I am learning to slow down and be gentle with myself through every season, every stage, and even more so when I am low. The cultural message I hear is something like, “Let’s get you back on two feet again as quickly as possible so you can resume being a productive member of society.” That has been my inherited mental dialogue for as long as I can remember. Which at first glance sounds ideal, right? Except for the reality of what happens when we rush through grief, pain and trauma.
Of course, there is a baseline functioning that many of us do not have the luxury of neglecting. Bills have to be paid. Children need to be fed. This requires a certain level of responsibility even through the hardest of seasons. Perhaps there are cultures or families or centuries through time when community support was adequate and individuals had the space to move slowly through their pain. This does not seem to be the case for most of us today. Not in America. Not in the 21st century. We are isolated in our big homes, far from family, hidden away in our grief. Much is expected of us. Suffering is done silently.
In this new normal it is all the more important that we learn to slow down and be gentle with ourselves. Our lives depend on it. Here are a few ways I am learning to do this.
-Remembering nature. Befriending it without a phone or device nearby to distract from that friendship. Watching the birds, sinking my feet into the grass, drinking the air, devouring the moon. Nature calms the nervous system. I draw near.
-Sleeping. More. Extra. Enough. Moving heaven and earth to make space in my life for sleep.
-Deep breathing. Deep breathing is like an internal massage. Our bodies and souls are desperate for it. Remembering to breathe every day.
-Movement. Walking, hiking, running, dancing, playing outside with my kids, yoga, stretching. Intentional movement can reconnect us to our bodies and move trauma out of our cells. Movement is a vital act of love and care.
-Drinking one glass of water every morning before my breakfast or first cup of coffee. Drinking it ceremoniously. Water is cleansing, every form of it. Letting that glass of water represent my commitment to care for myself.
-Finding and befriending one safe person who allows me to be my biggest, loudest, most authentic Self. Nurturing that friendship. Letting my grief pour out in that safe space.
-Meeting with a good therapist, meeting with a good therapist, meeting with a good therapist. I can’t emphasize this one enough.
-Taking baths with essential oils and Epsom salt.
-Reading good books. The internet feels loud. Books feel quiet.
-Watching movies, reading, snuggling, going outside with my kids. Just being with them for a time without plans or schedules or chores or expectations.
-Sitting or laying near my partner, holding hands, drawing close. Compassionate touch literally aids in healing our cells. We need touch.
-Doing the work to change my inner dialogue. My default for as long as I can remember has been to speak harshly to myself, to criticize, disregard, belittle myself. This is a hard pattern to change. But it can be changed and replaced with acceptance and kindness, love even. The new inner dialogue I am cultivating is slow and gentle and supports me daily, which feels all the more important when I am low.
Have you tried any of these? What would you add to this list? Are you feeling low or flying high this week? Will you try just one of these this week and let me know how it goes?
Life is cyclical. There will be impossible seasons and seasons of hope and renewal. Please be gentle with yourself. Your trauma is real. Your pain is valid. Your body always tells the truth. You are unique and important. And you are loved.