This week has been a roller coaster of lessons about the importance of sinking back into my heart when my head is spinning.
We all have a nervous system. If you’re anything like me, you can begin to suffer from headaches, fatigue and tension (and perhaps a literal pain in your heart) when you feel fear, anxiety or stress.
The good news is that our minds — which may feel like our enemies during times of worry — are actually our allies. Our fear is a protective factor, a survival instinct stimulated by our amygdala. For a whole host of reasons, the beautiful brains of us often work overtime trying to help us to stay alive – even if our lives are not threatened. The challenge with fear and anxiety as an emotional response to danger is that our bodies respond in kind and can go into overdrive, even when it’s not totally necessary.
So, how can we relax and find calm when we are feeling scared, triggered or anxious?
How can we sink back into the muscle of our heart when we feel like the world is closing in on us?
The truth is, there isn’t one answer to this complicated question.
But, I’ll share some tools that can support you during times of suffering.
1. Finding Your Breath
Our minds are so tricky. They can take us on a wild ride. Meditation helps us notice the ever-present hamster wheel of our thoughts and helps us find our breath. Finding your breath is the easiest way to slow the wheel and to find pause. It takes practice, and it doesn’t just mean showing up to meditate or going to yoga once in a while. Finding your breath is something I encourage you to try and find daily. In the morning, as you sip tea, before you eat, and throughout your work day. Come back to the breath, and your experience of being present (or not).
2. Finding Your Body
Winter can be a challenging time for our bodies. The days are shorter and colder and we may find ourselves more isolated and less motivated to move (yes, even with all of the New Year’s resolutions — which you’re probably noticing you’ve forgotten by now). What I recommend is that you find a new way to move your body. What worked in spring, summer and fall may not serve you in winter. For example, I never jog. Like, never. But this morning, I decided to go on a slow jog for 2 miles in my neighborhood. It made me feel refreshed and like I was doing something new. It was an adventure, rather than a stale regimen. What can you find? Dance? Qi Gong? Swimming? Walking?
3. Finding Water
We are mostly water. In winter, drinking water may not come as naturally. But, be sure to drink room temperature water or warm tea as much as possible. This helps us move toxins out of our body (emotional, environmental, physical, etc.). Water helps us have healthy bowel movements. I’m also a big fan of sitting by a body of water. Sitting with water reminds us of the ongoing flow of our lives. We are not meant to be stagnant. Our tears are our water flowing from us, as well. Tear water is sacred and I encourage watching a movie that makes you cry!
4. Finding Nourishment
Find what nourishes you. Your favorite foods. Warm soups. Movement. Simplicity. A warm bath. A fire. A nap. Drawing. Music. Painting. Gardening. Do this.
5. Finding Time for YOU
It’s so important to prioritize your needs when you’re suffering. We live in a world that asks many of us to care for others before ourselves. But, this isn’t a sustainable way of being. Schedule one day this week (at least one full day a month) to be alone! If you can find a few hours to dedicate to you (and only you) every week, the medicine will serve you in the long-run.
6. Finding Kinship
Friends. Lovers. Family. Write letters. Gently reach out via text or email. Pick up the phone if that feels good. Draw a “connections” tree of everyone you love or want to build kinship with. Surround yourself with allies. Know you are held and supported.
7. Finding Healers
I’m a big believer in interdependence. I am so grateful for the healers in my life. Find your healers. Seek a community acupuncture center, or ask around. Talk with a loving therapist. Speak with a spiritual counselor. Invest in a life coach. Get a massage. See an energy worker or Reiki practitioner. You can often find donation-based or sliding scale options in cities. Do some intuitive Googling and see what you discover.
8. Finding Compassion
Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Have compassion for others and have the MOST compassion for yourself! Try not to blame or shame yourself for any of your suffering. Know that pain is deeply a part of being human and love up on all the parts of yourself. This is truly the best medicine you can offer yourself.
9. Finding Ritual
I can’t say enough about the power of ritual. In fact, I lead retreats focused on finding rituals in our lives. A morning ritual begins your day with power. It can be so simple: making a cup of coffee, journaling, and/or a 5-min meditation are a great foundation. Find your rituals. I’ll write more about this soon!
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