Recently, someone I know went to the doctor for a check-up prior to going on an international trip. When they checked his blood pressure, they noticed it was extremely high for someone his age. They began asking questions about his work and his average stress level. He’s a political scientist, so his work is most certainly stressful, but that wasn't the only culprit. We live in a stressful time — and with social media, we have a world of news right at our fingertips.
I began to wonder about the overall blood pressure of Americans today. I've wondered about the average blood pressure of people all over the world. These days it feels like everything is on fire, and we are constantly trying to tame it through our actions, or, at many times, our tweets and Facebook posts.
We have a responsibility in times of tragedy, not just to act and work to fix injustices, but also to care for one another.
This broken world does not need broken people who are also exhausted trying to fix things. So it is essential that we practice self-care right now.
It is essential that we stay tethered and present to our daily personal realities, as well as what’s happening around us in the news. In times of chaos, we owe it to ourselves and the hurting world to listen to the still small voice of God.
I am an optimist by nature, so when I begin taking in a lot of negative news it begins to literally wear my body down: I lose energy. I become irritated. I want to do something, and feel overwhelmed instead. Minute by minute, my blood pressure rises, and I know I’m not the only one. Some friends aren’t sleeping well. Others are afraid to leave their houses.
So — what do we do to battle injustice in a healthy way? How do we work to be the best version of ourselves in a world that needs people who are willing to say and do things that are difficult?
Maybe it begins with less social media, and the recognition that the updates will never stop. The information we need will be there at the end of the day just like it is at the beginning.
Maybe it takes a steady exercise routine, a better diet, and a nap every now and then, without the guilt that follows or other voices telling us we’re lazy for it.
Maybe this is where churches and other religious institutions step in to offer quiet places of reflection, spaces in which people can come and lay down the burdens of their own lives and the lives of others so that they don’t carry them home alone.
Maybe we organize group hikes or retreats just for the sake of retreating, so that when we return home, we are filled up to begin again.
Maybe we take communion together more, or we hold dinner parties, just to know that we are not alone.
In the wake of the Las Vegas shootings, as storm-battered Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the Virgin Islands still struggle to recover, Hamilton creator Lin-Manual Miranda tweeted, “You can also put down your phone or close your computer and take a walk. That's what I just did. We need you for the long haul. We need you.”
If we can stop long enough to remind each other that self-care is essential, we can also stop long enough to remind each other that our gifts matter in the fight to make the world more just, that those gifts are needed.
But in order to exercise those gifts, we have to give the best of ourselves to the world that constantly hurts. And to give the best of ourselves requires that we take very seriously the call to care for our own souls in the process.
So step away from the computer for a while. Go pet the dog. Buy a bouquet of flowers at the market. Sit at the table and make something out of Play Dough with your kids. Take a walk.
And when we return to each other, to the vitriol of the world and the work of peacemaking, may we return with the best of ourselves, with eyes to see and ears to hear, with clearer minds and clearer hearts whose voices are not drowned out by endless commentary.
May we return with the commentary of Christ to guide us and remind us of who we are called to be.