Yes, Everything is Bad And Crazy But You Are Not Alone.
Here’s how KNOCK.LA editors are practicing self-care during, you know, all this.
It is a scary time to be alive: a pandemic, heatwaves, poison air, the Sheriff’s Department ruthlessly attacking protesters, earthquakes, the death of RBG, and everything — and we mean everything — is on fire. The world is one horrific yet well-designed Instagram infographic after another telling us that we are doomed.
You are going through a lot. A LOT. Everyone is. We are too. We’re right here with you, choking under the fire-red sun, experiencing this unnerving unraveling of society and time, begging people to locally organize instead of #RageDonate to large Democratic platforms.
And whether you are actively fighting to bring about a better Los Angeles (or going to start doing so after reading this article) you deserve to take care of yourself. You know, “self-care.”
We are by no means experts on mental health. In fact, we might be the least equipped to give advice, given the fact that we are in a constant state of burn-out and delirium. But this is what we are (maybe) doing for self-care.
I try to keep this teaching from activist and Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh in mind: “Don’t do any task in order to get it over with. Resolve to do each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention. Enjoy and be one with your work.”
It’s increasingly hard to do, but the more I can bring mindfulness to my work and the more I make doing the work itself the goal rather than focusing on the result, the more peace and endurance I experience.
Watch The Dog House on HBO Max because it will change your life.
Draw all the things overwhelming you (climate change, systematic racism, etc.) and then draw all the things that bring you joy and that you are thankful for (trees, grapes) and then seek those things out. Maybe even share them with a friend. Ask for help when you need it. Stop apologizing to your therapist for no reason.
Go do drugs in the wilderness.
Garden or raise plants in whatever capacity you can — even watching a hardy houseplant grow every day is really rewarding and for me is a reminder that growth happens slowly.
For the 30 minutes before you go to bed, don’t look at your phone and read something to calm your brain down.
Cry whenever you feel like it and feel your feelings as they come up.
Can I say masturbate here??? [Editor’s note: Yes.]
Do something tactile when you’re on Zoom calls, like embroidery.
Meditation and joyful participation in the suffering of the world, not letting everything overwhelm you. Keep in mind it’s ok for you to be happy and joyful even when working on big problems.
Don’t drink alone. Stretch for 5–10 minutes at the beginning and end of each day.
The toughest (and most critical) aspect of self-care for me is drawing boundaries with social media. I live by myself, so for a while I justified being on my phone all damn day as my way of staying connected throughout quarantine, but it quickly went from cathartic to compulsive.
If you can, take a couple days off social media. At the very least, when I feel like I HAVE to be on social media, I always ask myself what outcome I want from the experience. Do I want to rage-scroll on Twitter for 45 minutes and feel even more overwhelmed? Or is there something else I can do to better direct that energy? Give yourself a time limit, stick to it, and don’t sleep with your phone in your bed.
Getting high and doing a one-woman show of Todd Rundgren’s greatest hits while cleaning also works wonders.
If things seem overwhelming, take a second to figure out whether it’s primarily due to negative thoughts or bad feelings. Thoughts tend to be more rational and specific (i.e., “the state is on fire”) whereas feelings are usually harder to articulate in a sentence. Either way, once you identify the thought/feeling that’s troubling you, it’s a lot easier to put it down and think/feel about something else.
The song “When I’m Gone” by Phil Ochs has this line: ‘Can’t add my name to the fight when I’m gone, so I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here.’ It’s really beautiful and been keeping my spirits up.
Youtube is a treasure trove of interesting and fun meditation videos — the ASMR reiki ones are super relaxing (@ediyasmr is great).
Nothing’s made me feel better than doing a grocery dropoff at the community fridge near me!!
Bikes! I don’t do a lot for myself, but the thing I do I enthusiastically recommend to anyone who’ll listen, and that’s getting over to the river bike path and just riding as far as I can and back. There’s something incredibly reassuring and calming about seeing the world around you, seeing people go about their daily routines, being reminded that life continues, most people are pretty good, some of them are even the type to wave and smile at passersby. Supposedly exercise in general is good for your mental health and promotes endorphin release; I wouldn’t know anything about that.
Always carve out time to do something JUST FOR YOU that doesn’t even need a purpose (painting, reading, exercise, watching TV, gardening). Make playlists you can dance to, and always choose to dance.
Also, I am not a therapist.
None of us are therapists, which is why if you are feeling beyond burnt out and depressed, consider reaching out to a professional or trying some at-home mental health exercises:
- The Headspace app is free to new subscribers in Los Angeles County. It features meditations, sleep and movement exercises, and guided walks.
- Cal State LA’s Department of Psychology offers low-cost therapy sessions. A session fee is typically $25, but they have a sliding scale for those who need it.
- The California Psychological Association has a search tool for therapists in your area who accept your insurance. If you are uninsured, you can reach out to therapists and see if they offer a sliding scale.
- Open Path Collective is a non-profit network of mental health professionals who offer reduced-cost therapy sessions to families and individuals in need. Sessions typically cost between $30-$60.
- LAUSD created a COVID-specific hotline for kids and parents experiencing extra stress and anxiety from the virtual classroom experience. The hotline is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and provides support in English and Spanish: (213) 241–3840.
- If you’re new to therapy or unsure if it’s for you, Frame offers interactive workshops that may feel less daunting than a one-on-one session.
If you are in crisis and need immediate attention:
- L.A. County Department of Mental Health 24/7 Help Line: (800) 854–7771
- Rather text? Send “LA” to 741–741 to get in touch with a trained volunteer crisis counselor.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 and has call and online chatting options available: (800) 273–8255
- The California Youth Crisis Line offers crisis counseling in Spanish and English: (800) 843–5200. They also offer online chat-based counseling.
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