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What happens when all the tools stop working?

I don't know about you, but heading into this November feels like being strapped into a rollercoaster, sliding straight downhill toward a sharp turn where the cart we're sitting in may or may not fly off the rails and crash into a murky lake full of cotton candy wrappers and decomposing hot dog buns.


I'm getting so many notes from people trying to hang on to the habits and routines that keep them healthy, but they don't seem to be working as well as they once did. They're trying everything, but still stress eating or losing sleep or dealing with chronic aches and pains.


So what do we do when the tools stop working? 


1. Take a minute to examine the truth. Stress has a way of making you underestimate what you've accomplished and what impact it might have had. Odds are, you've done more than you thought, and it's made a bigger difference than you realize. Make a list of everything you've done in the last few days that contributed to your health and sanity.

Did you take a walk? A deep breath? Did you call a friend, or take a bath, or write a postcard to a voter in a swing state? Did you eat a healthy meal, or tend to your garden? Did you clean out a junk drawer, help a neighbor, or check something off your list? A practice of writing these things down at the end of the day can be a stress reliever in and of itself... reminding you how much power you have to shape the moments in your days.


I dropped off some donations at Nashville Humane last week, and it felt pretty great to help keep those babies safe and warm this fall.


2. When stress, despair, or frustration starts spinning out of control, how can you interrupt it? Find your own way. Do a plank. Stick your face in a bowl of ice water. Stand in the grass. Put on your favorite song. For anxiety, a psychologist friend of mine recommends finding your pulse or taking your blood oxygen with a finger tip monitor to remind yourself that your body is still doing what it needs to maintain homeostasis. I have a wire scalp massage thingy that I put on my head when I need to reboot. Whatever works, right?!


Once you've interrupted the cycle. Then what? Is there a place or a poem or a practice or a person or a pet that helps bring you back to yourself? Know who or what those things are, and make sure you have ready access to at least a few of them. They won't fix everything, but they will make it better.




3. Remember that, as my friend Nicki Bluhm wrote in her song, "It's Okay Not to Be Okay." Sometimes battling sadness or frustration can make it worse. So a little comfort food or hiding under a blanket for a bit isn't the end of the world. You'll get back to "healthy habits and productivity" when you're good and ready. The key is being able to swing back and forth.


Bottom line? Your go-to healthy habits are probably better and doing more good than you think they are, and if you need a few extra reinforcements in the middle of a global pandemic—with a dash of political upheaval and a supreme court nomination in the mix—that's to be expected.


If you're stressed right now, that just means you're a caring human being who is invested in the well-being of the country, the planet, the community you live in, and the people you love. You're not broken. You're stressed because you care.


I'm so impressed with all of you, even (and especially) when you're writing me saying, "What is wrong with me??" Nothing is wrong. We just need a little extra infrastructure to keep us together right now. 


Sending you mad love and a whole lot of deep breathing. 


Sarah


A friend recommended the new Netflix documentary, My Octopus Teacher, and watching it this weekend brought my blood pressure down. Off the coast of South Africa, a documentary filmmaker struggling with depression and lack of purpose, encounters an octopus and decides to visit her every day for the rest of her life. He comes away changed, more connected with himself and the planet we're living on. "You are a part of this place, not a visitor."

Time to VOTE! Vote EARLY! Find someone in your life who might not vote on their own, and help them make a plan too. This is it. If you want to write letters to unlikely voters in swing states, check out Vote Forward. They've got 10 million letters written so far—with a goal of sending 15 million on October 17th.


The Habit Trip is only about six weeks away—coming December 1st. I can't wait to share it with you!! 

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SARAH HAYS COOMER

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