If you don’t practice joy, you will not survive this shit.
https://www.self.com-By Jessamyn Stanley-NikkiHughes/Adobe Stock
Bitch, what a time to be alive.
As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough, white supremacy’s chickens have (finally!) started to come home to roost and we’re all bearing the weight of the fallout.
It’s hard to call yourself racist, but this is the realization that the universe is asking of you, me and everyone we know. No one escapes the grasp of white supremacy, and the time has come for everyone, especially white people, to do the work of uncovering internalized racism so we can collectively work towards resolution and healing.
Conversations about systemic racism, whether they’re being had in the streets at protests or with loved ones at the dinner table, are draining as fuck. They are also the most important thing you and I can do right now. The protests you attend, the anti-racism memes you share, the money you donate; sure, those are all great. But none of that really matters unless you do the important work of decolonizing yourself. What does this look like? Acknowledge the racism and bigotry within yourself, looking at the ways you benefit from systems of white supremacy and anti-Blackness, and reflect that journey to others.
This is hard, emotionally complex work that will leave you in tears and questioning every aspect of your identity. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. It’s hard on purpose. We’re dismantling systemic racism, not prepping for a bake sale or deciding where to brunch.
Establishing wellness practices to maintain your energy in the face of mental, emotional, and spiritual fatigue is crucial. In the face of adversity, it’s more important than ever to experience joy. If you don’t practice joy, you will not survive this shit. In the face of unbridled fear and anger, joy is the revolution.
Lemme share a few of my favorite ways to maintain my energy and keep my head on straight when shit is just TOO real.
- Get in the shower and meditate
This is my favorite—and perhaps most frequent—meditation and all you have to do is hop in the shower.
Step 1. Turn on the water and get in the shower. Or the other way around; whatever floats your boat.
Step 2. Whatever you do from this point forward, do not turn on any music, podcasts, audiobooks, or any other pre-recorded sounds.
I don’t care if you’ve been waiting all week to listen to The Michelle Obama Podcast. I know, she’s amazing and her podcast is obviously Fire. I literally don’t care—don’t turn that shit on.
Step 3. Grab your loofah, wash cloth, soap, body wash, body scrub, or whatever else gets you in the mood.
Call me bougie, but I’d recommend specifically grabbing the products that make you feel most luxurious. Now is not the time for your “I know I need to go to Target but I just don’t have the energy for it” products. Snatch up the stuff that really gets you going—favorite smells, textures, all of that.
Step 4. Lather up your loofah and get to scrubbing.
Step 5. Now here’s the hard part: Try to just feel the water.
You heard me. Just feel the water. You don’t need to categorize how it feels or what it’s doing to your body or anything else.
Don’t try to think about anything else. Don’t run through your to-do list. Don’t think about what you’re going to do when you get out of the shower. Don’t think about what you were doing before you got in the shower. Just try to feel the water.
Your mind will obviously flit around to different topics—that’s normal. You’re alive after all, and a brain that’s wide awake will naturally flit to and from different topics. The point isn’t to stop thinking about other stuff. The point is to just try and be in the moment. Just experience the water falling on your body. Feel what it feels like.
Don’t. Categorize. Your. Feelings. And if you do start to categorize your feelings (mad love to all of my air signs who are like “bitch, how am I supposed to avoid categorizing shit?!”), that’s cool, too. Don’t scold yourself. You’re not doing anything wrong. Just let the feeling of the water hitting your skin bring your attention back to the present moment.
Stay in the shower as long as possible. (But don’t be a dick, leave some for the fish and for, you know, the environment.) Definitely also leave some hot water so the rest of your house can do a shower meditation, too.
Not only will this meditation leave you squeaky clean, it will also give you a lot of time to enjoy the present moment instead of obsessing over the future and the past. Connecting with the feeling of the water and its temperature, the fragrance of your body wash, the way the products slide against your skin—all of these sensations draw you into the present moment so that you’re grounded in the magic of the spectacular now.
There’s plenty of time to obsess over the future and the past. Instead of using the shower as your time to run through mental chatter, do the opposite instead.
- Go outside.
This doesn’t need to be complicated.You don’t need to go for a hike or find a park or do anything more than just walk outside of your apartment building. Bonus points if you have access to a backyard, but we’re not all so lucky. If you don’t have a backyard or if your backyard is full of dog poop, walk down the street until you find the first patch of grass that doesn’t gross you out.
Step 1. Take off your shoes. Take off your socks.
I know some of y’all are weird about taking off your socks and I want to leave space for that but this really isn’t going to work the same if your feet aren’t completely bare. (If it helps, anyone who would make fun of the way your feet look or smell has bigger problems in their life than your feet.)
Step 2. Stand in the dirt.
Actually, don’t just stand there. Flex your toes and dig around in that shit. If you’re perched atop the grass, dig your toes underneath it and get to know the soil.
