The only way we are going to get through this marathon of malaise, with our well-being intact, is to practice self care.
“Yeah, it’s tough out there.”
“No,” I said, “Income less than expenses make it impossible. That’s different than tough. It’s worse.”
A fellow prison volunteer and I were talking about the wages for unskilled work, and how a young person working full time cannot afford average rent in any state the US. One person trying to earn an honest living cannot afford to have a roof over their head. If you’re already screwed, crime (or addiction) can look like an escape from despair.
It’s one example of the many things in our world causing some people major stress. Those with children making their way into the world know that group living is necessary to pull it off. But the so-called American dream rarely conjures up an image of several non-family related adults living together. This is just one of the many sources of my personal consternation in 2018, and I’m one of the privileged ones. There is no real threat to my survival, but I don’t think people should be set up to fail.
Almost every person I interact with these days is struggling on one or more levels. Money and employment problems, interpersonal tensions, major health challenges, housing uncertainty, and extreme political corruption are all contributing to people feeling overwhelmed and upset. Aggressive and angry behaviors seem to be on the rise, and it’s unpleasant, regardless of one’s politics.
The only way we are going to get through this marathon of malaise with our well-being intact is to practice SELF CARE. As a former and beloved priest and friend, Barbara Williamson, always says, “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” We are able to perform better when we take care of ourselves. And we cannot do our best work or play when we allow our foundation of well-being to crumble. Like me, I suspect you need a solution too, and by now, you probably know it.
There is good news. It’s not that difficult, and there are millions of ways to do it. You can tailor it to you. But in order to be ok, we need to take action every single day. I’ve read reams of research; here is the distillation. There are the 5 types/domains of activities we need to maintain an even keel in turbulent waters. Guaranteed.
The prescription is simple. Do 3 or more. Everyday. For the rest of your life. No kidding.
- Move your body
- Create something
- Go outside
- Connect your spirit
Move your body
Move your body. It doesn’t matter what you do, or where you do it. You just need to get a little sweaty. You can do the same thing everyday, or mix it up. It can be leisure, or it can be ‘work’. Everyday you do at least 30 minutes, give yourself one point. Also, this one will have the added side-effects of making you stronger, more energetic, healthier, and sexier.  
Create something, anything! Plan, design, imagine, create a system of organization, create a clean space, sing in the shower, cook something healthy. Anything. Give yourself one point for each creative thing you did that pleased you.  
Go outside, and focus on whatever nature you have available to you, even if you are in the middle of a city. The sky, the earth, the trees, the water, the air. You can be still, or you can be in motion. Breathe it in. Remember, you are part of this natural world. It will heal you. You can make it work for you; if you are allergic to grass, spread a blanket before lying down to look at the sky. Take your pet with you; they benefit too. Go out at night, or in the morning. Watch the sunset, sit in a field, the wood, or near water. If you spend at least 15 minutes outside in a day, and give yourself one point.   
Connect with others, with family or friends, or even people you don’t know. Don’t argue with them. Just share how you are in this moment, or even better, listen. Go to a class. Touch someone, or be touched. Write a letter or call a relative. We are the living cohort of humankind. Give yourself a point if you connect with someone today.  
Connect your spirit
Maybe you believe in a higher power, maybe you don’t. Either way you can find your holy – whatever evokes gratitude and compassion in you. That thing that helps you to love others, and perhaps especially, yourself. Perhaps it is meditation or prayer, or simply being in nature. (That’s a two-for-one!) Attend a worship service, volunteer to help someone, forgive someone, or simply honor your need to rest. Give yourself a point for at least 10 minutes in a day.  
Five things, a multitude of options, so many different ways to do this right.
There are many ways to thrive, you can do this! Do just 3 every single day. And note, many activities give you two or three points. For example, going to an exercise class is two points: Move and Socialize. Coffee and meditation in the morning sun. Two more. BAM.
You’re worth it. And we have work to do.
Let me know how it goes. And, of course, feel free to share any thoughts or ideas below.
Post update October 2020. Talked to fellow blogger Jame Black. He lists loads of science-backed benefits of going outside, with others, and for exercise here.
That’s three! It’s all we need.
 Fox, Kenneth R. “The influence of physical activity on mental well-being.” Public health nutrition 2.3a (1999): 411-418. https://journals.lww.com/co-psychiatry/Abstract/2005/03000/Exercise_and_well_being_a_review_of_mental_and.13.aspx
 Biddle, Stuart JH, and Nanette Mutrie. Psychology of physical activity: Determinants, well-being and interventions. Routledge, 2007. https://books.google.com/books?id=wCmCAgAAQBAJ&dq=well+being+physical+activity&lr=
 Johnson, Sarah. “’Creativity improves wellbeing’: art transforms mental health ward.” The Guardian. February 15, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2017/feb/15/creativity-improves-wellbeing-art-transforms-mental-health-wardhttp://www.start2.co.uk/files/downloads/Start_MC_downloads/Reports_on_Starts_work/Start_evidence_base_March_2015.pdf
 Kohll, Alan. “5 Data-backed Ways Working Outdoors Can Improve Eployee Well-Being.” Forbes. June 25, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alankohll/2018/06/25/5-data-backed-ways-working-outdoors-can-improve-employee-well-being/#41f5603b4eb8
 “Spending time outdoors is good for you.” Harvard Health Letter. July 2010. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/spending-time-outdoors-is-good-for-you
 Seppala, Dr. Emma. “Connectedness and Health: The Science of Social Connection.” Stanford Medicine, The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. May 8, 2014. http://ccare.stanford.edu/uncategorized/connectedness-health-the-science-of-social-connection-infographic/
 Bergland, Christopher. “Maintaining Healthy Social Connections Improves Well-Being.” Psychology Today. February 14, 2014. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/maintaining-healthy-social-connections-improves-well-being
 Krentzman, Amy R. “Why is Spirituality Important?” Taking Charge of Your health and Wellbeing, University of Minnesota. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/purpose/spirituality/why-spirituality-important
 Smith, Bruce W., J. Alexis Ortiz, Kathryn T. Wiggins, Jennifer F. Bernard, and Jeanne Dalen. “Spirituality, Resilience, and Positive Emotions.” The Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality. : Oxford University Press, November 21, 2012. Oxford Handbooks Online. Date Accessed 2 Aug, 2018. http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199729920.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199729920-e-28 Black, James, “12 Scientific Benefits of Being Outdoors.” Wilderness Redefined, WordPress blog dedicated to making the outdoors accessible to all. Date accessed, October 19, 2020. https://wildernessredefined.com/benefits-of-being-outdoors/