Do you feel like the world is out of control?
Do you sometimes wonder how to keep going?
This blog is all about how to come back to what matters most when life is overwhelming.
By the end of this blog you'll have some tips and strategies to put into place to help you feel less overwhelmed and more in control in a world that feels out of control.
We live in a world that gives us the message that we are only supposed to have positive thoughts and feelings. We pick-up this idea that to be happy, positive and joyful is how we are meant to be, all, or at least most of the time.
We also, along the way, pick up the idea that if we don’t feel happy, positive and joyful all of the time that we are defective in some way, as if it is our own fault and shameful.
We may have tried some therapeutic approaches that involve changing or challenging our thoughts, thinking positive thoughts, positive affirmations or gratitude journaling, the list goes on. Some of these things do work, for some people, some of the time. If they work for you, that’s great. Sometimes these strategies work when things aren’t too challenging. Most people will go to great lengths to avoid, disguise or deny uncomfortable feelings, I mean, why wouldn’t you after all, they are uncomfortable.
So all this is going along until things really heat up and what is happening around the world right now is that we are facing a global pandemic. Many of the things that usually keep us feeling well and functioning well have been disrupted. Further to this, we have been struggling for over a year and a half now.
In the words of Russ Harris, who is my ACT hero,
“if we live a full life we're going to feel the full range of human emotion”. You see, having all the feelings, this is part of the human experience. And my goodness, many of us are having very strong, uncomfortable feelings which have built up as our resilience may be faltering."
Lately I myself have found myself wondering if I can keep going.
Are you feeling that way too?
Whether you live by yourself or live with others. Whether you're working from home or facing the frontline everyday.
The situation right now really sucks for a lot of people.
It sucks that so many of us have lost so much. We had hopes and dreams for the year 2020 and 2021. For so many of us our plans have been cancelled, and then changed, and then cancelled again. There is a grieving, a disenfranchised grief, around these losses.
So many of us feel as though we cannot complain or talk about our losses and our grief as we know so many other people have suffered more than we have suffered.
Many of us need to keep working and striving to hold everything together. We have to soldier on even though we may be outraged and angry, we may feel lonely, helpless or unsafe and yet we keep going, for what else can we do.
Things feel far from perfect right now and none of us signed up for this.
I often think when mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote about living the full catastrophe, did he really mean a global pandemic.
Nevertheless we have taken it all on, the remote learning, the mask making, bread baking, the working from home or the intense work at the front line. We’ve knuckled down and given it everything we could. We’ve been holding on and being strong for others for so long, but now starting to feel oh so very tired.
And it's little wonder that you're tired.
It's little wonder that you feel exhausted and overwhelmed.
If you’re wondering how to keep going I really want to say that now is the time to really come back to basics.
Come back to allowing yourself to be perfectly imperfect. Even as I say that I know, that for some, after all you’ve been through, the inner critic, that inner voice, can still be niggling at you from the inside.
What if you could give yourself permission to go gently?
What will it take for you to ease up on yourself?
These are such difficult times. Now is the time to be gentle with yourself.
Today I'm going to encourage you to give yourself the permission to do the bare minimum.
So just for now, if you're feeling frazzled and frayed, and if you feel like you've run out of fight and if you feel like you've got nothing left.
If you've been pushing yourself so hard, for so long, you need to know that these are the signs of a nervous system that is in need of rest.
Healing a nervous system and preventing burn out, takes place through self compassion, through rest, through feeling safe.
I want you to give yourself the encouragement and support to go gently.
I know that this is so hard to do.
If you are noticing that you're getting more irritated than usual, more angry than usual, if you're crying more often than usual.
These are signs that you need to support your nervous system.
Notice what the inner critic has to say about that, as you contemplate taking care of yourself:
Does it have a comeback?
Does it tell you that you are undeserving?
This can be a struggle many people face, particularly if you have childhood attachment wounds or relational trauma.
You see this inner critic developed in some way as a result of early life events. It may have worked in the past to help you get through life. It pushes you to keep striving and working and being hard on yourself. It may be that it even helped you to survive.
So when your mind begins to jump in and try and override that desperate need for self compassion, we can gently acknowledge that inner voice. We can even thank our mind for trying to take care of us.
Notice the things that are inside of your control. Sometimes the irritation, anger, rage and overwhelm is about things that are outside of our control. What other people do, if they are considerate, what they say, if other people are kind, how the pandemic is managed.
Many of these things can be frustrating and difficult to let go of. If we can grow our willingness to accept those things that we cannot control, but noticing how they might point to what matters to us, that can guide us in our actions.
What do I mean by this. If you are enraged by another person’s lack of responsibility, it is pointing to the fact that being responsible is something that matters to you.
If you are feeling irritated at another person’s lack of contribution or consideration of others in the community, then it points to the fact that you value contribution and consideration.
What you do is ‘flip’ what is irritating, enraging or frustrating to discover what truly matters to you. Then find ways that you can bring more of this into your life via the things that you are in control of?
So what are you in control of?
If you are kind to others?
If you take care of your own needs?
If you set boundaries with others?
How you contribute to the wider community?
How you take responsibility for your actions?
In little ways we can begin moving toward what truly matters to us. Moment by moment. In each hour or each day, we kindly and compassionately unhook from unhelpful thoughts and move towards what matters.
Today, we looked at some tips and strategies to come back to the bare minimum with self compassion and focusing on what is within your control.
I'm Angela Mitten, the ACT Counsellor.
I'm a counsellor in Bendigo, Central Victoria, Australia and I use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as a framework to support myself and others. I love to talk about how we can use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (or ACT for short) to improve our wellbeing.
There are skills and strategies available to us that can support us and enhance our life. This podcast is a way of sharing these tips and techniques but is not a replacement for one to one therapy with a counsellor.
If you are struggling with intense feelings of anxiety and stress or depression my recommendation would be for you to seek further support.
This blog is designed for educational purposes and for self help however if ACT resonates with you I would strongly recommend seeking a skilled and experienced ACT therapist.
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