Step 3. If there’s space, get on your knees or sit on your butt and if there’s even more space than that, starfish on the ground.
I mean it, bitch. Get on your belly or your back and roll around on the ground. If you need a mental image to get you going, picture a very happy dog on the first day of summer or a three-year-old after naptime on a summer afternoon.
Step 4. Close your eyes and open them again.
Keep ‘em closed if that’s your poison. If your eyes are facing the sky, gaze up at the sun, moon, clouds, and/or the vast space in between them all. Take in the bounty of the universe.
Here’s the thing. Humans are meant to be outside. But instead, we spend most of our time strapped to digital devices and trapped in air conditioned boxes like houses and cars.
Now more than ever it’s crucial that we take conscious time to reconnect to this earth. Reconnecting to nature reminds us that the world is bigger than what can be encompassed by our offices, homes, computers, and social media profiles.
Step 5. Now’s the time to listen to any books, playlists, or episodes of The Michelle Obama Podcast you’ve had queued.
But you can also leave that for next time and enjoy the sound of silence for now. If you live in an urban area or if kids and pets are competing for your attention, you might prefer to drown out the sound of the garbage man or your loud neighbor with some sweeter sounds. I highly recommend listening to Spotify’s Daily Wellness playlist. I was skeptical of it at first, but the mix of music and meditation podcasts is usually just what the doctor ordered.
- Hide your phone from yourself.
Ok, “hide” is a strong word. You don’t need to play hide and go seek with an inanimate object. Just put it out of sight and out of mind. I like to leave mine in another room or on another floor of my house. If you live in one room, put your phone at the bottom of a box and tuck it out of sight in a corner or a closet.
Step 1. Inhale. Exhale.
You’re gonna be OK. The world is not going to collapse if you’re unplugged for a little while. I know, it kinda feels like it might collapse. But it really won’t.
Here’s the thing: Being plugged into your devices is fucking with your life, BIG TIME. Once upon a time, human beings were not plugged in 24/7 and I’m willing to bet that a lot of us were happier or at least more relaxed day to day than we are now. It’s important to keep on top of what’s going on in the world, but there’s a fine line between staying informed and depending on news and social media for happiness. No wonder we’re so stressed out—we’re always plugged in!
You don’t have to hide your phone for that long. No one’s timing you and I’m not gonna come by your house and judge you for getting it out of the box after five minutes of hiding it. But even five minutes without scrolling will do wonders for your mental health.
Step 2. Find something else to do.
While your phone is MIA, why not grab a notebook and sketch a little? Or journal a little. Grab that book you’ve been meaning to read for years and try to read just one page. If all else fails, you can journal about how much you miss your phone. If you’re craving a little exercise, practice a few yoga poses or see how far you can get with the hundred push-ups challenge. If you have to, turn on the TV or binge something on Netflix. But keep that in your back pocket as a last resort.
Step 3. Keep your phone hidden.
This is the hard part: Try to keep your phone hidden until you have to be reminded to go find it. But don’t sweat it if you get it out of the box five minutes after hiding it. Most of us have come to be reliant on our phones all day every day, and that’s a damn near impossible dependence to break; all we can do is be aware of them, make steps to do better in the future and move forward from there.
This is the most important thing you can do to maintain energy. There is a lot of shitty stuff going on right now and it’s only natural to want to cry about it. There’s also a lot of beautiful and amazing shit going on right now and it’s just as liable to make you want to cry.
You don’t need to cry in front of anyone else. Personally, I fucking hate crying in front of other people. But crying is one of the best ways to release shit that’s holding you back.
It sucks to only cry when something REALLY bad happens. Honestly, this has been my policy for a lot of my life and it has caused a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering.
Cry because you’re happy and cry because you’re sad. Cry because you’re racist and because someone cut you off in traffic. LET IT OUT. If you keep it in, you will not be able to hold your head up when you need it most.
No matter what the headlines say or what uncomfortable truth you’ve uncovered about yourself or what fight you got in earlier today, EVERYTHING’S NOT LOST. Your energy is needed. YOU and all of your quirky weird magnificence are NEEDED. Take care of yourself, baby.
This world is full of love and as long as you’re refilling your cup and maintaining your energy when it gets low, you’ll be turned on and tuned in to receive the blessings that abound in even the smallest bits of life.
Jessamyn Stanley is an award-winning yoga instructor, author of Every Body Yoga, and founder of The Underbelly, a series of yoga classes available internationally by web, iOS, and Android. Her virtual yoga studio is a home for wellness misfits who may feel displaced, discouraged, or overlooked due to a lack of diversity in the health and fitness community.
Jessamyn also hosts a bi-weekly advice podcast titled Dear Jessamyn, where she offers fresh perspectives on relationships and lifestyles for anyone living and loving outside the box.