simplification as self care

Meditation and mindfulness focus on turning inward and allowing yourself to work through emotions, feelings, or physical discomfort rather than pushing it away. These practices give you the space to acknowledge and work through pain in all of its forms.

But how do we reconcile turning inward toward those uncomfortable emotions and sensations when the new trend is to rid our lives of anything that causes pain?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  and  15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy teach us to shed what is not needed emotionally and physically in order to feel happy. And while the ideas presented in these books hold merit, they often do not lay a groundwork of self acknowledgment before purging everything we see as unmanageable. By avoiding our struggles, we are attempting to numb areas of our life we are not ready to deal with.

Brene Brown tells us in  The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are that in neuropsychology

“we cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

In other words, if we do not allow ourselves to feel negative emotions we also prevent ourselves from feeling positive ones.  

With a similar sentiment, if we ignore pain we feel in our body we do not take the time to heal our bodies to reach a place with less or no pain.

But how do we go about a process that feels so overwhelming?

Where do we start?

It’s all about taking small steps and giving ourselves the space to hold ourselves.

Set Aside Time

By setting aside a period of time to sit with ourselves and give our minds and bodies space, we can gently work through our pain.

Knowing that there is a beginning and an end to a meditation timer may take out some of the sting of sitting with ourselves. Consider using a timer to meditate or sit with your feelings while ruminating in the car or before making an important phone call. Allow there to be a beginning and an end and give yourself permission to let go.

Make an Appointment

It can help to make an appointment with ourselves to deal with something that is stressful. Using a timer when you feel like you have something to ruminate on, but are unable to change the circumstance, can keep you from holding onto things for an extended period of time. The second step is being available. Try adding a block on your calendar in the morning to sit with your coffee and make a happiness plan for the day.

Use Techniques Therapists Use

It may be helpful to think "what is the worst thing that could happen right now" whenever something stressful happens in your day. It can assist in reducing our minds desire to catastrophize.

When you feel yourself starting to feel panicky feelings- describe to yourself where they are in your body. Then begin to notice things around you. The sky, the floor you are sitting on, the feeling of the air against your skin. The light reflecting off the window. The color of the walls. Place yourself in the world.

If this is helpful- an interesting twist is to go outside and watch the traffic. As each car drives by imagine each person on their way somewhere.. a moment in a big beautiful life just like yours- full of depth and curiosity and desire.

A Tibetan meditation to use in this situation is to look at each face and think "Just like me".

"Just like me, that person wants to be happy and make it to work on time." "Just like me, that person wants to feel beautiful." "Just like me, that person wants to feel deeply loved."

Of course there are times when the stressful thing is remembering trauma, feeling helpless, or struggling with illness, injury, or loss. There is no simple strategy for fully releasing your pain under severe suffering. One thing you can do is add an appointment to your calendar with a code word. Example, "spaceship". Use this time to allow the feelings, emotions, and sensations to be present and wash through you. Then, once the time is up, it is ok to move on and feed the dog or pay some bills knowing you are not avoiding feeling what’s happening in your mind and body. That is really what it comes down to. We may not be able to fully change the situations, the stressors, the chronic pain or illness, but we can make space to come back to ourselves. We can take the time to let ourselves feel sensations and think thoughts without judgment or fear. By acknowledging and embracing our struggles we are cultivating a space in which we can heal.

Set Boundaries

If massage therapy and acupuncture is one of the things you are doing to work through some of your “stuff” - it’s helpful to set some boundaries and communicate openly with your therapist.

You definitely don’t have to let your therapist know all the details about what is happening for you- but some key phrases will give your therapist some context and may completely change their goal for the appointment time.

For example, you could let the therapist know that you are feeling a lot of stress and just need to relax. If there is an area of your body that you know regularly brings up strong emotions when touched, communicate that you don’t want that area worked on today- if that’s what you are feeling.

You can say something like “my legs really hold a lot of emotion for me and I would prefer to avoid working on them today.”

Or - “I”m going through something right now and I feel like I need to feel relaxed more than have the focus of the treatment be to address my shoulder tension.”

Massage therapists hear indicators of a deeper struggle like this all the time and sometimes they might lean in and offer to listen. When you would like to use the time just to be in your body and not discuss things, a good phrase to use is-

“It will really help me to relax to not feel like I need to explain”

Then climb on the table, do your best to breathe and your therapist will be here with you.


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