Yet self-compassion heals everything.
I know it can sound wishy-washy. Love yourself. Yeah, right. For someone for whom self-loathing comes more easily (been there), you might as well suggest speaking in Russian (assuming you don’t already speak Russian).
But think about it. Whatever issue you’re struggling with, or whatever’s upsetting you, hitting Pause on life (as far as is possible) and thinking, ‘OK. This sucks. What will help me most in this moment?’ and doing that (or the closest thing you can manage at that moment) will help you resolve the situation far more easily.
Imagine you’ve had an argument with someone or feel like a failure (maybe you’ve literally had a failing grade if you’re studying or you didn’t get that job / assignment or just feel like a failure) or you’re caught up in a crisis or emergency.
What will help the situation more?
1) hitting Pause (even if just for a second) to centre yourself and give yourself a symbolic hug, reassuring yourself that all will be well before you think about what will help you and everyone else involved, or
2) flailing around propelled by ‘should’s and other sticks to beat yourself up with for losing your temper / not working harder / not understanding / being doomed enough to attract said crisis or emergency?
Admittedly, my question above was pretty leading but you get the picture.
And I know it’s easier said than done. Often, we see what we could have done differently almost immediately after doing the thing we wish we’d resisted.
But that moment is passed. What can you do NOW to help heal the situation? Asking yourself what YOU need in this moment will give you a head start.
And if you can’t think of anything, here are some suggestions:
1) Notice your breathing. It’ll bring you into the present moment in which, as Michael Neill often observes, there are usually no actual lions, tigers or crocodiles to worry about. If you notice it’s choppy or shallow, deepen it and slow it down. You might even choose to hold it for a moment before each exhale to create more space in yourself and your psyche. This is something you can do anytime, anywhere (even if your emergency is something really dramatic like being buried alive, noticing your breath and starting there will help you make your air supply last longer)
2) Ground yourself. Not in a teenager being punished sort of way but in a noticing the earth beneath your feet or chair easily supporting your weight. If you can, feel the earth underneath bare feet (I’m actually writing this in the garden loving the grounded feeling I get from bare feet on the grass). Even if you’re in an aeroplane, you can ground yourself by placing your feet firmly on the floor and visualising roots reaching down deep into the earth. What effect does this have on your breathing and the way you feel about the situation?
3) Seek support. The fantabulous Brené Brown talks about reaching out to someone who can support you in a shame spiral. Unfortunately, not everyone can manage this. You might be surrounded by people who fear weakness and failure because they lacked support to use setbacks as springboards to something better. So I’m not suggesting you reach out to someone who’ll simply (because they can’t, at this point, support themselves let alone you) make you feel worse. Instead, talk to that friend who’s been open about feeling hideous about something in a way that not only helped her or him offload but left you feeling stronger to have heard someone owning emotions we usually keep hidden. (If you don’t know anyone who fits the bill, consider reaching out to a good therapist).
4) Promise yourself some nurturing. It’s likely that you’ll have to deal with some fallout from the situation that’s caused you stress but think about something you can do for yourself when things have calmed down a little. It may be sitting in the sun with a great magazine or book, meeting up with one of your favourite people, watching a great film, having a lie in or early night, visiting your favourite gallery or museum, spending time in nature, feasting on something nutritious and delicious, having a hot bath – think of things that soothe your soul and don’t just schedule them in. DO them.
If you’re interested, you can find out more about my psychosynthesis counselling, coaching, yoga therapy and complementary therapy services at work at your wellbeing and feel better every day
Image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti / freedigitalphotos.net