I’ve resisted this for so long. After years (a lifetime?) of disturbed sleep, waking to terrifying images that either aren’t real or are in the past, and trying to find and fix the ‘root cause’ – usually some version of believing I’m not doing enough, healed enough, evolved enough, haven’t processed enough.
I’m ready to feel better and to not make it mean I’ve failed.
Being a 2 on the enneagram, I’m stubbornly and persistently resistant to my own human-ness. To having needs. It leaves me feeling self-righteous, disappointed, and exhausted.
When I confessed my sleep-struggles today, my doctor peered over her mask compassionately and said, “Breana, you deserve to feel well-rested.”
Her words landed in my middle, cracking my resistant armor and seeping through like warm pudding.
I do deserve to feel well-rested.
This doesn’t preclude my desire to get to the root, to give care and attention to past trauma or current grief. This is not an either/or.
Believing I have to choose between sleeping better or attending to my mental and emotional well-being is a lie. I can have both. And I can choose better sleep while or even before getting to the bottom of what’s keeping me awake.
As a mental health coach I know that so many caring people feel trapped by this false choice. Parents, caregivers, and people in relational professions often struggle to prioritize their own needs. Oppression and any sense of ‘other’ness can make it even harder.
Do you relate to this struggle? What do you believe you have to choose between?
Let me know below. Together we can reclaim permission to care about how we feel.
Yours – Your business is what you control and are responsible for. All those same bits of property: emotional, material, mental, physical, time and energy.
Life’s/God’s/reality – This is made up of all the things that are outside of my control and your control. Examples include: the past and the future, as well as elements of the weather, accidents, traffic, etc.
Photo by Brandon Nelson
With my yard, your yard, and Life’s yard, we’ve basically drawn ourselves a map of our existential ‘neighborhood’. Maps are cool on their own, don’t get me wrong, but the magic comes when we use them to navigate.
Some scenarios where this map comes in handy:
When you’re feeling stressed.
When you’re afraid someone will be upset with you.
When you feel compelled to say ‘yes’ even though you want to say ‘no’.
When you’re caught in the mental loop of ‘what if’s – worrying about the future.
When you’re upset or angry with someone else.
In any of these not-so-hypothetical cases, you can pull out your map and ask yourself: “Where am I?”
Photo by Daniel Gonzalez
Find yourself on the map: “Where am I?”
Let’s use an example from above, and ask this question: “Where am I?”
When I’m afraid you will be upset with me, the property I’m focused on is your feelings – specifically your feelings of being upset with me.
Whose yard do other people’s feelings reside in? Their yard. Their feelings are their responsibility. When I’m trying to take responsibility for them, I’ve left my own yard – walked right off my own property and onto theirs – which leaves no one home to care for me.
Walk yourself home
When you’ve found yourself trying to manage someone else’s property, walk yourself back home by asking:
“What’s my business?”
Identify what is in your control, or what is your responsibility, and take action.
That could look like:
Donating money, time, or resources to a cause you care about.
At first glance, boundaries can seem like a way to stop caring about anyone but yourself.
Let’s just sit with that. If you’re anything like me, that idea brings up a lot of fear about being selfish, putting my needs ahead of others, etc. When I pause, put my hand on my heart, and just feel those feelings of fear and guilt and breathe through them without feeding them more thoughts, they’re usually a lot quieter in 90 seconds or less.
The most compassionate people are absolutely the most boundaried.
Let that sink in.
The more I leave you to your work/business/journey/lessons, and the more I take responsibility for my own work/business/journey/lessons – the more compassion I’m able to have for you and what you’re going through!
Healthy boundaries are the foundation of empathy, authenticity, and accountability – and they’re an integral part of self-care.
I hope you’ll join us November 21st, 2020 for Healthy Boundaries for Interpreters. We’ll explore what healthy boundaries are, what makes them hard to hold, how to tune into your guidance system, and how to communicate your boundaries in a kind and honest way. I can’t wait to spend this time with you!
In our minds, unchecked thoughts can grow like weeds. It’s so easy for them to be constantly playing in the background, orchestrating and puppeteering our decisions and behaviors, rarely questioned or examined…flying under the radar.
