It is so obvious that this is a stressful and challenging time that I almost didn’t bother to write it. We are in the midst of a deadly worldwide pandemic, catastrophic impacts of global climate change, and a dangerous surge in authoritarianism and racist fascism in many parts of the world.
Individually, many of us confront severe and baffling life conditions: they need their kids at school so they can work, but going to school could give them a disease that could kill them. Or they’ve lost a job and are struggling to keep sheltered and fed. Or they have illness to contend with on top of everything else. Or anxiety and depression are stalking them, undermining their ability to act.
These times are a drain on our internal resources. They reduce our capacity to move effectively in the world, our ability to be happy, to maintain our emotional balance.
We humans are not built for this kind of stress. We are built to run like mad to escape danger, and then laugh and go back into a low-stress state. Months on end of life-threatening stressors tend to push us towards feeling anxious, defeated, hopeless, depressed. So we must deliberately and pro-actively work with our neurochemistry, as we Atheopagans do so well, to improve our moods and keep on functioning.
And that may be more so for Atheopagans than for many others. Because we are compassionate and empathetic people. We care about others, about humanity, about the Earth. We suffer when they suffer…particularly when it feels there is nothing we can do about it.
In days like these, it is essential that we practice self care. Not only for ourselves, but for those around us: as in an aircraft emergency, we must put on our own oxygen mask before we can help others.
So to start with, cut yourself some slack. No one is operating at peak efficiency right now. Memories are failing, tempers are fraying, emotions are spiking. There are good neurological reasons for those phenomena–they aren’t character flaws or moral failings. Don’t demand top performance of yourself–or of others–in this moment in history. It’s unreasonable to do so. Self-care is not punishing yourself for subpar performance, nor is it setting unreasonable goals that set you up for failure.
Getting out in nature is good. Exercise is good. Eating healthily is good. Spiritual practice is good. Drinking water is good. But none of these is good if they’re going to become failed projects you flog yourself with. Even a little of these things is better than nothing. Set the bar low, and celebrate successes.
Next, practice. And I mean that in the broadest sense: understanding that you are not a master of something, do it again and again in order to improve. This practice can be a ten minute meditation a day. A simple candle ritual at your Focus. A daily commitment to sit in the Sun for five minutes, and to go out and watch the sunset.
It can be many things. But having and maintaining a practice that is about your health and happiness and remembering the beauty of the world is key at this so-challenging time.
Finally: live a little. In the best of circumstances, is it a great idea to spend a weekend binge-watching Sense8 and eating carbohydrates? Well, maybe not. But a little self-comforting behavior may be exactly what you need right now. That bowl of mac and cheese is not going to kill you, and it may conjure memories of simpler times, stirring up the happy cocktail of endorphins we all need to feel fulfilled and joyous.
Our path is about being our highest visions of ourselves, happy and effective, and in helping the world along so others can be, too. So we will not feel a divide between ourselves and the Earth of which we are a part, but rather will know that we are the magnificent Universe, looking around at itself.
It’s mightily hard to get to that place right now. We have hard miles to travel before it will become easier again, but history is long: it will.
So chill out. Do what you can. Take care of yourself.