Tag Archives: self care

Do you have TOO much empathy and compassion for others?

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 When someone hurts you, do you immediately imagine where they’re coming from and see their point of view in an effort to forgive and forget?

I was raised Catholic and when I was about 5, I had the very odd ambition of wanting to be a saint. Ideally a martyr (I blame having read waaaayyyyy too many Lives of the Saints books).

As I got older, I stopped going to Mass but hugely admired fictional characters like Atticus Finch (in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, NOT Go Set a Watchman) who turned the other cheek.

While still very pro peace, a key aspect of my work (and I was my first client) is encouraging clients and students to look after themselves first.

When people have experienced interpersonal trauma, been in any kind of minority group or have been bullied, it’s easy to automatically connect with the needs of more powerful people than your own.

But by recognising you deserve so much better, you can set healthy boundaries and maintain them even when people are taking the p.

It’s another practice (progress not perfection) but so worth doing.

Next time you notice yourself being compassionate and empathic towards someone you’re struggling with, ask yourself if you’re also being compassionate and empathic with yourself.

The more we can be whole ourselves, the more we CAN extend that compassion and empathy towards others but now it won’t be in a way that gives mixed messages or leaves us vulnerable to abuse.

Being boundaried is a practice – I have been working on it for decades and still get sudden crash courses which remind me I’m still vulnerable to getting hooked into old habits – but it’s so worth getting better at.

And now, when I get triggered, I’m a bit better at saying, ‘Thank you, Universe, for this new opportunity to practice setting and maintaining healthy boundaries’. Not immediately. I still often shame spiral wondering what I’ve done to attract the situation but not to the same degree.

Have you ever sided with a bully, abuser or oppressor over yourself?

What helps you turn your compassion and empathy spotlight back onto yourself?

 Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve

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What does ’embodied wellbeing’ mean to you?

What does embodied wellbeing mean to YOU

After my (heated swimming pool) swim today, I had more space than usual to do some handstands, float face down and generally indulge my inner toddler.

And I realised being underwater remains one of my ultimate favourite things on the planet. In those moments, I felt that I really GOT the whole ’embodied wellbeing’ thing I write about and that most of my work is based around.

Even spending so much time focusing on it, it’s a practice.

And, when a loved one recently said about my book’s subtitle, ‘I don’t LIKE the word embodied. No one will know what it means,’ I reminded them that it’s way too late to change it – the book comes out in just over a week.

I love it (although it’s still very much a practice for me rather than something I embody 24/7). Still, it got me thinking. Not only is the term ’embodied’ slightly unusual (in a nutshell, I use it to mean ‘happy and at ease in your own skin’), but, because so many of us have spent so many years (decades) feeling anything BUT, it can be hard to pin down.

So I thought I’d ask your favourite ways to boost your embodied wellbeing.

What helps you feel most comfortable in your own skin?

While the book (RRP has gone up to £14.99 but you can still preorder at the lower rate by clicking here and choosing from the publisher direct option or Amazon) offers 366 ideas, here are some to get you started.

Remember, we’re all different. Some of my suggestions (in no special order) may make your skin crawl – you know yourself best.

*floating face down, relaxing after a good swim

*swimming

*a great yoga class or practice

*great sex

*eating something delicious

*listening to music so beautiful it makes me want to cry

*letting my soul drink in the view of a favourite painting or the sea, woods and other spectacular views

*listening to a purring MagnifiCat on my lap or being a Rainbow Bus for her, walking around with a flat back while she jumps up and down

*enormous hugs

*curling up under my duvet

*underwater handstands (can’t WAIT for shoulder to be healed enough to do regular handstands and cartwheels again)

*walking or cycling in pouring rain on way HOME to hot shower or bath

*laughing with loved ones

*walking barefoot on grass or sand

This list is far from exhaustive but I hope it gives you some ideas.

What helps you?

How can you make more time for these things?

Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve

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From mental health day to cat day

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I know how scary burnout can be. Even though it’s 13 years since I was signed off for a few weeks for depression and anxiety, I remember feeling like I’d never be OK.

I remember when crying at work each day turned into crying at my desk each day and then, openly sobbing walking through the open plan office. Consciously, all I could think of was the fact that my taxes were being used to fund the horrors of more war in Afghanistan and Iraq (but obviously, I was projecting a lot of stuff myself).

