Acts of Radical Kindness in Times of Collective Trauma

What happens when you intentionally regard your experience with kindness? ~ Tara Brach

These times are challenging on a collective level — losing over 500,000 beings from COVID-19 in the U.S. this past week, systemic racism and oppression, climate crisis, poverty, food insecurity, and so much more…. We absorb the stress from these collective forms of trauma along with our own individual challenges in the body. This can show up in the form of trouble sleeping, lingering body pain, headaches, nervousness, irritability, mood swings, change in appetite, sadness, etc.

The body lets us know when we become out of balance as a result of taking too much in or taking too much on and I’m writing this to let you know it’s okay to do less. In fact, I highly recommend that you do less. Please slow down. Find time for breaks and rest even if it is just in five minute increments throughout the day. Allow your nervous system time to settle as it needs. Shake off excess stress as it accumulates in the body. Take a moment to be outside and feel the air brush against your skin even if it is just for a moment or two.

I encounter a lot of folks who are very hard on themselves expecting to accomplish so much during a time of collective trauma and grief. I want you to know that over-productivity, hypercriticalness, and perfectionism are all trauma responses. It’s okay to give yourself a break. It is okay to do less (yes, this is the third time I have said this and that is because people need to hear this multiple times to begin to try it on).

Doing less can actually a gift to the nervous system for those that tend to overdo it, for those who take in the frenetic and insatiable nature of social media, for those who are affected by the many collective issues in the world. In other word, doing less is a gift for all of us. Also, it is important to remember that it is okay to not get everything perfect if that is part of the reason why you may be hard on yourself or doing too much at times. There is no such thing as perfect; it is unobtainable.

Perhaps you can pause with me right now, take a break from being hard on yourself and take a deep breath in filling the body with energy and nourishment and then sigh the breath out allow the stories, the stress, the worries to fall away. Perhaps there’s space to say, I’m doing the best I can.

Know that you can rest your head in your hands and hold yourself for a moment when it feels like too much. You can rest a hand on the heart and offer a comforting phrase or feel the warmth of that contact as a form of love and appreciation. Perhaps even one day you can give yourself a hug wrapping your arms around your chest offering yourself care in a variation of the picture below.

[Image description: person hugging themselves] image by @anniespratt

Feel into what comes up for you in the body, heart, and mind if you regard each encounter with yourself with kindness? What sensations, images, thoughts come up around this for you?

Know that you can start small with this. After a lifetime of regarding yourself often with the opposite of kindness, perhaps you can regard yourself with kindness a few times per day intentionally and then grow the number of encounters until there are more experiences of kindness than harshness each day. The acts of kindness do not have to be extreme — they can be as simple as drinking water when you notice your thirsty, eating when you notice you are hungry, going to sleep when you notice you are tired, relaxing the shoulders when you notice they have tensed up, playing a song or watching a show that invites in joy, doing something that makes a loved one smile, and many other options that you will become more aware of over time.

What would it be like for kindness to be your default expression towards yourself? Surely, it would change the kindness you had available to offer others as well. Perhaps, it would change the whole experience of life for you.

With love and kindness,

—Lissa E.

P.S. Feel free to join me for meditation and movement classes where I emphasize care and kindness towards ourselves if you would like to learn more about this.

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Published by lissa e.

Lissa's offerings include integrative mental health care, meditation and movement (yoga, qigong, intuitive) guidance, writings, and community facilitation offered in a compassionate, trauma-responsive, and racial and social justice-oriented framework as part of a lifelong mission to reduce suffering for all beings.

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