Self-care during tumultuous politics

Don’t worry, the following aren’t political thoughts. This is about how to take care of ourselves so that we’re better citizens, family members, friends, and humans. That’s what I much prefer to talk about here. That’s a non-partisan issue.

No matter where you side on any public issue, we all collectively benefit when we’re at our best. And I don’t know about you, but when being out in the world feels like having to dodge mud slings like we’re in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s hard for me to feel like I’m at my best.

That’s why I’m writing this to myself, as a reminder of how to take care of myself during volatile times. Perhaps it’ll resonate with you, too.

1. Don’t wait your turn to speak. Instead, really listen.

I wholeheartedly believe that a lot of our rhetoric and policymaking would be different if we all would do a better job of listening to each other. Not listening only so we can wait our turn to speak—just listen.

All “sides” are guilty of this. And man, what we miss out on by not hearing each other’s stories and perspectives. It’s harder than it seems, but it’s a penlight in the dark when it happens.

peace

Try it sometime today. Find or join a conversation, online or off, and pull up a chair with the sole purpose of listening and learning. Not to jump in with talking points, a meme, or a quote.

2. Eat, drink water, get exercise, sleep. Repeat.

These foundational touchstones of self-care are more important than ever right now. If you choose to engage in activism or discussion, you need to go above and beyond in making sure you prioritize life’s essentials.

Toddlers aren’t the only ones who get hangry. We can’t subsist on coffee. I don’t think rationally if I haven’t gotten enough sleep. And I feel a million times better if I at least go on a daily walk.

These are always essential, of course. But we can so easily forget our most basic needs with childlike abandon.

3. Walk. away. from. the. screen.

Offline time is perhaps the most essential gift you can give yourself right now.

Engage in offline conversations about issues, sure. But just as important—read a book. Go on a hike. Play LEGO. Draw. Work on a home improvement project. Listen to good music. Bake a cake. Make dinner for your neighbors. Listen to something that makes you laugh, like The Popcast or an audiobook by a comedian.

Read poetry. Engage with nature. Good glory, engage with nature. Little else sets the reset button quite as effectively.

Think about other things. Adjust your eyes to natural light. Be “all here” in your surroundings. I’m gonna repeat this: Offline time is perhaps the most essential gift you can give yourself right now.

4. Kindness always wins.

When you are online, set parameters. Before you reply to someone, ask yourself this: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it helpful?

kathleen kelly joe fox you've got mail

Remember that scene in You’ve Got Mail, when Kathleen Kelly tells Joe Fox that after she said exactly what she wanted to say at the moment she wanted to say it—she felt terrible? There’s a lot of truth there. Those zingers aren’t good for anyone—including the zing-er.

Whenever I choose to engage kindly, civily, and even with humor, I personally feel so. much. better. Dropping “truth bombs,” responding only with snarky memes or gifs, or replying in anger doesn’t hurt only the recipient. It’s not good for our souls.

5. Choose three things.

I’m still not getting into politics here, and a quick Google search will show you all you need to know about what’s going on in the world. The obvious results? There’s so many issues out there, it’s hard to know where to begin.

We can listen to everyone who crosses our path. We can be good global citizens by listening and learning from others as much as we can. But none of us can take up the torch of every single issue.

I like this simple Google Doc by Jennifer Hoffmann. In it, she suggests you pick three issues you care about, and dive deeply into those. I like that.

dialogue over coffee

Diving deeper into fewer issues instead of doing an inch deep and a mile wide is not only better for your sanity, it’s probably more effective for these causes as well.

6. Set healthy parameters when you are on screen.

When it’s time to be involved, still set limits for yourself. I use and love Freedom, and have created self-imposed boundaries that help me stay focused on my work. For me, that’s no social media from 9 am to 1 pm Tuesday-Thursday, and no social media, Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon from 10 pm to 7 am on weekdays. On both my laptop and my phone.

