As I sit here trying to write this blog, my body feels like it’s all it can do just to sit upright. My hands are shaking, my stomach roils with uncomfortable nausea. You see, stress got the better of me and I tried to push my body, mind, emotions past where they were capable of right now. My body protested and the result is waking up feeling like I have a stomach bug and realizing it’s all from stress and its sidekick anxiety. Its cousins guilt and shame at feeling like a failure don’t really help. Anyway … I guess I’m really writing this blog post as a pep talk to myself on a few things you can try if you’re feeling like things have just become too much.
1) Give yourself permission to slow down and rest. I had to have a hard conversation with myself this morning about why it was okay for me not to mow the lawn today and just try to take it easy a bit on this Sunday. I realize even having this option puts me in a very privileged position. The idea with slowing down and resting (ideally before you crash and burn like I did) is to pace yourself and build self-care into your routine. Even if it is all of five minutes of slow breathing first thing when you wake up and before you go to bed. And if you do push yourself to the point where you need more to recover, don’t feel guilty about it. Your body did the best it could in whatever that stressful situation was. Your body is doing the best it can.
2) See if you can offer yourself a little compassion. If your body has shut down from overwhelm and stress and anxiety, you may (like me) be feeling a bit betrayed by it. I mean, c’mon body, if you didn’t feel so nauseous and exhausted and shaky right now, we could be doing something fun like go for a bike ride, forget about mowing the lawn. The thing is, feeling upset at your body isn’t going to help, it generally just makes things worse. And the stress response (fight, flight or freeze) while extremely protective and powerful in an actual life or death situation is not designed to last for days or weeks. Your body is just trying to protect you and doesn’t know how right now. See if you can offer a little compassion to yourself, to your mind, your body, your whole being or any part of you (even just one little cell) that feels accessible.
3) Your to do list will still be there tomorrow. I’ve been having a hard time slowing down and giving myself the rest and care I need, because part of what has been making me stressed and anxious is the laundry list of tasks and projects on my work to do list. However, the solution isn’t to work yourself to the bone, evenings, weekends without catching a breath. Of course, there may be times when, depending on each person’s capacity, there is some measure of this, but it can be a slippery slope and the key is to know yourself. Know your own personal capacity. Know that it may change from one season of life to another; it may grow or it may shrink. It may even change day to day. The key is that you can only do your best. And your best does not mean pushing past your limits and making yourself ill. It means doing your best today, whatever that looks like. And if some days you feel like superwoman doing your best …. amazing! And if on others your best is lying down and looking at the clouds pass, that’s quite okay too. Either way chances are there will still be more on your to do list the next day, so if you can’t take care of yourself today, then when will you. Easier said than done … I know. This really is my pep talk to myself.