When I eventually spoke to my boss and friend and said ‘I think I might need to see my GP,’ rather than encouraging me to struggle on, she looked relieved and told me to go immediately.

I had already qualified (training during long weekends for years) as a complementary therapist and life coach but this experience of feeling incapable of doing anything other than crying was one I wanted to avoid.

Years and years and years of training and work as a counsellor and many other complementary therapies mean I’ve become far more comfortable with crying. I still probably cry most days but not in the same way. It’s usually fleeting, when something touches my soul. And I know it just means that my emotional landscape has got bigger – I feel more joy and other positive emotions now as a result, too.

My emotions rarely scare me and I welcome the whole spectrum, from rage to gratitude, peace to sadness, hope to despair. (Obviously, I welcome some more than others.)

That experience 13 years ago led to my becoming my own boss and working initially as a coach and freelance journalist, adding additional therapies as I qualified.

I love my work. I so value being able to support clients and students in taking better care of themselves and helping them work through challenging feelings and getting closer to a life they love living. And making part of my living through writing is something I didn’t dare even dream about when I was younger.

Ultimately, my writing and client work is all about self-care. This is why it always makes me laugh when I (belatedly but much more quickly than I used to) notice that I’ve been neglecting my own.

Noticing the warning signs last night, I decided to reschedule everything for today and take a Duvet Day / Mental Health Day. Almost as soon as I’d given myself permission to be a human being, I remembered preferring the more invincible stages of my cycle but trusted, like everything else, it would pass.

With Imbolc approaching, it’s a natural time to be looking inward and wondering what is trying to emerge. Almost immediately, I felt better. There was a feeling of stopping the world and allowing myself to step off, momentarily. [Wheeeeeeee – sound of falling off the planet.]

What I’m describing here is mild – I’ve been working with self-care for 13 years and still struggle when I get caught up in feeling more vulnerable, less productive, lonely… not despair (I still have faith in us humans to turn things around) but it’s hard to ignore what’s happening tomorrow.

By the time I woke up (lovely lie in!) this morning, I decided I already felt better so renamed my Mental Health Day a Cat Day. At a spa day for my birthday last year, I told a friend I felt like a cat. Not that cats would enjoy a spa day but they have that sense of being in tune with what they need in any given moment (movement, sleep, food, company etc) and don’t appear to beat themselves up for it.

I didn’t rush my meditation, enjoyed some gentle yoga and imagined myself prioritising self-care all day and emerging recharged and a little smug.

It’s not been plain sailing (crisps for breakfast and dark chocolate digestives for lunch with a kale, cucumber, banana and blueberry smoothie) but I’m looking forward to a healthier meal now.

When I imagined all the lovely films I’d watch, the long bubble bath, a long (at least an hour) River Walk, reading something completely unrelated to work and so on, I didn’t expect to be so low in energy that I’d appreciate the 90 minutes it takes the water to heat up to psyche myself up for a relaxing bath.

That I’d (so far) not manage a single film, just a couple of episodes of Black-ish. Or that it would get to 4pm and I’d have to talk myself into a walk (bike ride felt too High Speed Travel for today).

Within 5 minutes of my 35 minute walk around the block (down the hill, along the river and back up and home), I felt better. I’d met a few lovely dogs, picked up a lucky penny and was taking lots of pictures of the beautiful winter trees and River Brain (more of a stream but I love its name).

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My reason for posting is I know I’m not alone re my mood being affected by tomorrow. But politics aside, we all feel a range of emotions. Learning to take better care of ourselves contributes to the state of the world. We’re more likely to listen to others with compassion and understanding, to empathise with people who are different and so on.

I’m also posting this to illustrate how easy it is to get sucked into feeling bleaugh. I have So Much to be grateful for (and as I walked, I started making a little mental list, but if I’d tried to rush this and force myself to feel gratitude, it would have possibly been more detrimental than helpful) and my work is all about this stuff.

I’m not at all suggesting that a single day is enough when issues run deeper (go see your GP, work with a therapist, open up to loved ones, do whatever it takes to heal – you wouldn’t think twice about getting yourself the help you need for a physical issue).

But I am hoping that it might encourage you to pause and check in with what might help you in this moment. To schedule in regular breaks. To do whatever you need. Everyone around you will benefit.

