“You are free to take this moment to do nothing else but BREATHE.” –Morgan Harper Nichols

Is it just me or are we all carrying the whole of the world around with us day after day? Our shoulders and backs are quivering beneath the weight of all that accompanies our days. And bearing such a weight is quite the task in these times of already stretched and divided and too much.

There are current events to carry and keep up with. There are financial strains and relational issues; consistent pressure to make sweeping stands and draw all manner of lines in the sand. There are workplaces to manage and keep up; children to care for and build into something better than what surrounds. A constant tending and maintaining to keep it all alive and moving forward.

And it’s too much; an unbearable weight for any of us to manage.

Whether we have any control over it or not, we seem to carry every worry and task and to-do list along with us to make sure it doesn’t get lost, confused in the chaos. I know I do. I feel that weight deep down in my bones most days.

To lay that down seems too far a stretch, too lofty a hope. And while my heart fights to remind me that it isn’t all mine to carry, my head speaks louder with speeches of who else will? How will it all be taken care of?! To be human is to carry and strive. Isn’t it?

But when I step back to look wider and longer, it becomes a bit clearer- that laying down the weight of today (and perhaps yesterday too) is strength all in itself. It is a deep breath to weary lungs and clarity to eyes that have forgotten how to see.

And while we may not be able to lay it down forever, some of it will most certainly have to be picked back up, we can make a way for what brings some rest.

A dear and genuinely wise friend spoke words at the beginning of this pandemic that have planted themselves deep in the soil of my mind and heart.

“Do more of what feels better and less of what feels worse.” 

The context of those words is important in that she was speaking into the trauma of loss, offering a kind permission in the midst of great grief. We can’t stop doing all the things that don’t feel good to us just because, but when overwhelm and trauma and stress bubbles to their outer extremes, I have felt the permission that those words offer in such striking ways.

There are things that help. They bring health to our hearts and minds and bodies. They remind us of what matters and what we CAN do in a world and news cycle of heartbreak and disagreement and too much.

So, I have taken to noticing here of late. Opening my eyes to what helps instead of hurts. And here is what I have seen and jotted to remember.

It is helpful when I:

  • Stay true (but not rigid) to a sleep routine (this clock is incredibly helpful with that)
  • Move my body
  • Bring a giant water jug along with me everywhere- my little metal hydration sidekick
  • Put limits on my social media intake
  • Limit my news (Our brains were not made to hold all that the 24/7 cycle offers. This news source is great at leveling the field and offering multiple perspectives.)
  • Allow rest often and not call myself lazy for it
  • Listen to an upbeat playlist, preferably in the car (here is one I am loving)
  • Do something creative with my hands
  • Schedule time for people that bring lift
  • Saying the true thing out loud to someone
  • Repeating a verse, prayer, or mantra of good 
  • Make space for prayer, study, and meditation (this app has been helpful in combining all three)
  • Take a shower- there is something about warm water and getting clean
  • Check in on myself (this journal has guided this process for me)

My list likely looks different than yours will, but maybe it will spark some noticing in you as well.

It hasn’t been and won’t be perfect. I don’t do all of these things every day. It’s more like when the overwhelm comes and sits too close to me on the couch or in my office or in the pickup line at the kids’ school, I run through the list and pick one or two. Having it at the ready as a tool for stepping back and allowing care to step in has been giant.

I am finding it invaluable to find what brings my mind to a good place, even if my heart is still hurting for all the things and all the people. Both can stand together, equally true and not blind to one another. It honestly brings clarity to uncover next steps to help, an unexpected kindness.

So here is your permission this day/week/month to notice. What makes things better and what makes things worse? If you are anything like me, I am absolutely useless when I give myself over to the extreme of worse. So I am fighting to notice and choose the better. I am fighting for eyes to see and adjust as necessary. And you can too. Just start to notice and jot down your own list of what helps.