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How to Cope With Uncertainty

I look back at this past summer and fall and here’s (some of) what stands out: It turns out Anthony Fauci can’t throw a baseball, which makes me love him even more. I can memorize an entire album of Taylor Swift songs in three days. Working parents everywhere scrambled to figure out how to take care of, keep safe, and educate their children without losing their minds or their jobs. Now as we progress to the final days of 2020, the daily news hasn’t gotten much better.

Very few of us ever dreamed of homeschooling. When I briefly homeschooled Oliver, I named it CROW Academy for all the crow I had to eat. I can't tell you how many times I told people I’d never, ever homeschool. Ha!

Some of you have private challenges that are bringing a great deal of uncertainty into your life. Maybe it isn’t a story to share or it’s an internal battle you’re fighting.

We’re all carrying a heavy load in some way.

So, I have a question for you. Think before you answer, because telling the truth is going to be paramount.

These days, are you spending more time numbing or nourishing yourself?

Very short-term numbing is effective when you are in an acute crisis. In fact, you don’t numb yourself, your body will do it for you… it’s called shock.

But if we keep making acute-crisis decisions when we’re in a chronic crisis, we won’t be able to sustain what life is demanding of us.

It’s almost impossible to accidentally nourish yourself, but you can find yourself numbing without even realizing it.

Consider me your guide on this chronic stress journey...

First off, whether you’ve acknowledged this or not, your body is keeping score. Your body is soaking up and retaining all the stress you feel. Easy places to look for the evidence are the “aches” — headaches, backaches, neck aches, stomachaches, etc.

Other ways my own body has kept score: irritable bowel syndrome flare-ups, sinus headaches, migraines, neck and shoulder pain, afternoon foggy brain, ovarian cysts that cause bleeding, losing my hair, heartburn, and gaining 20 pounds in 18 months by eating my feelings.

This is what a body that keeps score does — it tries to cope the best way it knows how. This is the story of a body saying… you need some rest. Real rest.

Your body (the only one you’ll ever get, BTW) is an ecosystem of nerves, muscles, bones, and a brain saying it would like you to downshift, right now, pretty please, from fifth gear and 100 miles per hour to at least first or second gear… maybe even… neutral?

I still have some of those stress symptoms listed above, but many of them I haven’t experienced in a while. So how do you get to a place of more wholeness, more poise, and more peace in the face of such uncertainty?

You make choices that nourish you and don’t numb you — and you do that consistently.

Here’s a pro tip: When you want to numb yourself and can’t figure out how to nourish yourself, the answer is always nature. Get outside. Nature will awaken and enliven you. Nature doesn’t numb, but she does soothe and surprise you.

When you are out in nature, remind yourself that “one step at a time” turns out to be an incredibly wise mantra.

(I would rather the mantra say “one staircase at a time,” but it doesn’t for good reason.)

The secret is to slow down and take smaller steps.

By taking smaller steps, you have more time to observe your surroundings, understanding where these steps lead. If you need to go back, because you forgot something (or someone), it is much easier to do so when we’re slow and deliberate.

2021 or even 2022 might be the year to kick it into high gear. Run the steps like you are Rocky (and I’ll be there to cheer you on for that)... but as we wind down this year, we need to take the steps more like a woman who is 90 years old and lives in Italy and carefully climbs steps every day. A woman who is happy to take her time and get her footing with each small step.

It’s when we are running that we often fall and injure ourselves. Here is the beautiful part: It’s hard to trip over yourself when you are taking slow, small steps.

This week I hope you find nourishment, nature, and a small set of steps to take one at a time.

If you are struggling with mental health issues, whether anxiety or depression or addiction or something else, then my advice is far from adequate. Expert help, guidance, and sometimes medication may be what is needed to pull you from numb to nourished. You all know I’m a big fan of therapy and therapists. I just talked to mine last week and, whew, did I have some stuff bottled up! I’ve also been on depression meds a few times in my life. They got me on the path of healing faster and rebalanced chemicals that nourishing and nature couldn’t. So please don't ever let a blog post, self-help book, or mantra stand in the place of professional help when you need it. Consider this your permission slip to take action and get the help you need today 💓

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