less of something right now?
-Physical touch- do you require it? Want nothing to do with it? Do you need a hug? Want to be left alone?
There are also many herbs and natural remedies available to support your physical, emotional, and energetic bodies throughout periods of intensity (and just in general). This is something I support my clients with and if you’re interested in learning more, please reach out.
Nourishment is also about taking care of your environment, your energy, your relationships, and more. I have a whole course called Nourish Yourself I release from time to time. If you want to be the first to know about next time it’s out, send me an email and I’ll be sure you have the info as soon as it’s available!
PERMISSION, KINDNESS, AND SOFT THINGS
So much of what I’ve already shared with you requires an elevated level of permission to really be where you are, with what you’re experiencing, right now. It’s not about where you feel like you should be, or what you’re “supposed” to be doing. Be kind to yourself. When things are tough it’s not always the best time to be making major changes in your life or working toward a bunch of goals, or being super rigid with your actions and ways of being. Allow yourself the structure you need to care for yourself, and be so so gentle with how it all flows and plays out.
And? Lots of soft things. Fuzzy blankets, puppy dogs, pillows, warm broth, cozy slippers- things that will relax and nurture your body. Soft things internally too, my love- gentle thoughts, kind words, stories and entertainment that aren’t taxing on your nervous system, space to simply be, and permission for things to take as much time as you need them to.
We live in a culture that has conditioned as to base our worth on external things- our accomplishments, our looks, our abilities to be productive and power through. When things are tough, you are being invited to go within and create permission to feel like enough no matter what’s going on or what your output is. Continual reminders to be kind, allow more time than you think you need, and to be gentle with yourself will go a long way toward helping you heal and receive support.
Day to Day:
TAKE MORE BREAKS THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED
If you’ve been conditioned only to rest when you are drained, this one is especially for you. Grief, trauma, heartache, stress- these things are taxing to us on all levels- physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically. One of the best ways I’ve found to take care of myself is to take breaks before I “need” to – get up and stretch before my body is in pain, shut my computer before my eyes are strained, give myself more time to finish things and to set work aside sometimes before the to-do list is done.
Play with structures that work for you. Maybe it’s taking a 30 second stretch break every 20 minutes. One thing I do is get clear on the ONE thing that for sure needs to get done that day, and once that is complete, take a break. Then I check in again- is there something else? How’s my energy? What’s required right now? Sometimes I only do that one thing. Sometimes with that process I’ll complete 10 or more tasks.
A key for me has been learning to recognize the signals that I’m feeling drained- tense jaw, bloated belly, sore hips, strained eyes, habitually checking social media, wanting to eat even when I’m not hungry… to name a few. And the practice has been first how quickly can I notice those signals, and then what’s required so I restore BEFORE getting to those points. I’m not perfect at it by any means- but I measure progress in terms of my awareness and choices rather than doing it right.
SET UP FREQUENT CHECK INS
Whether it’s post-it notes at your desk, in your car, on your computer, or alarms that go off on your phone at regular intervals, set up reminders to check in with yourself and to tune in to what’s present in your body. I have alarms that go off on my phone every hour that ask me questions or give me encouraging words- they say things like, “When’s the last time you drank water or moved your body?”, “You are doing an amazing job right now- acknowledge yourself for something”, and “Spend a few moments breathing and checking in on what you need.”
It’s really easy to stay checked out, to live in our heads, to disassociate. Have tangible things set up to remind you to tune in, reset, and ask what you need.
ESTABLISH YOUR NON-NEGOTIABLES
What can you do, no matter how you are feeling and no matter what your energy is like? This isn’t about creating a checklist of stuff you HAVE to do every day. Rather, what are say, 1-4 things you can choose throughout the day that will support you in taking care of yourself?
Setting up check ins and breaks are great examples of this. Drinking a big glass of water right away in the morning, making sure you eat some protein even if you don’t feel hungry are other possibilities. Maybe it’s committing to leave the house every day, even if it’s just for 30 seconds.
These also don’t have to be forever. You may re-negotiate every single week, and that’s okay. Having a few things around that you know you’re going to do though is a great way to create some structure and keep your energy flowing and moving forward, even if nothing else happens in your day.
CELEBRATE AND ACKNOWLEDGE EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING
We can forget sometimes how much we’ve actually accomplished and ARE doing, especially in the midst of all the tough stuff. Even if it’s something that seems small, celebrate at least one thing every day. Sometimes it’s a major celebration to even get out of bed. Acknowledge yourself for that, and as mentioned above, be kind to yourself throughout it all.
I have SO much more to say on all of this, and I’ll leave it here for now. Working with these things and helping others establish foundational self-care and body connection is one of my super powers. If you are interested in exploring any of this within a container of support and with a guide who has been there and is living it, I would be honored to connect on ways we can work together.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is we can’t do it alone. You are absolutely amazing and I hope this is helpful for you now and in the future.