5 Ways to Take Care of Your Spirit When You're Stressed or Disconnected
It seems that everywhere we turn, the world is in chaos and, at least for me, it's causing a lot of Spiritual anguish. For those of us who are having a hard time because of the immense destruction of the BC floods, difficulties with work or school situations, or even just our own built-up anxieties at home (yes, running out of coffee creamer counts as a stressor if it stresses you out!), I wanted to put together a little list of things that we can do to take care of our Spirits.
It's time we slow down, hit reset, and learn to properly care for ourselves.
1. Practice breathwork Breathwork can take the form of many practices, but in its simplest form, it's a mindfulness or meditation practice that is informed by your breath. This is actually my favourite method of meditation because I have attention regulation issues and focusing on my breath gives me something to keep my attention on throughout the practice. It makes it easier for me to enjoy meditation without feeling like I'm doing it wrong because I don't have to let go of what I'm focusing on or thinking about. I'm focusing on my breath! (p.s.: spoiler alert, there's no one way to meditate! Don't ever feel like you're doing it wrong)
You don't have to get fancy with your breath to notice benefits, but those who practice breathwork consistently report all sorts of benefits like increased clarity and relaxation, or even altered mental states.
My favourite breathwork isn't the fast breathing that gets your heart pumping, your Spirit lifted and your head in the clouds. I have anxiety, so I don't need help with that...No, my favourite breathwork is the slower breath that focuses on bringing my heart rate down and drawing awareness to the sensations inside my body. I like to simply start my meditative breathing by mentally picturing myself as Air entering my body and going deep into my lungs with each inhale, then picturing myself shooting out with each exhale. It also helps if I mentally say "inhale, exhale" to keep my attention focused.
This breathwork, while slow, allows me to remember my relationship with Air and to be mindful of what thoughts and words I hold inside myself. I can choose to inhale whatever I need: love, patience, strength. I also exhale whatever I'm holding within me: resentment, anger, sadness. Air and I work together, through relationality, to cleanse and strengthen my Spirit in this way. There are plenty of youtube videos with breathwork walkthroughs if you want to get fancy, but I suggest building your relationship with Air first. Especially if you need a slow and meditative practice!
2. Take a bath or spend time with water I don't know how many times I need to tell you to cultivate your relationship with Water, but I'm going to do it at least once more today. Relying upon Water to help you and your Spirit is a powerful tool, especially if you aren't someone who has access to the smudge. Maybe you don't own the smudge, or it wasn't gifted to you and you don't want to culturally appropriate this powerful First Nations ceremony. Maybe you have asthma and you can't handle smoke! Whatever the case may be, if you can't smudge or you're not comfortable smudging, Water is accessible to all of our Spirits as a healer and a Spiritual cleanser.
I'm a huge advocate for meditative baths or showers when our Spirits are stressed (being mindful of water consumption, of course). They don't have to be lengthy or luxurious, though that does make them a treat. The point is to have a conversation with Water and to nourish your relationship with her. Even taking one minute of your shower in the morning to silently breathe and feel every sensation of Water running across your skin can create a shift in the way you approach your day. If you shower at night or don't have access to running water, something as simple as sticking your hand in a glass of water, or speaking to Water while you have your morning drink helps to strengthen that relationship and feed your Spirit.
3. Smudge or pray If you own or have been gifted the Smudge, this ceremony is powerful for cleansing your Spirit. Which medicine you choose to smudge with is up to you and your culture, but my favourites are sage and sweetgrass. I have beautiful memories of smudge bowls, large shells, outside my relatives' houses growing up and always smelling of smoke. At one point I was ashamed when an ex pointed out that I always smelled like smoke, but now my hair brushes past my nose and I light up.