It’s made a world of difference to my sanity and my work habits.

I also benefit from checking my sources and opening myself to as many perspectives as I can. All Sides has been eye-opening for me, and helpful.

I personally don’t watch video news clips unless enough people I trust say it’s worth watching. My blood pressure stays lower when I stick to reading the news, and I feel more in control of how I respond to an issue.

And I’ve made extra efforts to not scroll down to the comments section of news articles. They usually make me weep for humanity more than actually help me stay informed.

benches

Don’t check out—we need engaged, thoughtful citizenry more than ever. There are times when involvement matters, when reasonable adults shouldn’t bury their heads in the sand. It’s actually good for your own soul to engage responsibly.

7. Listen to your soul.

All in all—know yourself. Listen to what your soul is telling you, and respond. Put your health first. Pray, journal, meditate. Know that you’re loved deeply by God, and that, blessedly, you’re not God. And no one else currently walking the earth is, either.

Remember that you’re only human. And also remember that the people you engage with, offline or off, are also only human. Yet we are humans. We all matter. So much.

woman holding globe

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Art of Simple readers come from all sorts of backgrounds, locations, and worldviews, and therefore have many different opinions that span the spectrum. You’re also some of the most thoughtful commenters I’ve seen online. Please share any tips and tricks you’ve found that helps you take care of yourself during tumultuous times—I’d love to hear more! But know that I’ll delete any comments that have anything to do with specific issues or sides to issues—that’s not what this essay is about, and that’s not what the comment section below is for. Love you guys. XO

Have a good day,
again and again.

If you feel in your bones the need to simplify so you can live the life you're meant to live...

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53 Comments

  1. Becky

    Thank you! I have been exhausted and grumpy and I know it’s from all the political things I see on social. I had hoped it would be over after the election, but it’s actually gotten worse! Number 3 has been essential for me, just staying away from it, going on walks, and not reading comments on articles–that just hurts my heart! Thanks for sharing ❤️

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      You’re welcome, Becky! Stay engaged, but take care of yourself first. That’s my mantra right now. <3

    • Melanie

      It’s so hard isn’t it Becky – I started a rule in our house a little while ago and we are a no news household – when its big enough you always find out but I just found all the negative chatter really got me down and social really can takeover if you let it! much love x

  2. Anna

    Yes, take care of yourself. But then get busy taking care of the people around you. We are so privileged, including the option to decrease our exposure to the ugly parts of the world. Get well. Get strong. And then get on with the real work of using your power to make the world better. You can’t care about everything, but if you do nothing about injustice, you are part of the problem.

    And while I understand trying to be non-partisan to maintain broad market appeal, that’s also not appropriate in these days. Speak well. Speak boldly. Staying neutral is not an option.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      “Yes, take care of yourself. But then get busy taking care of the people around you. We are so privileged, including the option to decrease our exposure to the ugly parts of the world. ” <-- This is good, Anna. Thanks for your words.

      • Natalie P

        Good points, Anna and Tsh. I admit that I’ve thought about what it would be like to just bury my head in the sand and not give any mental space to the injustices in the world that make my heart ache. But I know that I would not enjoy that false sense of peace because I would still know that there was work I should be doing. I’ve actually gained more peace from diving into my two main causes and taking action than I would have from completely ignoring those issues! It’s the knowing and doing nothing that eats at one’s soul the most.

        And having read Tsh’s blog for years, I really don’t think she’s ducking issues to maintain broad market appeal. This blog offers insight and guidance about living holistically with your life’s purpose (without prescribing what that purpose should be), and this particular post is about the non-partisan issue of self-care during tumultuous politics. She does suggest diving deeply into issues you care about. I know where to go online when I want to read about the issues. I for one am grateful for these spaces where dividing lines are not being drawn.

        • Tsh Oxenreider

          Natalie, thank you for your comment here. Every last word of it. XO

          And this –> “It’s the knowing and doing nothing that eats at one’s soul the most”? That is THE THING, isn’t it? Thank you so much for saying it so succinctly. Grace and peace to you.

