Last night as Londoners enjoyed a warm evening, watched the Champions League, drank in the bars and restaurants which surround Borough Market, or simply walked home after a hard days work, terror struck at them. Three men, determined to cause mayhem and destruction lashed out at innocent people simply because they were there. Within moments the news channels were reporting, often graphic, and frightening scenes.
So often when a tragedy is making headlines we can feel we must look, despite the pain it might cause us. Of course it is important to be informed, but the pervasiveness of social media and twenty four hour news means information often overwhelms us. We compulsively refresh and swipe, and even feel that it would be callous or heartless not to keep up with every detail. If we are upset, we feel that we should be stronger, or that we are somehow distracting from the pain of the people who were there.
In fact one else can know though what is in our hearts, and no one else can decide what is the “correct” amount of pain to carry to show we care enough, or are brave, or strong. All these terms carry with them the idea that showing strong emotion is somehow a weakness, rather than a sign of our humanity.
It is OK to look away. It is OK to accept your humanity, and say, I need to look away, I need a respite from these feelings, I need to turn my face away, to say, I know enough.
Self Care is a sign of strength.
One of my favourite quotes is from Audre Lorde.
Caption reads “Self care is not about self-indulgence, it’s about self -preservation. Audre Lorde
Imagine a wound; If we pick at it, it runs the risk of getting infected. A simple thing can lead to something far worse. So it is with self-care. If we get caught up in the need to be brave, or strong, or whatever term society teaches is better than showing our emotions, we can end up in a far worse place. We can actually end up unable to do anything about the situation which is moving us. By practising self-care we are not only saying feeling is OK, we are saying we are important enough to matter. Self care is an acknowledgement that our feelings matter, and that taking care of them matters.
What is self-care?
I would love here to share some magic tips, guaranteed to work for all. However self-care is very personal. Think about something you love doing, or that relaxes you, or makes you smile. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or expensive. When it comes to events like the attacks on Manchester and London, it can be as simple as turning off the radio, closing the twitter app, changing the channel. Self care is about recognising you feel something, accepting that it is OK to feel, and acknowledging you are worthy of being looked after, by your self. It is OK to be angry, or frightened, or concerned for the future, or any combination of emotions. It is also OK to say, I know enough, I am turning off the news, and spending today in the sunshine. It does not mean you don’t care, but that you care enough about yourself.