It's been a while since I've sat down to write a Weekly Minute. I feel like a naughty kid who hasn't got their homework done, desperately scrambling for a good excuse to give the teacher (you). I have to stop myself and remember that I'm not 10 years old and no-one is going to call my Mammy and tell her I've been bold!
Self-forgiveness and self-compassion are recurring themes in the Counselling office these days. So many of us are hard on ourselves on a regular basis, demanding constant busyness and impossibly high standards, all the while encouraging our friends & family to relax and go easy.
I've noticed that I and others are still expecting 100% from ourselves despite the ongoing challenges of the Lockdowns, and we could all do with cutting ourselves a break.
This week, watch out for times when the words 'Should' or 'Must' come to the mind. If you're holding your happiness hostage to a list of what you 'Should' or 'Must' be doing, see if you can question whether that thing really absolutely needs to be done today, and if you can, let yourself off the hook. We are all under enough pressure at the moment, no need for us to pile more on. Allow yourself the option to rest and restore, life will feel easier if we do.
"... If you feel "burnout" setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself." - Dalai Lama
I heard someone say once that if we were to write anxiety like an equation it would be "an overestimation of the problem, over an underestimation of our strength to deal with the problem".
Something I often ask clients to do is to take an inventory of the strengths and resources they have, things such as perseverance (aka stubbornness), friendships, compassion, creativity, a meditation practice, work ethic, communication skills, a loving and loyal pet, you get the idea.
These are the things that we can call on to help us through difficulty, and as we head into another year of uncertainty, now is a good time to take stock of what we have to see us through.
If you find your list is looking a little short, ask a friend or someone you look up to to help you (you can do this in your imagination if you like), what would they list your strengths and resources as?
When you have your list, keep it handy, read it often, and always remember, you're stronger than you think.
"I am larger, better than I thought; I did not know I held so much goodness." - Walt Whitman
We are in the space between Christmas and New Year, and for those of us lucky enough to be off work, it can sometimes be a challenge to completely switch off when we've been busy. The body and mind get used to going at a certain pace, and remembering to intentionally relax can help us to get the rest we need to face the new year refreshed.
Check in with yourself a few times each day this week to see what your inner state is, are you needlessly rushing? Are you holding tension? Are you thinking about things you have to do?
Whatever you notice, give yourself permission to let it go. Slow down, relax the muscles, park the item onto a to-do list and forget it.
Think of these little acts of switching off as money in the energy bank for the coming year.
“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax” - Mark Black
This Christmas may be unusual for many of us as so many people won't get home to see our loved ones. No doubt this will bring some sadness, but it is possible to still have a Merry Christmas, if we take care with our thoughts.
Thoughts really matter. If we approach the holidays focusing on what we lack, we will feel that lack whatever we are doing. If we approach them with a sense of gratitude, we can have a merry and full holiday, whatever our circumstances.
See if you can bring your awareness to the mental attitude you bring to the coming weeks, and if you notice an attitude of lack, see if you can shift toward gratitude. Don't underestimate the power of a little gratitude, studies have shown that a regular gratitude practice can rewire the brain to be more positive.
When we have breath in our lungs there is something to be grateful for, so bring your attention to the small things, they really do matter.
Wishing you a Joyful Christmas, whatever you're up to.
"...nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it." - Shakespeare
There has been a change in pace in the past weeks, with the easing of Lockdown restrictions and Christmas shopping and socialising back on the menu, and for some, this has brought an increase in anxiety levels as we struggle to adjust and keep up.
This week, give yourself the gift of a little self-care by making some time to do one of your favourite practices. It might be a little yoga (Yoga with Adriene is my go-to), a guided meditation (Tara Brach has some nice offerings), or take a 20 minute walk by the sea or in the forest.
When life is busy, we may feel more squeezed for time, but making space to calm the mind saves us time in the long run, so consider it an investment.
“Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” - Lucille Ball
Lots of us are having a bit of trouble sleeping well right now. Here's a tried and trusted technique to help you drift off more easily...
When you get into bed lie down and take a few deep breaths, and tell yourself the day is over, and it's ok to be calm now.
Next, move through the muscle groups of the body, and simply tense them, then relax them, focusing on the sensations of tension and relaxation as you go.
