I don’t know about you, but the last few days have left my head spinning. Feelings of worry, fear, uncertainty, sadness and much more rushing at me as the days unfold. This image above is a photo my 12-year-old daughter left in my home-office the other day. “Remember to Breathe” reminds me, there is so much out of my control right now, and sometimes the best thing I can do is just focus on the next breath, and the one after that.
As we find our way through this together, I believe we need to be mindful now more than ever before. Being mindful doesn’t mean downplaying what we are feeling, but gently bearing witness to the truth and finding a way to be with our full range of emotions and feelings, with kindness and compassion.
I hope that the thoughts below may be helpful to you over the coming days and weeks.
1. Recognise what’s going on internally – This sounds simple and obvious, but for some of us, this bit can be the hardest, especially if you have a habit of avoiding or suppressing difficult feelings.
Recognising means stopping and creating space to notice and name feelings: Sadness, worry, anger, fear, numbness and so on. Often, we can notice these feelings in the body: Heaviness, tightness, aching, and nausea.
2. “Allow, Allow, Allow” – Once you recognise what’s going on for you, simply allow that to be here. Again, it sounds simple, but allowing requires us to not only recognise but accept and be with difficult emotions, which often doesn’t feel pleasant!
Perhaps try saying something to yourself like ‘I don’t like this feeling, but can I just allow it to be here’. If a feeling or thought is overwhelming you, perhaps see if you can start by working around the edges. Be gentle and kind with yourself and give yourself full permission to feel whatever you are feeling. This is not about dwelling on difficulty but fully acknowledging it, as best as you can right now.
3. Turn emotional pain into compassion – In the face of extreme uncertainty, and anxiety, we cannot help but feel emotional pain. These feelings, without activating compassion, can leave us highly anxious, exhausted, and can lead to overwhelm. Compassion is a desire to reduce suffering in ourselves and others. Compassion activates the body’s care system releasing feel-good hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin. Doing good makes us feel good.
Activating compassion for others could mean listening in a caring way to how others are feeling, or offering practical help to those in direct need. However, it can also be wishing others well as a mindfulness meditation practice. Try these “Befriending” practices from mindful.org.
4. Recognise that when we feel pain we too are suffering, and just like everyone else, we deserve compassion – When we feel difficult emotions such as worry, fear and uncertainty, we must also acknowledge our own pain and offer some support to ourselves. Here are some ideas on how to do this below.
Activate skillful acts of self-care – If you find your thoughts in a tailspin of worry, sometimes the most skillful thing you can do is to deliberately choose to move your attention to something enjoyable. You could take a short walk, spend time outside in the garden or with a pet, make a hot drink, chat to a friend of family member, listen to a podcast, do some stretching or yoga, watch one of your favourite movies again, or read something uplifting!
Find your anchor – Sometimes it is skillful to tune into and be with difficult emotions, as I have mentioned above, however there may be times where the compassionate thing to do after allowing is to move your focus to something else. This may be an anchor such as the feeling of your feet on the ground, or your hands on your lap, or noticing the breath or sounds around you.
Finally, remember you are not alone, and that together we will get through this.
If there is anything you might find useful or if you have any suggestions on any topics you would like us to cover please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
Debbie and the team at BlueSkyMinds