It’s been a horrible few days. Even when I’m not actively watching news reports out of Israel and Gaza, my social media has become a maelstrom of pain, anger and, quite frankly, some of the worst takes I’ve ever seen in my life. I know I’m not alone in this – after the Hey Alma team asked our community to tell us how they are doing, we received hundreds of messages.
And one thing is clear: We are not OK right now.
At the same time that I know it is my responsibility as a Jew, as someone who believes in healing the world, to both bear witness to the tragedy of this war and politically organize around it, I know that it is equally important to find moments to rest. To log off. To seek comfort. To listen when my anxiety and sadness bubble to the surface. (At the same time, I recognize that my ability to log off is a privilege in and of itself, as I don’t live in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank.)
I want you to know that you should be doing this, too. As Jews who believe in pikuach nefesh, protecting the sacredness of all life, we are required to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally.
With that in mind, here are some things I have been doing to keep calm and take a break when I need it:
1. Create a playlist – Maybe it’s because I played the saxophone for 10 years and was Marching Band President in high school (brag), but there are few things more comforting to me than music. What’s better than combining comfort with an enjoyable and meticulous task like making a playlist?! If you don’t have the energy to curate a playlist, Baruch Hashem for Spotify! They have a feature called the daylist, which will curate a new playlist for you every few hours. Currently, my daylist is called “writer folklore morning” and it’s giving me the cottagecore, lyrical and delicate vibes I need right now.
2. Enjoy seasonal fruit – It’s fall where I am in the world, which means apples as far as the eye can see. Most of the time, I’m actually not a huge fan of the red tree fruit. (I’m more of a peach girly.) But there’s truly nothing like consuming a fruit at its peak ripeness, its syrupy perfume filling your entire home. The dopamine will nourish your brain and the fiber will nourish your body.
3. Scroll Manhattan Bird Alert on Twitter – I am obsessed with Flaco, the Eurasian eagle-owl who escaped his enclosure in the Central Park Zoo last February and now takes up residence in Central Park. (Yep, the zoo has fully given up on trying to get him back!) Manhattan Bird Alert often shares updates on how he’s doing, along with photos of other kinds of birds with species names like American Coot or Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Right now, when I need to mindlessly scroll in a non-destructive way, this is where I go.
4. Listen to ASMR – The first time I heard of ASMR, a friend of mine was showing me a whispered make-up sorting YouTube video and saying how he thought it was weird. But I couldn’t hear him. I was transfixed. If ASMR works on you (I’m truly sorry if it doesn’t), I think it could be the perfect antidote if you’re having trouble relaxing right now. And if you’re looking for a Jewish ASMRtist to support, I highly recommend Sephardi YouTuber ASMR Glow.
5. Thank your anxiety – This might seem counterintuitive, but I promise it helps. In the end, anxiety is an instinctual physical response, a release of chemicals into your brain when your nervous system thinks that you need protection. When I feel my anxiety rising, I say Hey Alma contributor Kate Hennessey’s Jewish blessing for anxiety, which begins, “Blessed are You, Force of the Universe / For creating me with anxiety. / You shaped me from a billion years of stardust / And breathed anxiety through my nostrils / And for that I give thanks. / I bless and thank my Anxiety Disorder for keeping me safe.” And then I tell my anxiety, “I’ve got it from here.”
And here are more suggestions from Hey Alma readers:
Set limits on your social media access (delete apps for a few hours a day or off your phone entirely).
Ask for pictures of dogs from loved ones.
Speak with loved ones: check in and center them.
Allow yourself to lean into your emotions. Don’t bottle them up.
Let out the tears when you need to cry!!!
Listen to music.
Surround yourself with loving Jewish friends and community.
Try to do one good deed per day.
Watch “Real Housewives of Miami.”
Take long walks with friends who get it.
Take long walks by yourself.
Get into nature however you can.
Bake, a lot!
Listen to light-hearted podcasts.
Lean into comedy and humor.
Gather supplies to donate.
Stretch and take gentle care of your body
Meditate for 5 minutes every morning. Be mindful throughout the day.
Cuddle your pets.
Attend vigils and rallies. Gather with likeminded people.
Make your home more Jewish.
Practice breath work.
Remember to breathe.
Write, journal, get the thoughts out of your head and onto the page.
Call out antisemitism.
Do something routine — for example, preparing lunches for family.
Art: painting, beading, drawing, knitting, anything creative.
Get a massage.
Cook and eat extra tasty food.
Rest, then rest some more.
Take a mental health day.
Hold your Jewish baby extra tight.
Wear your tichel and Star of David.
Connect with your Hillel or your synagogue.
Show solidarity and support to the oppressed.
Move your body.
Say the Shema before bed.
Practice gratitude for what you have.
Ask for hugs.
Reach out to Jewish coworkers or classmates to connect and show love.
Remind yourself you’re safe.
Lean on your community.