I woke up this morning to a note on our Nespresso (yes, coffee pot flex ok) from my partner that said “I love how big your heart is…” and it made me tear up. With all the heaviness going on in the world right now, my empathetic heart is taking some major hits.
I found this quote on Thought Catalog from Colleen George that describes it best: “Sometimes the world is much heavier, and your heart feels like it’s sinking, and you so badly want to crawl back into your shell and hide away from the world. Yet somehow you are still supposed to make it through. You are still supposed to go through all of your usual motions with a smile on your face and a sparkle in your eye. You are supposed to show up and be yourself and not let anyone else know that you are having a heavy day. You think you need to hide the fact that it feels like the world is pressing down on your shoulders.”
Sometime I feel as though I deserve an Oscar for navigating through everything that has happened within the past two years – to be completely honest, I’m getting extremely overwhelmed living through unprecedented events in my short lifetime. You see, our minds and bodies aren’t designed to take on this much stress; we need outlets. As a highly empathetic human, it’s hard to remember that it’s not my JOB to take on the worry, pain and stress of others… because I have my own to work through. I’ve talked before on my podcast how it’s important to take care of yourself before extending that courtesy to others, (think of the ‘put on your oxygen mask first before helping others’ example) but I something tangible to get my brain and heart back on track.
I’ve been scouring the internet for answers on why I feel heavy and what to do with these emotions/thoughts that keep plaguing my mind. I’m thankful that my medication and tools I’ve learned in therapy help me navigate anxiety while awake – it’s when I’m asleep I feel the full affects of the heaviness. I want to feel and use my empathy to help, but I know that taking care of and protecting my own peace is crucial to survival as well.
So. I’ve compiled some tools to help myself (and hopefully you too).
You might be laughing as I am at myself right now – mostly because how on EARTH in a world based on technology do we even begin to attempt that?? I myself have even created an entire career based solely on being plugged in. But, I’ve found that while I need to function at a basic capacity to do my job, the doom scrolling or constant negative notifications aren’t helping me. My solution? Utilizing my phone’s built in ‘do not disturb’ mode to my advantage, scheduling social media usage to the bare minimum and finding other ways to be social outside of being on my phone.
I’ve found that when I speak my fears and anxiety out loud, I’m more often met with someone else who agrees. This world has an incredible way of connecting people together (yes, on social media) and I think we forget to take advantage of that. Mention your feelings. I do this regularly with Kev – while he might not understand or completely align with where I’m coming from, he always finds a way to validate me. This week I’ve taken time to reach out intentionally to friends who I know also have huge empathetic hearts in an effort to share that they aren’t alone in their feelings. Being truly intentional with your words, more that “how are you doing” can honestly make such a difference in a conversation. (this is also the part where I recommend finding a therapist and creating a support system that you trust really is the move to helping accomplish all of this… resources here)
In times of suffering, pain and unrest my mind goes back to the Mr. Rogers quote we all grew up with: “look for the helpers.” Friends, they really are everywhere. Even in this week’s tragic news cycle, there’s people standing up, using their voices and making real change in the world. Those people are who I want writing our history and that is how we should be remembered. I’ve used this time to focus on finding foundations and organizations that are standing up to injustices and using their resources to help those in trouble. Remember: silence is deafening. What companies are speaking and which ones are silent? I’ve chosen to sign petitions, donate to campaigns and spread factual news and articles in order to help advance stories of people and events that matter.
In my own search for serotonin and dopamine I’ve focused my efforts on things that bring me joy which don’t actually benefit anyone in the world but ME. I learned this principle from Find Your Unicorn Space, a book given to me by a sweet friend and written by Eve Rodsky… it goes into incredible detail about the benefits of doing something you love, just for you. Take away the need for success or monetization, just DO. For me, my unicorn space is crocheting. I don’t sell or market my designs, or even give them to friends… I just crochet. It calms my brain, reminds me of my grandma and gives me a sense of pride to see a physical creation come to life. What does that creative outlet look like for you?
In the end, the world will continue feeling heavy and falling into a pattern of highs and lows – so how do we cope? I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve found that by implementing one or all of these steps has drastically improved my sense of heavy into something more digestible – that way I can begin my action plan to continue feeling and helping. I’ve promised myself (and you) to always use my voice to speak up and out… this time I’m doing it for me. I’m giving you permission as well. Take a breath. Take a moment. Take the time you need. This world will keep spinning, but you are important to focus on as well.
Remember, we can’t help anyone if we don’t help ourselves heal first.