Do things feel as though they’re piling up, and you’re struggling to cope? Michelle Seabrook offers some self-compassion tips to help you work on your resilience
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful
Do you know of anyone who has not felt their level of resilience tested to some degree lately? Nope? Me neither – and, in my role as a psychotherapist, I have also seen the devastating effects of weakened resilience.
Resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ from a destabilising event – though I would describe it as ‘bouncing forward’ rather than a return to how things were before. Maintaining overall wellbeing is a crucial part of resilience – so grab yourself a notebook and follow these steps.
Join the dots
All too often, the warning signs are there; the overall feeling of being frazzled, tasks feeling harder to complete, concentration levels impaired, changes in sleep patterns, increased or reduced eating and drinking, and social interactions affected or avoided. Your usual self-care activities seem to have less impact than before. It’s not unusual for us to struggle on through, even when there are a number of warning signs that are being ignored or simply not recognised.
I suggest that you take a moment, each day, to take stock. Ask yourself ‘What are the physical and psychological symptoms I am experiencing, and how severe – out of 10 – are they?’ Do this every day, and consider what this is telling you. Where are the ‘hot spots’ that need immediate attention? Start to join the dots, and you’ll get a real picture of your resilience level.
Assess your priorities
Feeling overwhelmed is really common when frazzled. Everything can feel important and urgent – we can feel pulled in a number of directions, yet are unable to focus on any one thing. Stop, take a breath, and take some time to work out your priorities – what actually needs to be completed today?
Have a think about the areas that you are concerned about, compared with the areas that you can actually influence — they may be very different! To help explain this, visualise a fried egg. The ‘white’ is the area of concern, the ‘yolk’ is your area of influence. The ‘white’ is much bigger than the yolk, and we can often spend a lot of energy focusing on the ‘white’ – the issues we are concerned about. However, in reality, you may be able to do very little about these things. Instead, clarify the ‘yolk’ issues, and prioritise spending your energy on these.
Lower your expectations
Lowering our expectations can be challenging when we feel frazzled, and we can ‘keep on, keeping on’ rather than being self-compassionate. Adopt the mantra of being ‘good enough’ and use it across the board, for work and for home. Give yourself permission to reduce your expectations of yourself, and others, to a level that feels bearable, but allows you time to re-centre.
Dial-up the self-care
Define how you are going to turn the volume up on your self-care, and make a commitment to stick to it. It can be useful to be ‘held accountable’, so share your plans with a friend or colleague, invite them to do the same, and check-in with each other to see that you have achieved what you planned.
No time for self-care? Do you have 10 minutes? Write down a list of the activities you can do in 10 minutes (such as stretching, or enjoying a peaceful, warm drink), then timetable three of them into your diary and commit to doing them. That’s 30 minutes of self-care, each day – and, on days when even that feels like too much, you can always find just 30 seconds or a minute to close your eyes, breathe deeply, and focus on the moment at hand.
Connections are key
Examine and evaluate the nourishing and toxic relationships in your life. Toxic relationships deplete your energy; ask yourself, ‘Will I come away from seeing this person feeling drained or nourished?’ Make a note of people that you would place on your personal ‘resilience board of directors’ – the people that add to your life, who contribute to you feeling uplifted and balanced.
Nurture these relationships, and ask for their help when you need it.