2020 has been a year where we have been challenged to adapt, learn, and survive massive change. Here are just a few examples:
- Systemic racism and other racial inequities exposed with massive demonstrations
- Economic uncertainty and the uneven impact of economic recovery
- Impaired access to goods and services (hello – toilet paper??)
- Distance learning and the need to become a learning facilitator for our kids
- Increased political division and uncertainty
- Climate change and natural disasters
These are just a few of the types of challenges we have had to adjust to this year. Each of these challenges carry loss and grief with them. We experience the loss of routines, the loss of what we considered normal behavior, and the loss of loved ones. These new challenges of 2020 are added to the list of normal loss and grief we generally experience in any give year.
Inviting softness into our lives will be a skill that will continue to contribute to the quality of our lives far into the future.
So the question becomes….how do we maintain our own resilience in the face of grief and loss?
Resilience is defined as the ability to experience disruption and still maintain function. I know that this year our individual resilience has been tested. Here are a few suggestions to help us invite softness into our lives so we nurture our self-care in times of these disruptions and in the face of our grief and losses we have experienced this year.
- Apply the self-care advice you give to others to yourself. One of the gender related patterns for women is we count all the other people in their lives ahead of ourselves. We can be nurture ourselves by simply counting ourselves as one of the people we should care about. A simple way to do this is to listen to the advice you give to your friends and apply it to ourselves as well.
- Create a phrase that invites self-compassion. I have started to put “of course” in front of my sentences when I find that I am judging myself. Instead of saying “I should” be more motivated, or I should be more productive… I acknowledge that given the amount of loss of social interaction and regular routines might mean that I won’t be able to maintain the pace and productivity I regularly had pre-COVID. So. I instead say… Of course, there are going to be days when I don’t feel as focused or productive 9 months into the pandemic. Or of course, there are going to be days when I just want to relax, sleep in, or nap in the middle of the day. The “of course” phrase invites me to be softer and less judgmental with my self and acknowledges that grief, loss, and resilience has ups and downs attached to our emotional geography.
- Respond to your feelings and events with gentle kindness for yourself. I live alone and have started giving myself “butterfly hugs” to invite more kindness of self into my life. A butterfly hug is when you cross your arms in front of you and have your hands pat your shoulders. It is a physical way to give yourself care and emotional support.
- Take time to notice what you need in this moment and give it to ourselves. When we grit our teeth or hunker down to “just get through” we often ignore what our bodies or emotions are asking us to acknowledge. Taking time to listen to our emotions and our bodies and respond to what we need in this moment is important to nurturing our self-resilience. When we listen and respond, we allow our emotions to move through us and raises our resilience when we let go instead of holding on or ignoring what we are feeling.
- Add softness into our life. There are many strategies that help us bring softness into our lives during this difficult and unusual year. Here is a final laundry list that I keep in mind whenever I need to become softer.
- Just breathe! Deep breathing is a wonderful way to take a moment and relax from the stress you are feeling.
- Take a walk or spend five minutes outside in nature.
- Dance, do yoga, or any pleasurable movement to get yourself out of your head and back into your body.
- Make a gratitude list. It can shift your focus from loss to the abundance of gifts you have in your life.
- Choose what you pay attention to. If you focus on what is working well instead of the losses you have experienced, it can help you feel remember there are new gifts and possibilities of change, not just loss.
- Stay in the moment. Being fully in the present moment gives us a small vacation from the complexity of our lives.
We need to acknowledge that 2020 has been a difficult and challenging year for most of us. Instead of judging and diminishing our sense of self or self-worth, we can use this time to nurture ourselves. We can use this challenging year to finally learn how to truly care and nurture ourselves.