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JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - January 2017 - Kansas City
Self-Care in Times of Turmoil
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
Feeling overwhelmed in times of crisis and change is part of the fight or flight response to stress. What can we do to be centered, sane and pro- active in these times of our lives? Self-care is critical and helps us to calm the intensity of the human brain’s response to perceived threats.
It is easy to get stuck in the past or to catastrophize the future. Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, author of the forthcoming book, How Emotions Are Made, says “Try to place today in the timeline of your life. Normally humans have a really broad time horizon-you can remember the past, the future, you can do mental time travel-but in moments that are very strong, your time horizon shrinks to right now.” Let’s think about ways to do that.
In times of stress it is always helpful to go back to basics. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and eating healthily. Also take those supplements, especially the EFAs and multi-vitamins. Your daily exercise and sunlight or full spectrum light are a must. Having good social time and being engaged is important. Most of all, the negative self-talk and ruminative thinking has to go!
So, if you are experiencing despair, hopelessness, shock or grief, get moving. If you are not ready to engage in action, try not reading the news and spending less time or no time on social media. Take a break. Try taking a walk, working out or visiting with a friend. I sometimes neglect exercise but just finished a last-minute project of re-arranging the front flowerbeds in our yard. I bought a variety of bulbs and, with the help of a friend, completed the project of planting all of them before the weather turned very cold. It helped me feel better physically and emotionally. I am feeling energized and ready to take on some more projects. I hope to see crocus, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths in the spring. Here’s hoping.
Of course, it is always good to play the gratitude card. If you have forgotten, go back to thinking of at least 5-10 things you are grateful for each day. It works!
Many people feel that they are not being heard; that no one is listening. So, why not concentrate on listening more to others? When people you might normally disengage from appear in your life, listen. When minorities express feelings of frustration about racism, sexism or homophobia, listen. When immigrants express concern, listen. Listening to others with empathy and a non-judgmental attitude will help them to feel heard and help you to feel empowered and hopeful.
A recent article in the local paper highlighted a neighborhood that was voicing support and concern for their new Syrian neighbors. They pledged to help and protect them in their new life here. Many expressed that this contact with ‘real’ immigrants showed them that this family was much like them and just wanted safety and security for their family. This is just the kind of local action we need to recognize and find for ourselves. Look around and see who needs encouragement, support and help.
You may not think of yourself as a leader but many people may be watching you. As leaders in our families, communities and places of work, our behavior, attitude and actions are helping others to shape a more hopeful reality. Holding the space of safety and security for others with our energy is a quiet task that is powerful. If we are taking care of ourselves, we can do this for others.
Think about your unique contribution to the welfare of others. Think about how to make that positive change. Make plans and carry them out. It might start with planting tulips! Continue to work on improving your relationships with people. We know we make mistakes and that there is room for growth. We just keep swimming! We can make a difference.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to