What helps you feel better?

What happens when you stop trying to force yourself to feel better and instead allow yourself to feel however you actually feel (burned out, in need of a break etc)?

Again, I realise it’s much easier for me (yet still a challenge) than for parents and people with dependents but there’s always something we can do.

And while I’m about to log back off and get back to my day of indulgence now, I’m also back to looking forward to work tomorrow.

Feel free to post your favourite Mental Health Day / Cat Day fixes below.

love,

Eve

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US Election – Self-care for Pre-Traumatic Stress

StatueofLiberty

I can’t remember who to credit for this pre-traumatic stress label but if you’re feeling anxious about what the world might look like a week from today, when results are in, I hope this will help.

Stephen Covey’s Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern may be helpful. How can we expand our influence? When our influence is greater and concern is lower, we’re less anxious and more empowered.

If you have a vote, vote for the person you believe to be the best candidate.

Personally speaking, a big part of me feels that if Hillary doesn’t win, it’s a war against women not just because of the misogyny she’s faced throughout the campaign (including standing up to death and jail threats from her opponent) but because the majority of Americans will have knowingly voted for a self-confessed (alleged) sexual predator.

That her opponent’s supporters can somehow compartmentalise this (along with the racism, homophobia and other cruelties exhibited) hurts my heart. But this post isn’t meant to depress you.

Instead, I thought I’d share some of the self-care tools I’m using myself this week:

Get your diary out

What are you doing on Wednesday 9th when results come in? I know (from the day of the Brexit result) that as gentle a day as possible is in order. While I’m hoping to be cartwheeling with happiness at the first US woman president, it’s looking close. So I’ll be spending as much time with loved ones as possible. What will help you process the result?

Feel the feelings

It’s naturally easier to embrace feelings like love, joy, hope and so on. But the more we feel ALL of our feelings, the more we expand our emotional landscapes. This isn’t necessarily easy but a counsellor can help. Similarly, allowing time to talk to loved ones or journal or a mixture can help.

Move

I’m not talking about emigrating. Physically moving our bodies is a great way to release a lot of the stress hormones that contribute to anxious states. A run or brisk walk, some sun salutations or push ups, a bike ride or whatever appeals to you can help enormously.

Send Metta

This may sound flakey but I adore this Loving Kindness meditation. The trauma sensitive version I learned during my yoga therapy training means we don’t force ourselves to include someone we’re challenged by but when we’re able to, it’s amazing to feel the heart expand.

Notice how it feels (if this appeals to you) to send Loving Kindness to people who are voting differently to you and even candidates you may struggle with. Some days it’s easier than others. But remembering we’re all connected and we all have the capacity for everything – good and bad – within helps us not project so much of our own shadows Out There.

If you want to try, start with yourself and move outwards to encompass the whole world and come back to yourself at the end:

May I be happy and healthy, peaceful and at ease. May I be able to take care of myself joyfully. May I possess the courage, wisdom, patience and determination to manage life’s challenges.

May [someone you love] be happy and healthy, peaceful and at ease. May they be able to take care of themselves joyfully. May they possess the courage, wisdom, patience and determination to manage life’s challenges.

May [someone you you feel neutral about] be happy and healthy, peaceful and at ease. May they be able to take care of themselves joyfully. May they possess the courage, wisdom, patience and determination to manage life’s challenges.

May [someone you find challenging OR another person you love] be happy and healthy, peaceful and at ease. May they be able to take care of themselves joyfully. May they possess the courage, wisdom, patience and determination to manage life’s challenges.

May [a group – geographical or other that you’d like to send Metta to] be happy and healthy, peaceful and at ease. May they be able to take care of themselves joyfully. May they possess the courage, wisdom, patience and determination to manage life’s challenges.

[If you have time and want to, you can choose groups you feel concern about, groups you love and groups you simply cannot understand but want to open your heart to rather than contributing to more hatred and division]

May everyone on the planet be happy and healthy, peaceful and at ease. May we be able to take care of ourselves joyfully. May we possess the courage, wisdom, patience and determination to manage life’s challenges.

May I be happy and healthy, peaceful and at ease. May I be able to take care of myself joyfully. May I possess the courage, wisdom, patience and determination to manage life’s challenges.

