I am fast-approaching a milestone birthday - and am taking stock of my life. I have had many ups and downs, which I haven't always dealt with well. Counselling has taught me a lot about myself, my actions and reactions, the good and the bad points and I have faced my demons fully in the face. The latter was especially painful, but definitely worth it as they had been there since early on. I have been on both sides of the Counselling chair and know how hard it can be, and how long it can take.
1. SLOW DOWN
This weekend I got up, sat on the sofa, and just sat there - doing nothing! For about 20 minutes. Normally, I would get embroiled in housework - put the TV on for background noise and leave it on all day. It was Saturday morning, the sun was shining through the windows and I just listened to the noises without any thoughts in my head. Just listening to the world!
I heard kids playing outside, people walking past my house and chatting and laughing. The church bells were ringing, cars driving past, neighbours saying hello to each other and just daily life in general. Normally I would feel silly, feel as if I should be filling the house with noise, that I should be doing something constructive or getting stressed about something. But I had noticed the hum drum of being in my body, my house, my street and my community. This "being in the moment" set the tone for the rest of the day, and I felt more relaxed than I have in a long time.
This is a lovely and simple book to give you a flavour of what Mindfulness is:
2. WHAT ARE YOU SPENDING YOUR ENERGY ON?
We tend to budget our finances, I know mine down to the final penny - if I didn't I wouldn't be able to pay my bills, which wouldn't be good! By the same token, I should be budgeting my energy levels. From experience I know that when I don't, my concentration goes and I start getting stressed which escalates over time also affecting my physical health.
I'm a strong believer that physical and mental health are closely linked. I believe that the stomach is our "second brain and picks up on our state of mind. This is based on personal experience where I had frequent bad stomachs (from childhood) when I got anxious - something that has stopped now that I have the knowledge to control and manage my anxiety.
Click here to find out more on how your mental health can affect your physical well-being.
With this in mind, I asked myself what I could do to make life easier for myself. How could I budget my energy to promote my health and wellbeing? I am a Counsellor and also work in the Housing sector - a job that I wasn't enjoying at the time due to the toll it was taking on me. My present work pattern was draining me - so I negotiated a different one that I thought would work better for me. I'm not a morning person so I start later which is really working for me. We live in a world where employers are encouraged to be flexible towards their employees. It's not always possible but it's my view that every employer should work with their employees rather than against them.
As with your financial budget, there isn't just one item on it - there's rent, council tax, utility bills, food, travel costs, clothes - the list goes on. For most people, work isn't the only vitality draining part of their lives - there's very often children, college, family, friends etc. At one point I was working, being mum, going to University, doing agency work for my placement, doing my assignments, housework, grocery shopping - I'm sure many people can relate to that. It was exhausting with not much scope to move my timetable around, so what happens then?
3. THE IMPORTANCE OF MAKING TIME FOR "YOU"
"I haven't got time" I hear you cry! or "I'm fine! I like being busy." or my personal favourite "If I don't do it no-one else will." (I have used that one many times).
However, sometimes you will have time. Sometimes you will just want to sit down and "veg out" (it's not wrong) - and sometimes someone will actually help you. (Although that make take some doing if you're the mother to teenagers). Grab these opportunities when they arise and make the most of them - you actually deserve it. You will then be rested up and ready to "fight another day."
Think of your stress levels in terms of a leaky roof - the type where you have to put a bucket of water underneath it to catch the drips. The leaking roof is the source of your stress and your levels are measured in how full your bucket gets.
Common sense would tell you that unless you empty your bucket the water from the roof is going to overfill it and spill all over the floor. The same goes for your "stress bucket." There's only so much that can take too - and it needs emptying now and again in a way that works for you.
Common sense will also tell you that the bucket is only a "temporary fix." It's obvious that there's a fault there which will need repairing soon. If not, other damage could be caused - water, like stress gets everywhere causing unseen damage in other places, and causing a much larger repair job later on. The ceiling could fall down, it could cause damp problems elsewhere or tiles could fall off. Similarly, too much stress could cause a breakdown, it could cause anxiety and depression or you could become physically ill with all the worry.
4. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
I think this relates to most people!
If you care for people - carers, spouses, parents, children, friends, colleagues (the list is endless)it's not selfish to put yourself first now and again - it's actually very necessary!
It's why when you're sat on a plane ready to go on your holidays the safety drill at the start instructs you to put on your oxygen mask first before attempting to help anyone else in the event of an incident. It wouldn't be good if you collapsed when trying to help someone in need, and they didn't get out because you hadn't put on your mask first.
“Choose one of these self-care techniques to try this week.”
Having a long hot bath (with lots of bubbles)
Having a glass of wine (or more)
going for a walk
playing computer games
reading a trashy novel
listening to music
being busy in another way - arts and crafts/ tinkering in the garage/ spot of DIY etc
doing something sporty - playing football/ going swimming
days out - beach/ museums/ shopping
catching up with an old friend
Or try one of your own!
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