Try this experiment now: take your attention from reading these words and turn it toward your mind. Become aware of your thoughts – the steady narration that’s happening in your mind. What’s it saying?
All of the ideas and beliefs you’ve soaked up since childhood are still operating today in the depths of your psyche as your operating system. Many of them are flat-out lies. This inner narration is programmed by your operating system. As you bring your attention to your inner narration, you have the opportunity to uncover your own operating system and the beliefs that undergird it.
Some of mine that I’ve discovered over the years:
“I’m annoying. No one wants to listen to me.”
“People who are angry are dangerous.”
“Any noise in the night is definitely someone breaking into our house.”
“No one will ever really understand me.”
“Prioritizing myself and my own needs is selfish.”
Reappraisal Self-Care Strategies for Fear
Photo by Callum Skelton
Thoughts, running wild and unchecked in our minds, are tricky and cunning – but thoughts on paper are lifeless and still. Getting these thoughts out of your head and onto the page is one of the best ways to weed your garden.
Once they’re on the page, ask them some questions. In mental health coaching we call this “reappraisal.” This is an opportunity to look again at something you took to be 100% true without really questioning it – or – at something you learned during a different time in your life when this belief helped to keep you safe, but maybe now is outdated and not as useful.
“Is it 100% true?”
“Whose yard am I in?” “How do I feel when I’m believing this thought?”Name the emotions and sensations.
You can tell a weed based on its effects on your life. Weeds zap our energy. They contribute to us feeling disempowered, anxious, depressed, and unmotivated. Examining the truth of these thoughts and their effects on your body, mind, and spirit is a major step toward cleaning up your garden and freeing up your energy.
Questioning our thoughts and re-appraising their usefulness and truth can be difficult, especially if the beliefs were planted long ago or have trauma associated with them. Be very, very gentle with yourself as you do this work, and reach out for support if you feel scared, overwhelmed, or stuck. Having a neutral and steady person with you as you weed your garden can be so helpful.
Create a note on your phone titled ‘Thoughts’ or something more creative! If you prefer pen and paper, grab a 3×5 card or pocket journal to carry around with you this week.
When you notice a thought that accompanies stressful feelings (like the kind we talked about last week), make a note of the thought word-for-word – as if you’re narrating. At the end of the day, your list might look like this:
My kids are my achilles heel. If you want to bring me to my knees, distract me, or hold me hostage – mess with my kids. When they are hurting, it stirs up every anxiety and fear in me. A couple of years ago, one of the three was having a particularly rough time and subsequently, I was a wreck.
There are multiple versions of every story. Different details, different perspectives, different angles, different altitudes – that, if we consider them, completely transform the story.
From heartbreak to miracle.
From depths of hell to merciful heaven.
From worst possible scenario, to amazing luck.
This rough time of my child’s, when now viewed through the wise lens of hindsight, was such a major catalyst for the growth of our whole family. It has brought us closer together, it has developed a depth and a maturity in the one who went through it, and it’s carved a wider valley for love and joy in me. This perspective, the one of hope, gratitude, and growth as opposed to catastrophe and loss, fills me with peace and upholds the dignity of my child and their experience. It feels empowering.
But while we were in the thick of it all? It was a terrifying nightmare that threatened to eat us alive. I wasn’t sure my precious kid would make it. I wasn’t sure I would either. I wasn’t sure of anything, and that unsureness allowed space for my wildest fears and most heartbreaking regrets to take up residence in my mind. They grew and grew and smothered me with thorny tentacles from every direction. It was hard to ever feel safe while living in this nightmare.
So much energy is spent trying to escape the feeling of fear, that we often don’t allow ourselves the compassion and understanding we need while experiencing it. It’s like we’re running so frantically to get away, when that scared part of ourselves really needs us to stop and give it a hug.
Mindful awareness can be that hug we need. According to Lyra Health, mindful awareness means paying attention on purpose in the present moment without judgement. It helps us to cultivate a space for ourselves to just BE – without having to fix, change, perform, or DO.