    • Lloyd

      Staying neutral is a wonderful and courageous choice. I commend and respect those that live it as a option and choose not to speak boldly, but choose to share kindly and openly the bottom line in us all. This bottom line is to have the humility to see that we all are no better than anyone else, and that we all share the common cores of survival that when looked at with humility, temper our thoughts and speech to simply…”Mind our own business”. We have enough to take care of and change within ourselves!!

  3. Julie

    Thank you for these words. How I need them! You are a voice of reason for me.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Oh, I’m so glad, Julie! Thank you for saying so. And I almost always write whatever it is I personally need to hear, so I’m right there with you in needing them. 😉

  4. Betsy Nero

    Thank you. Just breathe, take in nature, listen, commit to something with passion. I needed this today!

  5. Jenny M.

    This! I appreciate all you shared. Thank you. 🙂

  6. April

    THANK YOU! Facebook is especially toxic right now and it makes it so stinkin’ hard to get on to do anything related to my business, blog, etc. I used to be one of those “speak as soon as the thought races in your head” type of people and over the years feel God has been so kind and gracious in how he is maturing me in that regard (although there are times where I still have to retract and delete things I posted in the heat of a moment). I’d much rather engage with people in face-to-face real-life but times are a changing’ and I’m trying to find that balance of how to interact with people especially during controversial times/issues. It’s rare I post things political of nature nowadays (a pure miracle in itself compared to a few years ago), but even now when I do I am filled with such doubt … because given my circle of friends (there’s a large portion of people who hold very different views than me) I have the unpopular opinion. I struggle with people-pleasing and wanting to be included, and when my default your core beliefs are so different from many of your friends it can be quite lonely.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      It can be lonely, can’t it, April? I so get where you’re coming from here.

    • Kim

      April, I know exactly how you feel. *Exactly.*

      “I struggle with people-pleasing and wanting to be included, and when my default your core beliefs are so different from many of your friends it can be quite lonely.” <— So much yes.

    • Carol

      I’m right there with you. The comments and comment sections make my soul sad. Trish, thank you for this article. Lots of wisdom here. Diving deep on a couple of issues vs having compassion fatigue is what I need to enact. Again, thanks Trish and you’re not alone April or Kim.

  7. Mandi

    I have also been grumpy and exhausted with everything I’ve been seeing on social media and from all the negativity floating around everywhere. However, I was finding it difficult to restrain myself from checking in with Facebook, in particular, so I have temporarily unfollowed anyone who has ever made a political or negative statement of any kind. So, now I’m only seeing posts from positive influences or from non-political groups that I care about. It’s super-refreshing.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I understand. While I think it’s important to stay engaged and informed, it’s also healthy to remove toxic voices in our lives. I hope you’re able to return and learn/engage soon, Mandi. Be well. XO

  8. Lindsay @ Let Me Give You Some Advice

    Thanks, Tsh for your thoughtful response to this weekend and past week’s headlines. It is taxing to wade through it all and I appreciate your focus on self-care. My mind is already mulling over a way I might encourage my small tribe with some intentional self-care calls to action….hmmm, much to ponder!
    PS – Allsides.com is a new source for me so I’m excited to check it out.

  9. Amy Rogers Hays

    Such a good reminder Tsh! And I’ve become a touch obsessed with the idea that we’re not really listening ever since I picked up the book “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss that Megan Tietz recommended a month ago on the Sorta Awesome Podcast (the book about negotiation techniques from the FBI hostage negotiator). It’s convicted me that I’m not nearly as good of a listener as I thought I was. (Here are few more thoughts on the book and how it applies to life and prayer and motherhood http://amyrogershays.com/2017/01/24/on-listening/ )

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks for the suggestion, Amy!