These are just a few tools to play with if you want to. Think about your own favourite self-care tools. What can you make more time for yourself this coming week (and beyond)?

Feel free to share below.

love,

Eve

 

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My Weekly Summer Health special – mental health feature (published 4/8/16)

MWmentalhealthspecial

If you struggle with anxiety, post traumatic stress, depression, OCD or any other mental health issues, what helps you be extra kind to yourself?

You can read the full piece by clicking the links below. I used to be able to easily create one pdf from several pages but this skill has (temporarily, hopefully) eluded me today.

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Hope you find it helpful.

Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve x

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How do (or might) YOU vote for yourself?

Oprahritual

‘A daily ritual is a way of saying “I am voting for myself. I am taking care of myself. I love myself.”’ ~ Oprah

She went on to say it could be as simple as your first cup of tea of the day.

Since hearing Jon Kabat Zinn talk about mindfulness in London in March 2013, I haven’t missed a first thing in the morning meditation.

One morning, after watching Eat Pray Love again the night before and mentally comparing my prosaic meditation practice to Liz Gilbert’s Hollywood friendly revelations, I decided to swim before meditating. I would have still done it that morning but I wanted to get to the pool before it got hectic.

It was one of my worst swims ever (overcrowded pool) and I realised that while my meditations are not Hollywoodesque, starting each day clearing my energy field, being mindful of my breathing and doing some Metta (loving kindness) as well as asking for guidance is something I now depend on.

After I meditate, I do a little gentle yoga. I go through phases where I do a more dynamic morning yoga practice but, mostly, I just tune into how my body wants to move on any given morning.

Reading this, even I imagine myself waking up all serene, starting the day with a little yoga and meditation. And I know myself!

Some mornings, it’s a pretty quick practice. 20, 30 minutes tops. I’m able to concentrate and focus and it feels great.

More often, it takes much longer. Not because I’m a brilliant meditator but because my mind might be so filled with stressful thoughts, I have to keep bringing my focus back to the practice.

Sometimes, when this takes ages, I get to add extra compassion (when I remember) to the mix instead of beating myself for being a human being and not having a perfectly cultivated mind.

It’s a practice.

With recent research showing that adult meditators’ brains are, on average, 7.5 years younger than non-meditators’ brains, it’s really worth playing with it and finding a form that suits you. It doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning. You know your schedule and lifestyle best.

But it also doesn’t have to be meditation in order to show yourself some self-care, to vote for yourself.

What, when you do it, helps you start the day well?

Maybe it’s a few minutes alone with a cup of tea before life gets hectic. Maybe it’s a run! Maybe it’s writing or painting.

You know yourself best. What works for you?

Feel free to share your favourite daily rituals below.

love,

Eve

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Wishing y’all the coolest of Yules and a very Happy Christmas 2015

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This Monday night / Tuesday morning, Yule (also known as the Winter Solstice in this hemisphere) gives me an excuse to start eating the delicious looking chocolate Yule Log I’ve been saving.

But more importantly than cake, it’s a great time of year to reflect on our inner selves, private lives, renewal and rebirth.

It’s a time to remember that darkness isn’t scary but a time of enormous growth below the surface. I love* Keats’ idea of ‘negative capability’. Cultivating a willingness to stay with the unknown rather than pushing for answers can allow greater creativity and progress.

Ideas around possibility and potential are really important at this time of year. We can allow ourselves to dream big for ourselves, shining light on our hopes.

Any kind of renewal also involves letting go so it’s a great time of year to release whatever’s no longer serving us (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and in any other way you can think of).

Letting go allows us to invite in the new.

It’s also a time of paradoxes as all this inward looking quiet energy is countered by all the festivities of Christmas. Some people find themselves coming down with bugs because they’re burning the candle at both ends.

Quiet reflection may seem like a distant dream itself.

You know yourself best. Just take odd moments, when it suits you, to check in with yourself.

What are you most looking forward to about the coming week?

Have you got the balance right for yourself in terms of outward energy and time with others v quiet(er) time alone or with immediate family?

How can you honour loved ones you may especially grieve at this time of year?

What supports can you put in place so feel less overwhelmed with too many social commitments / isolated and lonely?

What are your favourite (Yule / Christmas / whatever holidays you celebrate around this time of year) traditions and rituals?

