Living in the city
in difficult times
Living in the city and the uncertainty it can bring is a focus for many of us at the moment and my mind has been having a field day - feeling, experiencing and thinking about how these events and their coverage touch us all. How can we take care of ourselves and others in these complicated times?
Breathing in the city in the heat, amidst the human squash or with a slightly (or more) sense of imminent unseen danger can require some focus. Many of us experience stress and anxiety that affects how we take air in and out. My favourite breathing technique is the 7-11 method. Just count 7 when you breathe in and 11 when you breathe out. When we are anxious we tend to breathe in more than out. The breath in encourages our bodies to release hormones that make us more alert and stimulated whereas breathing out releases hormones that help us to relax. By breathing out more than in, we begin to physically and mentally relax. The counting is also a nice distraction from the stress. I like to do this with my ten deep breaths bracelet. I play with each of the beads, doing one in and out breath for each. By the time I get to ten I’m decidedly calmer. We’re thinking of renaming this bracelet to something like ten breaths out!
Last week I travelled from my home town of Brighton up to an event in London. I definitely felt more ‘alert’ when moving through London Bridge station. That day I gave myself a little more time and walked in the city whenever I could rather than taking public transport.
It was good to get the exercise and this always helps to ease the wobbles but something else happened too. I was out with the people, seeing first-hand how amazing the diversity of feelings you can see on each and every face. There is something about this that I find reassuring. It reminds me that we are all emotional beings with our own stories, joys and eccentricities.
There really is no normal so it’s futile to aspire to it. Focusing energy away from compare and compete towards deepening our understanding, acceptance and warmth for our own individual wonderful version of weird seems far more sensible. Finding a personal ritual that acts as a daily reminder of this can work wonders. It not only helps you to feel more comfortable in your own skin but, I find, makes me more tolerant of other’s quirks and differences too.
My morning cup of tea in my Bless you for being yourself mug works for me. I urge you to find your own daily nudge and notice what happens to how you feel about others. As a dear friend said “tend yourself; tend your world”. Maybe we can add to the global wave of acceptance by beginning inside.
A web of arms to catch us all
When watching how people respond when there is a disaster I am moved by how mankind, without hesitation shows its best side and reaches out. The financial, emotional and practical support that surrounded and held up the residents of Grenfell Towers, the humble words of a heroic policeman who almost lost his life protecting people by London Bridge and the sacrifice of a mother to protect her child in Manchester. The capacity for human love far outweighs any hurt we intend to cause and daily each of us can do many tiny things that tip the scales in the right direction.
At Department store for the mind we are nourished and inspired to grow by the wonderful multitude or connections we forge every day. Our collaborators, partners and friends fill us with ideas, hope and strength.
Clare Barry of Urban Curiosity has been a great source of inspiration and friendship. Look out for her Walkshops and e-courses here.