These recent weeks have been tough for so many of us, with the spotlight on violence against women. It may be particularly difficult because of our own experiences in life. It may feel too much to hear about others’ experiences of feeling and being unsafe, to know that for many women feeling unsafe is a regular occurrence. However we identify in our gender, these times can and do trigger our threat responses (more on this in the next blog post). This may mean it is hard to settle ourselves. We may feel constantly alert or on the go, fearing to stop in case feelings or thoughts rush in. It’s so important that we prioritise self-care at these tricky times and beyond.
Self-care can look different for everyone. The point of self-care is to be intentionally doing something that prioritises our wellbeing. It can help us to prevent becoming overwhelmed or flooded by things in our lives, it can bring balance to a very stress filled time and allow for us to move into our soothing systems (where we feel connected and safe). If we don’t prioritise self-care, our minds and bodies are likely to let us know! For some of us slowing down and figuring out what we need is easier than for others. Self-care for me might look like being in nature more, whether that is swimming in the sea or walking amongst the trees. For me being in nature is a tactile experience, so I like to touch the bark of the tree to see how it feels, notice and observe the shades of the flowers beginning to bloom in spring and feel the sting of the cold water as it hits my skin on entering the water. These are things that I find make me feel more connected and soothed. I wonder what yours are? Perhaps you are still figuring out what works for you.
There are many ways to care for yourself. Here are some ideas for ways to take care of yourself and prioritise your wellbeing at a tricky time:
- Compassion- Of course being a Compassion Focused Therapist, this would be top of the list for me. Compassion is about noticing suffering and being motivated to do something about it, whether this is our own or others’ suffering. When we turn toward what is difficult, we stop avoiding it and can then choose to do something helpful. If you want to learn more about compassion, there are some great resources that are listed at the end of the post.
- Boundaries- Having boundaries around watching the news and spending time on social media. Without these we may spend our time endlessly scrolling and soaking in all the emotion that is being put out there. Having boundaries helps keep us safer from feeling overwhelmed and to feel more in control. Sometimes it can feel like we have to keep up with social media or what is happening in the world. Take a step back and ask yourself, do I need to pick up my phone and check the updates right now or could I do something else? Maybe experiment with putting your phone away from you for an hour and see how it feels to not be constantly checking for what is happening now.
- Journaling- Writing about our experience can be such a great way to explore what is happening, as well as letting go of what we are holding and releasing it out onto the page. It can be something you write and never look at again or something you come back to and see if anything has changed. Sarah Rees has some great tips on journaling, here is a link to one blog: https://sarahdrees.co.uk/a-beginners-guide-to-journaling/
- Connect- Connect with people who lift you up and support you. If you tend to isolate yourself when things are tough, ask yourself what might happen if you spoke to a good friend or trusted person in your life? It doesn’t have to be a deep talk, it could be a check in over the phone, a walk in the local park, talking about a TV show you both watch. These lighter moments can open up space to share some of the more difficult aspects of life when it feels safe to do so.
- The Compassionate Mind Foundation- www.compassionatemind.co.uk
- Compassionate Wellbeing- www.compassionatewellbeing.com
- The Compassionate Mind- Paul Gilbert
- Compassion Focused Therapy for Dummies- Mary Welford
- The Compassionate Mind Workbook- Elaine Beaumont and Chris Irons
If you would like to know more about compassion and how it can help with difficulties you are experiencing, please do make contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Children’s Mental Health Week, it is lovely to see so many posts about supporting young people to express themselves (the theme of this week). There are so many ways to express yourself, whether it’s through art, clothing, music or by talking about what is important to us.
What we know is that building a secure sense of identity is crucial for children and young people. A big part of that is creating a sense of who they are emotionally. When we, as adults, model expressing ourselves emotionally with mindfulness, the young people in our lives see what that looks like. So, what does that mean in real life? It’s about bringing awareness to how we feel, noticing the sensations and perhaps the words that come up for us and then expressing them in a way that makes sense to children. It sounds a lot more complex than it is, although that’s not to say it’s easy! Sometimes emotions just take us over. However, if we are able to notice how we feel and then use language to express that to children, they will see how it’s done. Children are always watching us to learn how the world, people and themselves work.
Compassion can help on this journey. When we act with compassion, we are able to turn towards what is difficult and then find ways to prevent or alleviate the suffering. An added layer that is helpful is being able to be with our emotions without judging them or ourselves. The aim is for children to allow their feelings and not feel shame or think they aren’t allowed to feel a certain way. We can also model this. These layers, over time, form a foundation of emotional strength and flexibility in children and young people. It allows them to feel more confident in their emotional expression and their ability to manage tricky situations. It also helps us adults too!
Here are some exercises that can be really helpful for children in naming and bringing awareness to feelings:
- Draw an outline of a person on a page and choose a colour for each feeling. Ask your child to fill the person with the feelings that they have, using a key of colours and which feeling they represent. You could suggest that they match the amount of that colour to the amount of that feeling.
- Create your own feeling cards. Cut out some coloured card or paper and draw a face to represent a feeling. This can make it easier to communicate what emotion is coming up. Your child can use their cards to show you what they are feeling.
- Create a thermometer for feelings, using colours as a scale to represent calmness to total overwhelm. Over time you can add in what helps at each ‘temperature’.