As promised last week, in this post I am going to look at how to be compassionate to yourself in terms of what you do rather than how you think about yourself.
This hinges on the fact that when we are under pressure, many of us are prone to give up enjoyable activities for tasks that are depleting, but seem more important and worthwhile. That can be a counteractive tactic. When we have too much going on, something has to give and often we underestimate the real value of seemingly pointless, but uplifting activities and so they are the first to go. That can lead to a downward spiral of insomnia, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression and exhaustion, which helps no-one, so we need to recognise what and who keeps us strong when the going gets tough.
I put a lot of time and effort into swimming, which struck me as wasteful when I was reflecting on it the other day, as my swimming serves no useful purpose in the greater scheme of things: it doesn’t help anyone or make the World a better place. It only serves a purpose to me: it usually makes me feel good beforehand (anticipation), during (I love the feel of the water and moving in it) and after (mental and physical stimulation and relaxation thanks to the endorphins). All of that motivates me to swim regularly. I actually like it all the more for the fact that it serves no greater purpose. I am happy to swim because I love it and couldn’t imagine my life without it.
We all have our ‘swimming’, whether it is music, painting, walking, socialising, etc. It may not seem important, but if you give up what you love doing or spending quality time with people who uplift you, you will find that you are less able to contribute effectively to other aspects of your life, such as work, caring responsibilities, other commitments, other relationships, etc.
We all need activities in our lives that energise us in order to counteract all of the draining tasks that we do. That is why pastimes are so important and why it is important not to give them up when life becomes too full and stressful, because that is just when we need them most to support us.
The stress bucket is a good visualisation for this. Imagine that you have a bucket and over the course of a day you put into it all the stress that has been generated from doing tasks that you found draining. To prevent the bucket overflowing with stress, you need to empty it by doing activities that make you feel good. So each day, be sure to do things that counteract stress. They don’t have to be a big things, it could be as simple as treating yourself to a hot bath before bed or giving yourself 20 minutes to read a chapter of a book.
As mentioned above, the signs that things are getting out of balance are insomnia, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression and exhaustion, and they usually develop in that order. Once the downward spiral has started, it becomes harder to find the motivation to do anything about it. That is why it is important to be aware when you are starting to experience signs of stress and to do enjoyable activities to alleviate that, even if you don’t feel like doing them. Normally motivation leads to action, but under severe stress you may need to turn that around so that by doing enjoyable activities, you set up a positive feedback loop that makes you feel better and motivates you to start doing enjoyable things again.
It is worth reflecting on what nourishes you so that you know what to do more of or who to spend more time with when you feel stressed. This week notice what drains you and what or who makes you feel good. Writing them down can help clarify things and help you remember. Take that mindful awareness into every day to keep emptying out your stress bucket.
Holistic massage and shiatsu acupressure and bodywork can help counteract stress and replenish you. Benefits include relaxation of body and mind, promotion of a sense of well being, better quality of sleep and restored harmony. Having regular treatments can improve your resilience to life’s difficulties and improve your quality of life.