• Malika Bouhdili

Self-Care Check, Check 1-2-3...

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

Well friends, it’s been about seven months since we first became aware of covid-19 in the United States. We’ve each experienced rapid change in a short period of time. Sure, things are always changing no matter what, but these last few months, almost every aspect of our lives has been impacted by what’s been going on. We’ve experienced shifts in our job status, or significant changes in how we go about performing our professional responsibilities or schoolwork. Our daily habits and routines too have changed, including how and when we get groceries, how and when we’ll get exercise, and under what circumstances can we connect with a friend. Budgets have been tightened, vacation plans let go of. And, whatever your norm was as it relates to the amount of time you were physically present to family, loved ones, and colleagues – I bet its changed. Within each household, some feel more physically alone, others almost claustrophobically surrounded. All the new decisions we have to make, and all the new external changes in our lives, create inner changes too. Week-to-week, day-by-day, moment-to-moment, it is unavoidable that there would be shifts in our physical, emotional, and energetic bodies. Not to mention that outer circumstances and inner states often bleed together. Think of news on the national and world stage, and how headlines or TV can pluck our emotional strings of outrage, fear, and sadness, or other times unconsciously draw the cold curtain of numbness between the heart and our sense perceptions.

Usually, when a big change happens in our life, it happens in one area (perhaps your career, romantic partnership, health, etc). But, what makes the human experience of this pandemic so unique, is that it affects all our lives in multiple ways. So, for a moment, I just want to say: you’re not alone. I think many of us are experiencing a rollercoaster of change and adjustment in our internal, interpersonal, financial, and familial lives. It is very understandable, under the circumstances, to have some (or many!) days of feeling emotional, uncertain, overwhelmed, or just plain ol’ drained.

Whew. Just take a deep breath in through your nose, and let it out through your mouth. Do that two more times if it feels good. Deep bow to you, my friend, and all that you have survived thus far.

When so much change arises at once, it can be hard to simply gauge where we’re at. Checking-in with our minds and bodies may have been easier in the past, but with so much changing at once, we might be less attuned to how we are at any given moment. So, I invite you to keep reading and take some time to reflect on you given all that’s happened so far in 2020. Taking some space to reflect can bring peace and well-being in a relatively short period of time. Understanding, after all, is a key component of compassion. When we really understand something or someone –that is, when we really take the time to get to know a situation or a person –we find that warmth, appreciation, and compassion naturally emerges. So why not get to know and understand yourself for a few minutes right now? Below is a 1-2-3 check, to see how you are, in an effort to cultivate some understanding and self-compassion. You’re worth it!

Take some time and go through each of the questions below, pausing to consider and answer them. If writing feels more comfortable, I invite you to write out (or draw!) in a journal or on a scratch sheet of paper.

1. What are you grieving?

The pandemic has caused all of us to experience loss in some area of our lives. Perhaps this has been acute, such as the loss of a loved one, or the inability to visit a parent or grandparent in an effort to keep them safe. Or, perhaps you have lost some much-needed companionship or alone-time. Maybe you miss travel or exercise, or collegiate collaboration. What losses have the circumstances, through no fault of your own, brought about for you? When you reflect on these losses, what feelings come up in the body? What images and thoughts come up in the mind?

See if you can keep those feelings, images, and thoughts company – letting them be just as they are for a few minutes, allowing them to teach you about what you miss. Let them dissolve on their own time.

2. Have there been any surprise delights?

Sometimes, we can feel guilty for enjoying part of our current circumstances, knowing that that others are suffering greatly. But, any situation is complex and dynamic – and it is healthy to try to acknowledge the totality of any reality. So, permit yourself to reflect for a moment on what surprise joys have emerged during this time. Have the changes in your life circumstances brought about anything more peaceful, or more connected? Perhaps you enjoy no longer having a commute, or have appreciated being in closer proximity to your loved ones. Perhaps you’ve loved more unstructured time – and the creativity it has enabled to flow through you. Has your spiritual practice deepened? Or does the air feel cleaner? What delights have emerged for you during this time? How does your body feel when you reflect on them? What images and thoughts come to mind?

See if you can keep those feelings, images, and thoughts company – letting them be just as they are for a few minutes, allowing them to teach you about what you love. Let them dissolve on their own time.

3. What longings have emerged?

We are growing, evolving beings. That which makes up “you” is ever shape-shifting, incorporating, and releasing. With new experiences and new information rapidly coming into play these last several months, it’s so natural that new longings would start to take shape. What are they? If your heart had hands and fingers – what would they be reaching for? What does the quiet of your being long for? Perhaps you feel fiery with a longing for real justice (at last) for our brothers and sisters of color. Perhaps some part of you aches for more contemplative time, more time in nature, or more time to simply “be.” Perhaps you long for an intimate relationship, or a sense of community. Or, maybe you feel the need for a big change in direction in either your career or place to call home. What longings call to you? And, when they bellow, how does your body feel? What images and thoughts come to mind?

See if you can keep those feelings, images, and thoughts company – letting them be just as they are for a few minutes, allowing them to teach you about what you long for. Let them dissolve on their own time.

Thanks for doing that with me, my friends. Getting to know ourselves and being intimate with our own grief, delights, and longings helps us be all the more equipped to be there for the grief, delights, and longings of others. And, it also may shed some light on where we need to carve out space – or give some away. There are changes we can’t control, but sometimes in reflecting on those, the changes we can enact come to the fore.

So, here’s to having some compassion for your big, beautiful, dynamic, shifting, grieving, loving, and longing heart. It’s a good one – and it’s been in conversation with all that’s been going on. You only have to tune-in to listen.

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