If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, or are subscribed to my newsletter (you can do that here!), you know I am a big fan of little changes.
Huge changes in our lives can be highly taxing to the nervous system. We’re experiencing that collectively now. And within that, we each have extremely personal, individual experiences of this time.
Probably the thing I’ve noticing most in a coaching context lately is the idea that “I should be coping better than I am.”
One of the issues my coaching clients over the years have tended to share is a tendency to self-pressure. Because the self-pressure is so deeply ingrained, it’s habitual, and when things get hard, instead of easing up, part of the habit is to double-up on this pressure.
If we tend toward self-pressuring and perfectionism, the current situation might be bringing these issues front and center for us.
We might feel like we’re “with ourselves” (or, depending on our living situations, with partners or family members or roommates) a lot more than before, and it can feel a lot harder than usual to balance self-care and other-care (whether we feel alone too much, or with others more than we’d like).
If we “normally” struggle with a particular issue, it just might be magnified right now. Pre shelter-in-place, my partner and I had been grappling with the limitations of our living space, and now, wow are we ever challenged by them! A friend who’d resolved to spend less time in the online world and more in the “real world” for her mental health is having to accept that more time “out” is not terribly possible right now.
So many ways we previously resourced ourselves are currently off the table — and that’s real. It’s real loss and real stress, and it’s okay — and necessary — to acknowledge that.
I’ve noticed that some days — some hours — I connect with kindness toward myself. And on some days, and hours, I do not.
I’m not “trying to do better” at being kind to myself. I’m just noticing how I feel when I can find gentleness and compassion toward myself, and how I feel when I can’t seem to find it, in the moment. It’s harder than usual right now, and that’s what is.
I’m also finding that if I can give a lot of space to whatever I’m feeling, I don’t fight it as much. I’ve learned that fighting a feeling is a lot more stressful than the feeling itself — whatever it may be. It’s helpful to notice the difference between these two states — fighting the feeling vs. experiencing the feeling.
Behind “fighting the feeling”, I’ve found, is the belief that “there isn’t room for this.” Or, “there isn’t time for this.”
What if there is room? What if there’s plenty of space for whatever’s coming up (even if you feel like you’re in cramped quarters?). What if there is time? What if there is enough, right now, even in this situation?
These inquiries have been helping me.
Other seemingly “small” things that are helping:
• Allowing my body to relax while I was on an extra-long Zoom call the other day. Stretching my legs out on the chair next to me, allowing my jaw to soften and my shoulders to slump a bit. It reminded me that I can show up in a softer, more vulnerable way and still be effective — in fact, more effective than I’d imagined I could be on that day.
• Taking short drives with my partner a couple of times a week. Yesterday we drove past a curve of sparse nearby woods and saw deer eating and blinking at us through the trees. We saw colorful signs in yards in children’s handwriting: Thank you, helpers. We saw people in masks walking happy dogs. We saw plump robins foraging for worms through April snow flurries.
• Noticing my relationship to comfort foods. When does the “comfort” in comfort food actually give comfort, and when does it create more stress? I’m looking at all this with curiosity. So many people have shared with me that their eating habits have changed in the past several weeks, and it’s human to seek comfort in our food. “Just noticing” might not seem like a lot, but I’ve found the act of noticing to be incredibly powerful. It is, in fact, a cornerstone for self-understanding and desired change.
• Allowing myself a little more sleep and to call it a day a little earlier than usual. Just that little bit of extra sleep and rest can make the difference in my ability to face the day (and the news).
A final thought: If you’re not sure what you need on a given day, or in a given moment, sometimes it helps to think about what others have told you you’re really good at giving to them. We’re often experts at giving the very thing we need the most (we just might not notice it because it comes so naturally to us, and we might not realize we need it!).
What seemingly “small” shifts in your day are helping you through this time? I’d love to hear from you.
And: here are a couple of older posts you might find helpful. They’re not about current situation, of course, but some of the concepts are relevant: Radical self-care: when your “normal” has changed and There’s no right way to process change.
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Above image of robin by Jordan Irving on Unsplash