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I understand the world is burning, but I just can’t watch that right now.

Wild fires burn. The pandemic rages. Riots and peaceful demonstrations occur daily. Isolation abounds. Masks mandates are in effect. Hurricane after hurricane batters the coast. No touch social distancing is becoming the norm. Quarantines are becoming an everyday occurrence. The election of our lifetime is occurring (or so we are told), and our “leaders” are more interested in politics and name calling than in helping. Financial struggles abound (and again, our leaders can’t seem to put politics aside to help). Work hours are cut. On and on and on the list goes. I know this is important, but I just can’t sit here and keep watching this — I just don’t have the strength. Do I care? Yes, of course, but right now something is just more pressing — my health.

The 24-hour news cycle, while once thought of as helpful, in many ways has become anything but that. Instead, through social media, radio, television and even every day conversations, the train wreck that seems to be 2020 merrily continues on and is almost impossible to escape. For people living “normal lives,” without the added stress of mental or physical challenges, this year has been a lot, and in many ways overwhelming. Even those without the extra health burdens have found this year hard to bear.

In fact, I can find almost no one that has not wanted to disengage and tune things out due to the sheer volume of negative news. Yet I am finding for me the extra health struggle only adds to the more stressful year we have all had. Please forgive me if I just cannot watch one more bad thing happen or go wrong. Please forgive me, if on top of my health, I have just had enough.

I am discovering that my already stressful life just can’t deal with one more thing that will send my illness into a flare. The stress this year for most has been huge, but for those battling some form of chronic illness, it adds a whole other layer of struggle. While stress is not good for anyone, for most battling chronic illness, stress is our worst enemy. It many times amplifies our symptoms and accelerates our condition.

Yet for some reason, at times we feel guilty for stepping back, shutting down or simply tuning out the never-ending parade of stress inducing news. Why do we feel that way? Why is caring for ourselves in this way wrong? Why is putting what we need before other things bad? Sometimes this pressure comes from outside, but many times, it is our own internal monologue that makes us feel guilty.

It’s like we have this little voice in our head that is say, “There is _______ going on in the world, why am I worried or complaining about my problems?” And that right there is the problem. Instead of giving ourselves the room to “Not be OK”, we compare and then guilt ourselves for how we are handling things.

A few months ago, I had some decisions before me that I was struggling with. A friend looked at me and said, “It’s OK to think of yourself and put yourself first for a change. Sometimes, that is the healthiest thing you can do.” I sat there and started to argue, and he looked at me and said it again. As tears began to form in my eyes, I could feel a weight lifted off of me and a relief from a burden I did not realize I was carrying. It was OK to let go and simply spend some time caring for myself. It did not mean I did not think of or care for others, it just meant it was OK to care for me and my health too. I needed to give myself a break, find some rest and then decide how I wanted to engage going forward. For me, it was one of the most revolutionary and life-changing thoughts I had ever had, and one that I desperately needed.

Stepping back and disengaging some did not mean I did not care. It did not mean that it was not important. It simply meant that at that moment, caring for myself and my mental and physical health, was more important. If someone was strapped to a train track, what would be more important — getting them off the track or engaging them in the latest cause or issue? Hopefully, we all have the same answer, and in that way, people battling mental and health issues, our condition is like a train barreling towards us, and sometimes, we just need to get off the track, regroup and then step back out to face something.

When we do this, it is not only just OK, but most likely the most important thing we can do. So, let’s give ourselves a break — both literally and figuratively. Give yourself the freedom to disengage, refresh and regroup, and then decide how and when you are ready to jump back in. You must remember, you can’t take care of or care for other things, if you are not first caring for yourself.

To see more from Charles check out his books on Amazon and his blog.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

Originally published: November 6, 2020
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