We have long used smoke and fire because the burning of our four sacred Medicines offers healing, energizing and Spiritual cleansing unlike anything else. Our Medicines offer themselves and their energy to rejuvenate us and our Spirits, and that transfer of energy occurs during the smudge. There is so much to know about the Medicines used in the smudge, what the smudge is, and why we do it that I can't go into the great depth it deserves. What I will say, however, is that while there isn't one right way to smudge, the smudge isn't something to take lightly or to begin doing haphazardly. It's a medicinal ceremony that requires a lot of respect and proper protocol.
For those who don't own the smudge, or don't want to smudge, we can't forget our prayers. This, of course, is not just a Western religious phenomenon as my mind initially wants to jump to when I say "prayers." I want to make it clear that prayers can, and should be made not only to whichever higher Being you believe in (if any) but to yourself. Yes, I just said that.
Even if you're an atheist or an agnostic, prayers are a powerful tool because they give you the time to speak directly to your higher self. You have the opportunity to speak your truth and work through your hopes and fears in an honest way, with no shame or hiding what you really feel. If it ends there, good enough! If you believe in more, reach out more.
I pray to my ancestors. I pray for guidance and strength from those who came before me and ask for Revealed Knowledge when the time is right. I pray to my Spirit for guidance and tell them to take the lead (now that I'm finally willing to give up the reigns!). I pray to the Creator, the Land and the Sky to remind them that I'm here to do good work for them and I'm ready when they need me. Whatever you pray for, or whomever you pray to, prayers are important for our Spirits. They keep us connected and keep us on track.
4. Use Touch - Cuddle or get a massage In my culture, we are very connected. When we tell jokes, we elbow each other or slap each other's knees to make sure the other person gets the joke and joins in on the fun. We hug and kiss constantly. When children are young, we brush their hair and gently braid it. Not to mention that every time a child walks by, our instinct is to touch them on the head or shoulder. This sense of connection prevails even when we have nothing to say. My brothers and I grew up putting our feet on each other while watching movies or rubbing each other's scalps when we walked past.
Touch is a simple way to connect with the people around you, and resistance to touch is actually one of the symptoms of trauma that you can look for in yourself. Some people genuinely don't like to be touched, and there's nothing wrong with that, but for those who have experienced trauma or vicarious trauma, taking note of your aversion to touch is very important to be aware of the state of your Spirit and your emotional/psychological health.
If you are feeling disconnected, and you are comfortable with touch, try using it. It can be as simple as cuddling with a loved one or just holding hands. If you're not comfortable sharing your space, a massage might work for you. The psychological distance between a professional touch and a personal touch might allow you to relax enough to let your guard down. Even just adding small, friendly, consensual touches here and there in your household can make a huge difference in your Spiritual health.
5. Spend time with non-human Beings It's easy for a lot of us who have been raised in Western culture or around the Western culture to become anthropocentric or to begin thinking of humans as being the centre of the universe. Something to remember is that non-human Beings hold Knowledge and their Spirits have so much to teach us as well.
If your Spirit is tired, it's possible that it's tired of Western culture's isolating anthropocentrism. Our Spirits know that other Beings have Spirits too, and they long to be connected to them and to know them.
So many of us have already declared that we're more comfortable around dogs or cats than humans. So many of us have already declared ourselves Plant parents. Don't forget about the people who randomly blurt out that they want to abandon civilization and live off the Land. We feel the pull of these Spirits because our Spirit is connecting with theirs and is longing to be with them. Western culture has attempted to sever that connection, and it's eating away at our Spirits.
Spending time with non-human Spirits can look like watering Plants or tending your garden, it can be snuggling your pets, and it can be any form of being out on the Land or Water that reconnects you with them instead of separating or subjugating them. We need to focus on building our Spiritual relationships, but so many of us focus on Spiritual relationships between ourselves and other humans (ancestors or future generations included). It's time that we remembered that we are of the Land, and we are all connected. We cannot sever that link, and trying is making us sick.
These are just 5 ways to take care of your Spirit when you're stressed or disconnected. If you're looking for 5 more ways to care for your Spirit, this week's Go Smudge Yourself Podcast episode will be showcasing 5 more! Mahsi, Jen