Current December 2023
Rabbi Sharon Stiefel
Self-care in these times
The war continues. And sadly, I see that it is taking a toll on many of us. I find it hard to answer the question “how are you?” My heart is breaking over the loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives and the pain of those being held hostage. Anti-Jewish attacks are on the rise and anti-Semitic incidents have increased by 400 percent. As we prepare for a war that may go on for months, I am becoming aware of the need to remind myself and others about the importance of practicing self-care.
We know that self-care is not simple. Our world is in deep trouble; should we be thinking about going to the spa? Self-care is a loaded term. It can be perceived as a selfish practice.
Audre Lorde, the African American activist and poet, shared a different perspective. “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
In an article about self-care during these times, Rabbi Mordecai Rackover writes “If you find yourself in distress at this time, try and focus on some of the simple things—sometimes so obvious we forget them—that are fundamental to staying as balanced and healthy as possible: drink enough water, eat regularly even if your appetite flags, sleep enough, and rest when you need to. If it helps you and you have someone to hug, get hugs. Take walks. Communicate with the people around you that you are preoccupied with the situation in Israel and Gaza—let them know.”
I have become aware of the need to be on a news and social media diet. Rather than checking for the latest updates, I am learning to limit myself to a couple of times a day, and to remember to look out of the window instead of at my screens.
The media highlights violence. “If it bleeds, it leads.” In addition to absorbing the painful reports, we can take the time to seek out stories of those doing good work and seeking peace.
Self-care is linked to community care. Let’s lean on our Mayim Rabim network. One of the most important forms of self-care consists in reaching out for help and often that that help may come from those in our midst. Last month members of the Mayim Rabim board took it upon themselves to call every congregant to check in and ask how they were doing. This act of reaching out is a foundation for togetherness. When we cultivate connection, we are better able to nurture ourselves and others in our community.
Over and over again I have heard it said that it is okay not to be okay during these times. If you find yourself out of balance, no matter what is going on in the outside world, please recalibrate inward for tranquility and reach out for connection. It is okay to take care of yourself.