What are you going to do differently this year (maybe allowing yourself more time to think about what you want to do instead of being swept along in everyone else’s wishes?)?

What are your biggest dreams and goals at the moment?

Feel free to post in the comments below.

Cool Yule!

love,

Eve x

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*hypothetically – in reality, I often forget and have to remind myself that whatever is unfolding is unfolding and I just need to be patient a little longer (as with everything, it’s a practice)

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Are you, generally, happy in your own skin?

Image courtesy of Alan Cunningham, 2014
Image courtesy of Alan Cunningham, 2014

I often reassure students and clients with arthritis and other painful conditions that it’s easier for us to be more embodied when we’re feeling strong, well, healthy, flexible and so on.

When we’re in pain, it makes sense that we might try to mentally escape our own bodies. But while it’s more challenging, the benefits make it worthwhile. Research shows that mindfulness helps reduce the symptoms of chronic pain conditions including headaches, fibromyalgia, back and neck pain (as well as stress, anxiety and depression). Best of all, when followed up four years later, participants were still reaping the benefits.

I was reminded of this recently when a chronic pain condition flared up for me. While aware of it (I upped my self-care, ate better, got more sleep and generally was a bit kinder to myself), the fact that I’d been doing lots of swimming, yoga and cycling in the run up meant a few painkillers (spread out appropriately) were all I needed.

The last time this had flared up, for the first time in years the painkillers hadn’t even dented the pain. I’d been back wanting to simply lie face down on the ground until it all went away. Standing upright took an enormous amount of effort.

Coming after years of managing it so well that I can teach yoga (albeit less dynamic) even with flare ups, it was a little disheartening but my mindfulness practice helped me understand that my self-care hadn’t been adequate in the run up and my body basically screamed at me as a way to remind me that I need to be more disciplined about my own self-care.

Because I’ve become friendlier with my own body through yoga and so on, I am better at quickly pausing to say, ‘OK, Body, what do you want from me? What do you need?’ Usually, it doesn’t need to scream at me because I’m mindful enough to heed the whispers and regular voice warnings.

I knew that a cold had meant I hadn’t been having my usual swims and this meant I hadn’t been cycling as much. It was actually great (with hindsight. It sucked at the time) to get the reminder about exercise being so healing and preventing pain.

During that bad flare up, I felt so sorry for myself, even though I was mindful of it not helping, I amped up my sugar and crisp intake (I’ll never give up chocolate and crisps but I feel better when they’re treats rather than meal replacements).

So lesson (for now, I’m human. Bound to forget and relearn again when I get complacent about it) learned.

What are your warning signs? 

Maybe you have a chronic pain condition with clear warning bells?

Maybe you’ve got to know your body’s stress signals? (An estimated 90% of GP visits are due to stress and stress symptoms exacerbating existing conditions) What tells you you need to amp up your self care?

Do you listen to your body’s whispers to guide you back on course or do you sometimes make it scream for attention?

What have you learned about your body that will help you put supports in place for the next time you feel vulnerable and less happily embodied?

What’s a nourishing, gentle and easy to implement treat you can soothe yourself with even on your most amoeba like days? (I genuinely start feeling like an amoeba if I don’t get my swims in.)

Feel free to comment below.

Trust your body.

Make friends with it.

Bionic medical advances aside, it’s the only one we get.

love,

Eve x

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Some clips from my studio guest slot at the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) Private Practice conference on trauma last month

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I really enjoyed joining Anne Scoging and Karen Lloyd after Michael Gavin’s workshop on self-care and trauma at BACP’s trauma conference last month. And now I’ve figured out how to edit online video (I feel like a technological genius but know that I’m far from it), I can share some clips which I hope you’ll find interesting.

Introduction to the way I work (and how no one’s broken beyond repair) – click here to watch

How to tune into our bellies when we may be filled with self-loathing about our bellies – click here to watch

Some tips for embodied self-care for counsellors and other caring professionals – click here to watch

Another quick tip for embodied self-care – click here to watch

How EFT can be helpful in trauma work – click here to watch

More on how EFT can be helpful – click here to watch

Click here to register for the fuller conference webcast.

Feel free to comment below and to share your own top tips for self-care, too.

love,

Eve x

 

 

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