  10. Karen

    LOVE the document and “freedom”. Gonna apply both of those. Our family group-me was dominated by politics until my youngest man-child waded in and basically asked that it be a safe place for family “positivity”. (He said things that I could not have said without coming across as bossy! IT WAS A WIN! :-))

  11. Steph

    It is hard to remember some of these suggestions when we most need them! I feel like I should put sticky notes all over the house saying “UNPLUG!” “LISTEN!” “BE KIND!!!” I know I need to breathe deeply and let some of the angst out when I see it is contagious to my daughters. My youngest, particularly, is so sensitive to the universe. This morning she got up and said “I feel sad, Mumma. I don’t know why, but I feel sad.” That is when I knew I have to get a grip on my emotions and how I respond to what is happening in the world.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Hey, literal sticky notes around the house aren’t a bad idea, Steph! I hear you.

      • Linda Sand

        The sticky note above my desk says, “Be present. Weigh my responses. Choose the one that brings me the most PEACE.” I’m not sure which blog I stole that from but it is helping me cope.

  12. Peggy

    I just want to say “thank you”. This was perfect timing…

  13. Megan

    Thank you for this, Tsh! Even though my political beliefs are quite a bit different from yours, I still follow you everywhere – blog, podcast, instagram, books, etc. – and I continuously find you to be a calm within the storm. I’ve had to disable my Facebook numerous times and turn off the tv during the last few months to literally “get away” from the nastiness of politics (and let’s be real here – there’s nastiness on all sides). I wish we’d collectively focus more on commonalities and engage in political discourse in a civil manner. It’s a hard time for sensitive souls. As a highly sensitive personality, I need to disconnect more and re-connect with nature while I finish my novel!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I so appreciate your kind words here, Megan! And I love that we can have different perspectives yet engage with kindness. I’m glad you’re here. 🙂

  14. Kari Patterson

    I loved this, and SO needed this today. Just, thank you.

  15. Katie

    Thanks for these good ideas. I’ve figured out most of them on my own during these last few months, but it’s always a good to revisit them and definitely to share with a wider audience. I’m 9 months pregnant so the pre and post election time has required even more careful attention to myself, my habits and then world!

    A few other ideas that have been helpful to me…
    1) It’s important not to base our involvement or awareness (or lack thereof) on Facebook or other social media. If politics or the world is getting too much for you there, by all means pull back from the social media, but don’t let that make the decision for you on how and why you’ll be involved in bigger issues.
    2) Pair your news with action. I’ve found two newsletters that I really love and the give me both a dose of news and some concrete steps to in response. This helps lessen my anxiety (a little) at what I’m reading and helps balance out my day.
    3) Engage with people directly, rather than with mass social media postings. My husband and I have been working with the goal of “one more person” – one more person to decide to engage, read an article, join a newsletter, etc. The problems out there feel so big and overwhelming, but giving a personal invite to come over and talk or recommend a resource is so much more effective for both parties and doesn’t contribute to the overwhelm as much. This pairs up with your point about listening – it’s hard to even try to listen when we’re in a big group or only engaging via mass media platforms!
    4) Try to get, at least some, news from people who are directly involved in the action. I really appreciated watching the Preemptive Love Coalition’s FB live feed this weekend. This isn’t necessarily the same as reading a well-researched news article, but it gives a little back to story to all the big emotions from both sides.

    • Lindsay

      Hi, Katie!

      If you don’t mind, could you give an example of a newsletter that lists some concrete action steps? I’m feeling stagnant and frustrated with not knowing what to do to help make a difference in some kind of way. I think this would be helpful for me and for others!

      Thanks for the post, Tsh!

      “2) Pair your news with action. I’ve found two newsletters that I really love and the give me both a dose of news and some concrete steps to in response. This helps lessen my anxiety (a little) at what I’m reading and helps balance out my day.”

