Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Emotional First Aid

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, fires in the American west, the escape of the women who were kidnapped and held captive in Cleveland for ten years, and following the Moore tornado, we in the U.S. are reeling.

I remember this feeling from the 1960s. Our president was assassinated, and his brother, too. And Martin Luther King, who was kind of the Dalai Lama of that era. Some folks think of the 60s as all about flower power and peace signs and hippies, but it was terribly unnerving as it unfolded. We watched the Vietnam war on television, black people and gay people were beaten for protesting their horrible situations. It was a time of chaos and destruction as much as it was about peace, love and Woodstock.

Many beneficial shifts in the way we thought about each other and the world came out of the chaos of the 1960s. I believe the same thing will happen as a result of this current time of change. One obvious example is marriage equality which has reached its tipping point. I read yesterday that in England and Wales marriage equality has become law. And in France, and in many states in the U.S., etc. Boom. In ten years we'll look back and wonder what the big deal was, as we do now in the U.S. about interracial marriage. Interracial marriage? That doesn't mean anything anymore, but it did - it really did.

How are we supposed to respond to this time of radical upheaval and change? What's the healthy response? It will vary according to the individual, of course. The most unhelpful and unhealthy response is to try to resist what's happening. Resistance is futile. We must try to be open to the changes that are afoot and be ready to engage with what is, not with what we think should be. Those who wish for the good old days, well, good luck with that. I say, onwards and upwards. You can not grasp the river.

Please learn about first aid and CPR, but especially first aid. The first responders at many disasters are bystanders and victims as we saw following the Boston Marathon bombings and the tornado in Oklahoma. It's good to know how to help and how to keep from becoming part of the problem if you jump in to assist after a disaster. Here's a link to a post I wrote earlier this year that includes a link to a top notch online first aid course. Unless you wish to be certified, it's free. Please learn about first aid so you can be prepared, just in case.

Physical first aid is important. But we are far more than physical beings. We humans are highly emotional, even if we wish we weren't. Experiencing, as we have in the U.S., one disaster after another lately, takes its toll on the emotional body. If you're feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, exhausted, head-achey, if you're experiencing a-typical insomnia, a perpetually sour stomach, or if life seems more surreal than usual, you may be in a state of low level emotional shock.

This isn't the kind of shock that means you should lie down and put your feet up while covered with a space blanket, but it does indicate that taking steps to soothe your emotional body are in order.

First and foremost: turn off your television. The never ending videos of destruction and devastation are not good for us. Find out what you need to know, then switch off the screens. Listen to music, read design or cooking magazines or do something productive, like cleaning out a closet or baking a pie. Go to a museum and gaze at beautiful paintings. Or go see a play or live music. The living Arts are healing, believe me.

Get outdoors and take a walk or a run. Or go to a public park with beautiful landscaping and take in the beauty of nature. Do this even if it's too hot/cold/rainy/whatever. You don't have to stay outside all day, but stay outside for at least an hour. Fresh air is so good for you!

Spend time with people you love. Make time for someone you haven't seen in awhile. Have a laugh, catch up, tell stories.

Eat carefully, and don't drink too much. The tendency to self medicate on junk food and/or alcohol can be a problem during eras of social change, but it doesn't actually help anything. Please don't eat junk food, eat real food. Opt for a glass of wine, not a bottle of wine, please (or ... cut back on whatever intoxicants you prefer). Go easy with the caffeine.

Let your jaw relax. Relax your tongue and let your eyeballs be soft. Breathe deeply, and drink plenty of water.

Please be gentle with yourself and others right now, as gentle as you can be. Will you please?

Chaos always attends times of social change. Chaos is unnerving even to the most macho among us.

Take good care, y'all. We will prevail. Shalom.

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