Start with the feet, tense the muscles of the feet and toes, hold a few seconds, then relax, paying full attention to the sensations of tension and relaxation. If you find your mind wandering off, simply bring it back to the area of the body you're working with.
Then work upwards slowly through the calves, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, back, shoulders, arms, hands, finishing by scrunching up the muscles of the face, and releasing (remembering the small muscles around the eyes and the forehead).
You should find yourself relaxed and ready to snooze if you make it to the end without falling asleep!
“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” ― Homer, The Odyssey
So many of us are feeling extra pressure and strain as a result of the pandemic. It has affected all our lives, and yet, many of us are giving ourselves a hard time for not being able to proceed as normal, keeping up with all we have to do, staying happy and calm.
The reality is that life is different now, many of our comforting structures have gone with working from home, our social lives have diminished, and uncertainty is a part of daily life.
With this change in how we live our lives, it's wise to adapt accordingly.
I am encouraging clients (and myself) to take some of the pressure of, and lighten the expectations we place on ourselves.
When you're making your to-do list this week, be aware of your energy levels. If you are feeling tired or stressed, can you take a few to-do items off your list? Is there anything that isn't absolutely necessary?
Give yourself permission to take it easy if you need to, what's the worst that can happen?
“The first step towards true enlightenment is to lighten up on yourself.” ― Bashar
Take one minute three times each day to put your worries, thoughts, troubles on a shelf, and just be in this moment.
Breathe deeply and allow the muscles in the shoulders, face, and stomach to relax. Don't worry, anything important will be there when you come back, but for now, rest in the moment.
The more we can allow ourselves to follow this prescription, the more peace we create in our lives.
“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” — Abraham Maslow
Back in the days of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, it was necessary to constantly scan for danger, as we were never far from the threat of being dinner for some larger and faster beast than ourselves. This tendency to be on the lookout for what bad thing may happen to us is still alive and well in the most primitive part of our brain today. So if you ever wondered why you remember the one bad thing your boss said about you, and you see to have forgotten the ten good things he or she said, our 'negativity bias' that kept us alive for thousands of years is the answer.
So how do we learn to allow the positive in as well?
We can train our brains to be more aware of the good things by bringing our conscious awareness to those good things.
Each night this week, write down at least 3 things that were good about your day. These things can be big or small, anything from a sweet birdsong you heard on the way to work, to a great performance review, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you consciously look for the good, not allowing the negativity bias to run the show and paint your days grey, when there's so much colour out there if you look for it. :)
"What we focus on, we empower and enlarge. Good multiplies when focused upon. Negativity multiplies when focused upon. The choice is ours: Which do we want more of?" - Julia Cameron
Thought creates feeling, and feeling creates action.
Imagine this scenario: I wake up in the morning and immediately think of all I have to do today, it's a long list, and the thought comes "How will I ever get all this done?", quickly followed by "X always looks so in control, and she's busier than me, why am I such a failure, when will I ever get it together?" In response to this thought, my heart sinks, my shoulders slump, my head feels heavy. I feel tired already, so I turn over and go for a snooze. When I wake, it's late and I think "sure half the day is gone, what's the point??".
This is the power of thought.
Now imagine an alternate scenario: I wake up in the morning and immediately think of all I have to do today, it's a long list, and the thought comes "How will I ever get all this done?" --I immediately step in and ask myself "Where will this thinking take me?". I decide instead to remind myself that I am a person who can get things done, that even if it all isn't done by evening, that doesn't make me a bad person, and, that I am worth the effort to do the work of choosing to think and act differently. (It does take effort, especially in the beginning when all evidence points to the futility of even trying, but persist, and it will get easier.
Are you worth it?
"Your thoughts are a catalyst for self-perpetuating cycles. What you think directly influences how you feel and how you behave. So if you think you’re a failure, you’ll feel like a failure. Then, you’ll act like a failure, which reinforces your belief that you must be a failure." - Amy Morin
The Weekly Minute is a blog I write each week with the aim of providing proven tools to help promote positive mental health.
The collection of short, practical mindfulness and therapy tools for self-reflection and self-improvement, can equip people to take their mental well-being into their own hands, and improve their quality of life.
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