      • Katie

        I read, and find helpful, the Wall of Us newsletter (wall-of-us.com). This definitely gets away from the non-political and is much more left-leaning. I haven’t heard of any newsletters or sites that are listing actions to take regardless of your political leaning, though I do think that part of the “choose three things” can help with that if you subscribe to organizations that align with your beliefs and goals. Hope that’s helpful!

  16. Daikuro @ SimplicityBlogger.com

    Thanks for the reminders. When aggressive feelings arise, it is important to remember that we all belong to one world and we all came from one life. Fighting for what we think is right is useless. The path of kindness is the better path.

  17. Cindy

    Bless you, Tsh. This was balm to my weary soul.

  18. Nancy

    Thank you so much. This is just what I needed – I’ve even looked at your site several times over the past few days to see if you had a soul-recharging perspective to share. Thank you for taking the time and energy to share your thoughts with us, as always.

  19. Melanie

    Great post, and so timely for everyone. I’m not in the US but the stuff you lovely ladies are facing is definitely felt world wide. Taking care of ourselves should always be our priority but sometimes it can be so tricky when theres so much bad juju in the air. Lovely advice x

  20. Jill Mohn

    Lovely…. thank you for a refreshing read… time well spent.

  21. Devi

    Great tips, Tsh. I think for me looking to my community has been huge. I don’t live in the US, but the truth is what’s happening in the US is part of a much larger shift happening all over the world. We were in Germany over Christmas, and people there are deeply concerned about the direction in which Europe is turning, in some ways it’s so much darker than what is happening in the US, given European history that’s much less than 100 years old. All that to say, keeping my eyes local helps me to see that there is something I can be doing HERE, NOW. I think it’s tempting to fall into the trap of everything is out THERE. DC! London! Berlin! (etc.) There are a lot of things I cannot do, but getting involved in my community and finding the margins in my community and the people in those margins has been very, very helpful. I’m still not “doing” much – I have small kids, so everything I do has to be doable with them in tow.. all that to say, not much. But it helps to know where I want to focus.

  22. Greg

    Thank you. I waited until this morning to read your post, and it points out areas in my personal an online life that I can improve. Please write more when you have the time.

  23. Susan

    My One Little Word for the year is nourish and actively engaging in nourishing my intentions has been so good for my health and well-being. My intentions are nourishing my spiritual life, my physical life, nourishing a giving heart, and a heart of gratitude, and others. All these have been fully-active in my life this first month of my word and has served me well navigating the tumultuous within my world. A couple things I’m plugging into: memorizing scripture (oh, my, how uplifting this is to my spiritual heart); actively giving (I’m researching how and where, and then intentionally giving every week); I’m recording my gratitudes daily (using Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts as a guide), and weekly (even making an album of my weekly gratitudes which serves as a reflective source).

  24. Aimee Kollmansberger

    Yes, yes. Staying engaged yet staying whole. I wrote a post last night on “Why Facebook Feels Like My Childhood” and that we must find ways to speak our differing truths with kindness, respect, and love. It’s rough going out there right now.

  25. Jodie

    Such wise and thoughtful words. Thank you for sharing!

  26. Unconventional Sustainability

    Thanks for the great thoughts and reminders! I personally have been on a news diet for almost a year and found that being selective about what I listen to or read, as well as how much has been very helpful. Overall I’m trying to figure out ways to stay engaged in meaningful ways that help me feel more empowered rather than just frustrated or depressed. Almost ironically I started my year-long Sustainably Happy Project on January 1 and that has been very helpful for keeping me focused on the positives in my life and the world (rather than dwell on all the negative or bad news and happenings, which there is plenty of these days!).

    Great post!

  27. Alana

    So good! Thank you! I feel like one of the best ways can channel despair or frustration is into educating myself. I want to delve into our founding father’s writings, American history, democracy, etc more than I ever have before.