When we shine the compassionate light of mindful awareness on the noxious weeds of our fears, we can see they’re not absolute truths. The light shines through in places. Holes can be easily poked through. There are gaps in logic and structure. What once seemed to be an impenetrable wall of sharp thorns and certain death, is now illuminated at the source to reveal a few vulnerable stalks. We then have the opportunity to pull them out by the root, and to plant and nurture the empowering seeds of truth.
Fear Self-Care Strategies: Resources for Working with Fear
Choose one of the resources above, set your timer for 5 minutes, and dive in! Working with your fears doesn’t have to be a long drawn-out process. Break it down into tiny doable pieces to prevent overwhelm and practice holding loving boundaries with yourself. This is one of the keys to being Burnout Proof.
Over the next several weeks we’ll be exploring this process of identifying our thoughts, feeling our feelings, and cultivating more empowering and truthful beliefs.
Photo by Finn on Unsplash
I’d love to know what your experience of fear is like and any questions you have about being with it or working with it. Leave a comment below or drop me a line and let me know:
What keeps you awake at night? What does fear feel like in your body? What do you typically do when you’re feeling scared, worried, or anxious? What would you like to know about working with your fear?
Ok dear one, thanks so much for being on this journey with me. Until next time, take good care of your precious self.
What do you think about that? Do you actually believe it? As a hard-core people pleaser, I thought it was total BS. I’ve had a difficult history with this tiny two-letter sentence. Every time I wanted to use it, I’d feel such a rush of guilt, pressure, and fear that I’d say ‘yes’ instead, just to avoid those feelings.
‘What if I upset the person I’m saying ‘no’ to?’ ‘What if they don’t like me anymore? What if they think I’m inconsiderate, lazy, mean. Or what if they think that I don’t like them?!” ‘Is there any way that I could do this thing they’re asking me to do?’
I’d do anything to avoid saying ‘no,’ at the expense of my health, peace of mind, and even my relationship with the other person. Yes – even my relationships were at stake. Because, like any good people-pleaser, I was an expert at resentment. I would say ‘yes,’ to avoid saying ‘no,’ and then I would be so upset with myself that it would bleed into our relationship – I’d be upset with them by proxy.
As I became aware of the effects my unwillingness to say ‘no’ was having, there’s something that helped this lesson to sink in.
When you say “no” to one thing, you’re saying “yes” to something else. When you say “yes” to one thing, you’re saying “no” to something else.
Ahh…now things started to get interesting! There are two sides to this coin – a relationship between what I choose to give my time and energy to and what I don’t.
I began to see that I was always saying ‘no’ to something! Just, sometimes I wasn’t aware of it. And you know what I think about awareness…it’s the first magic-key to everything we want.
Photo by Michèle Eckert on Unsplash
Start with ‘Yes’
Saying ‘no’ is a bazillion times easier when you’re clear on what you’re saying ‘yes’ to instead. Know your top priorities. Identify your values or guiding principles.
If you’ve already identified that one of your core values is ‘family’, and you get a job request at the same time that your child has a special dance performance, it’s easier to know which to say ‘yes’ to (the dance performance!).
If your focus for the month is on improving your organizational systems for your business, and you come across a parenting conference that sparks your interest, you can check with your current priorities to know that the parenting conference can wait until next year. You’re saying ‘yes’ to sticking with your organizational focus.
Ask for Time
Jiu jitsu is one of my favorite sports. One of the reasons is because being good at it doesn’t rely on strength or size. Practitioners who excel are masters at using natural forces of gravity and leverage to assist their bodies in subduing their opponents.
Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash
Here’s a jiu jitsu move for learning to love ‘no’: Ask for time to consider the request.
Practice these phrases:
“Let me think about it.”
“Let me check in with my priorities/needs/calendar.”
“I’ll get back to you.”
And don’t forget your love or kind regard for the person to whom you’re speaking! Put these phrases together with your genuine feelings, and you become a master at communicating your boundaries in a way that actually strengthens relationships.
“Thanks so much for the invitation! Let me check in with my priorities for that week and I’ll get back to you tomorrow. Does that sound ok?”
We are all in this together, dear one, and we need your deepest inner knowing and wisdom engaged as we work to create this equitable new world. Take it one tiny baby-step at a time, and remember I’m here to support you!
Sending so much love today and every day.