MANAGING SOCIO-POLITICAL STRESS
This past year was a rough one for many of us. I know just keeping up with the news took a toll on my psyche. So for 2018, I have some tips for how you can stay informed and not feel dragged down by all the negative news.
First, let me give you some background on my life. My mother, along with her mother, five sisters, and two brothers came to Australia via a three-month sea voyage in the mid-fifties, in hopes of a fresh start. They had been living as refugees in their homeland after the bombings of WWII displaced them from their town. My dad’s reason for moving to Australia was completely different. He was an educated man looking for an adventure .
Growing up in an Italian immigrant family in Australia had its advantages. We ate a Mediterranean diet, sourced from our own organic vegetable garden. My parents bought meat from a local butcher, and on special occasions, they would buy a live lamb or pig to roast. (Sorry vegans, but that’s just how it was back then.) Most weekends, we went camping — not because the sprawled out suburbs were over-congested, but merely to enjoy the Australian Outback and magnificent coastal beaches.
Unfortunately, there was a downside too, as Australia was home to two very different cultures trying to coexist — immigrants like my family and those that claimed the land as theirs (not Aboriginals btw). There were some Aussie neighbors who welcomed us with loving arms, but many did not.
As a child, I didn’t know anything about cultural divides, until I started school at the tender age of five, and someone called me a ‘name’. Hearing a derogatory word directed at me coming from a down-turned mouth and cold, hostile eyes was frightening to say the least. Up until then, I had been a very free and outgoing kid. Suddenly, I was set apart from other students because I was from an immigrant family. I didn’t understand it, and I thought I was less worthy as a human being than the other students were. What did I know about racism? All I knew was that I was different in the eyes of others around me. The name-calling (such as wog and dago) and ridicule continued for many years, well into my young adulthood.
Why am I sharing all of this? I want you to know that I too have lived with discrimination, even as a white person in a white land, and I’ve had to deal with taking care of my feelings of isolation and my emotional state since my early years. And, as I traveled the globe a broader vision awakened. I observed all sorts of bias and discrimination from one border to the next. I felt the world’s pain as well as my own.
Now I’m starting to feel that same fear again as I did when I was a child, and the feeling of disempowerment and enormous empathy that one takes on can be overwhelming and debilitating, and make you feel blue. So, how can you stay informed and not get down and out of sorts from all the upsetting news? I have some suggestions on how you can do just that.
HOW TOO FIND YOUR INNER PEACE
UNPLUG: The first step, albeit obvious, is to take time out from news feeds. You want to be informed — that’s understandable, especially because “we the people” hold the power for the first time in history, thanks to technology and social media. But, this could be short-lived, so stay informed, but avoid early morning news that can aggravate you and set a negative tone for your day. Or, take every other day off from the news. If that’s too much time away from important news (because it is very important), keep it in the back of your mind — eventually you will notice which way your mood swings from time on and off the news feeds.
MEDITATE & BREATHE: Each and every day take 10 minutes to meditate, either morning or evening and if you’re up to it, do both. Breathing while you meditate can reset your nervous system, calming your mind and heart.
HAVE FUN: Make plans with friends to enjoy time together — anytime is fine, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or coffee, evenings … I suggest hitting the dance floor as much as possible, at a friend’s place or out and about.
EXERCISE: I think this era will produce some of the fittest humans in history, let’s hope so. Exercise is a great mood equalizer. It reduces stress by elevating endorphins and serotonin levels, which in turn will make you feel relaxed and happy.
BATH RITUAL: First, shop for a relaxing bath salt. It should contain Epsom salts, sea salts, and baking powder as a base, with some therapeutic essential oils such as: lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, myrrh, eucalyptus, and rose. Make the bath experience a ritual, collecting ingredients like various plant oils such as coconut oil, avocado oil, or jojoba oil for moisturizing as you heal and relax. Make a date with this routine at least once a week, if not everyday. And, yes, it’s okay to take a morning baths, in fact, it’s a great way to start the day!
NEW RECIPES: Even if you regard yourself as a killer cook, there is always more to learn, especially recipe from other cultures. And, if ever there was a time to celebrate other culture this is it. Protest prejudice by cooking and serving your friends some foreign cuisine. This is a great passive pro-active activity you can be involved with right now.
CREATE: Whether it’s a short film, a scrapbook, a fine line drawing, or any DIY project, you will find that your personal expression can reveal your inner most truths and emotions. Your creative expression may unleash thoughts and feeling that are longing to come out, releasing the stress of instability.
REACH OUT: Get involved with local community groups that will help keep you up to date and involved in the “people’s movement.” Everything we do that works toward getting us back to a democratic society is in our hands, and as much as this may sound weighty and draining, getting involved will facilitate two things: your involvement, however small, will make you part of the solution, and your voice will release pent-up anxiety and that feeling of helplessness.
Now more than ever, finding moments of peace and relaxation need to become part of our everyday routines. However as active citizens mitigating the stress of this era, finding time for this may not be at the top of your to do list. That’s why I recommend having rituals and scheduling time for regeneration and rebooting your system, so that you will have the physical and mental energy needed to stand up and fight in a way that makes you proud.