  28. Emily at The We Files

    Audre Lorde says that self-care is political warfare. It’s a big deal to care for ourselves. You have said so much good here. Listening is truly an art, and one I am learning much too late in life. (Better late than never?) I’ve found meditating morning and night to be incredible for maintaining a peaceful disposition even when I’m feeling passionate about all that is going on. I agree that those who want to be or become politically active should maintain a self-care practice, especially when you want to move forward or make progress from a place of love. (Don’t we all? And don’t we think more clearly when we are grounded?)

    I think kindness goes a long way, especially when it can be challenging to reflect on the goodness of humanity. I try to practice more generosity and random acts of kindness. It elevates myself and others to see and receive some good in the world, even if it’s as small as a generous tip, a care package to a stressed friend, or stopping to listen to a person who others usually walk by (someone without stable housing, holding a sign, etc.). Bringing dignity to fellow humans has an impact. I think it’s easy to feel divided, when the reality is that as humans we have many shared experiences. When we focus on our shared humanity, we all benefit. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

  29. Emily

    Unfollowing everyone on Facebook has been the best thing I’ve done for a while. When I found myself angry and wanting to post nasty comments in response to others’ posts, it was time to try a different approach. Since we live abroad, I didn’t want to shut it down entirely- it really is a great tool for keeping in touch. So, in a moment of haste (although it wasn’t all that hasty because Facebook does NOT make it easy to unfollow people), I unfollowed everyone and everything. I can check out the pages of those I care about most and see what they’ve been up to as they come to mind while filtering out the ridiculousness I saw posted everywhere. Facebook is working for me now. A special bonus is now that my newsfeed is blank, I don’t waste much time on Facebook anymore 😉

  30. Faith

    Yes! Yes to this post! I’m old enough to say I’ve seen many family’s situations and the happiest of them were unplugged (as much as they possibly could be). Our society is becoming sick with all of the news being played everywhere including public schools and drs offices. I worry for the children, our future, and believe that keeping them unplugged as much as possible is more important now than ever. It’s high time that we get down on their physical level and pull out good literature instead of iPhones. May the Lord guide us to the truth.

  31. Susan Ekins

    Wonderful post. Many of us have become so enmeshed in worry about current politics that we forget to take care of ourselves. Our stress levels are so high, it is hard to sleep and then we can’t be effective. We have to have balance in our lives. I like that you also encourage taking action, while reminding us that we can’t do everything.

  32. Kahlie

    This is an interesting read for me following you from Australia. We get so much via our media, but never know how the average American feels. It’s hurting the world at the moment, and these ideas are really great.

  33. Joy

    Really needed this today. Social Media is draining, Getting ready to step back, take a look at what matters, and where I can make a difference and take care of myself and my Family. Thank You for sharing♡

  34. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    So well said, and I love some of the links you provided as good resources. I’ve been struggling with this too. I want to be informed and take action, but if I feel crappy, sad, and defeated…and tired, I’m no good to anyone, especially myself. I think for me I’m about taking action from the root level, which may take some more time to see actual change. Even though I did participate in the women’s march and it was awesome, I need to stay level-headed and grounded.

  35. Stefanie

    I am a sensitive person, prone to extremes of information overload, paralyzing fear, no action and hiding from the ugliness of the world. This post is uplifting even a few weeks later.

    For me, an article by David Wells has transformed my understanding of how I can act in these upsetting times. “Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo”

    I recognize this isn’t comforting to people of all belief systems, but it is for me. It has really lowered my blood pressure and help me navigate how I live my days with intention, love and respect for others.

    Diffusing Frankincense helps me too 🙂

  36. Lloyd

    Staying neutral is a wonderful and courageous choice. I commend and respect those that live it as a option and choose not to speak boldly, but choose to share kindly and openly the bottom line in us all. This bottom line is to have the humility to see that we all are no better than anyone else, and that we all share the common cores of survival that when looked at with humility, temper our thoughts and speech to simply…”Mind our own business”. We have enough to take care of and change within ourselves!!

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