Tag Archives: self-care

OUR ENERGY IMPACT

I was complaining about feeling old, and was given this phrase: ‘We are not our age, we are our energy.’ At first, I was not sure if I got it. After all, I know I have less physical energy than I did when I was younger, and I know that I do sometimes feel my age!

But then further conversation made me realise that this relates to the energy impact we have, on others and ourselves. This is our energetic field, an invisible aura of energy around us, generated by our overall state. It is not our physical energy levels, although that can have an effect on it.

You know how some people seem to carry negativity around with them, whilst others give off a ‘buzz’? And of course, there are variations: an aura of kindness or gentleness; an aura of humour or lightness; an aura of busyness; an aura of life being difficult – you get the idea… And we are all affected by others’ energetic fields – we feel them and react to them, even if we’re not conscious of it.

Once we do become conscious of having that energetic field, we can do things to affect it positively in the way we want it to be, regardless of whether we are feeling energetic or not.

  • We can make a change physically: stand up straight, dance, smile, go for a walk
  • We can make a change emotionally: think about things and people we love, enjoy
  • We can make a change actively: do something that lightens our mood

I know what energy impact I want to have on others, not because I’m a ‘good’ person, but because I’m selfish. If my energy impact is positive, I will usually get positive energy back. And that’s a bonus for my own energy bank, helping me to be my energy, not my age.

LETTING GO

My friend Rebecca sent me a copy of a poem by Safire Rose called ‘She Let Go’.

https://safire-rose.com/books-and-media/poetry/she-let-go . As I read it through I could feel the relief, the lightness of being that just letting go creates.

It is not easy to stop worrying something through. We go backwards and forwards in our minds, we may talk about it with others, we allow whatever it is to affect our behaviour, our mind. Yet at the same time, this poem reminded me that we can just let it go: say ‘Oh well,’ and let go.

It is easier to do with something in the past. After all, there’s nothing we can do about it now, so revisiting it in our mind changes nothing except our own mood and behaviour.

Letting go of something that’s in our present reality, or that we are predicting in our future is harder. Yet if we think about it with a form of logic, it becomes easier,

If it’s in our present reality, then it’s here, so the best thing to do is accept it, and decide what we can do about it, or at least how we can alleviate the situation. Wishing it away just doesn’t work!

If it’s future and certain, we can plan what we will do to handle it. If it’s not certain, we need to recognise that we don’t know if it will turn into reality, and that worrying about it now may be an unnecessary weight.

It rarely helps us to sort something out when we worry at it like a dog with a bone, and we all have evidence of that truth!

From now on, I’m going to see if I can emulate the ‘she’ in the poem: ‘She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go… It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.. In the space of letting go, she let it all be’.

THE JOYS OF BEING ALONE

It is a vital part of our lives to be in relationship with others – we need that connection with friends and family, and even strangers. And at the same time, we all need some time on our own, when we can just relate to ourselves and our own needs and feelings.

I love having people drop by to spend time with me, and I also really enjoy having days to myself, where I don’t need to consider anyone else’s needs and can just be however I am. Often, people fill that time on their own, so as not to feel lonely: going shopping, doing household chores, making phone calls, and generally keeping busy. I recognise this – I used to do the same.

But now I find that being alone is different from being lonely, and I think it is important to take advantage of ‘me time’ and celebrate the joys of being alone. It’s an opportunity to gather yourself, listen to yourself, and follow how you feel instead of how you ought to be.

You can eat and drink what you want, when you want. You can stop halfway through doing something and decide that’s enough for today. You can choose to make it a good day, whatever that means to you at the time, without having to explain or justify to anyone else. You can do little or a lot, depending on your mood, not the circumstances.

And you can relax for a little while into being however you are, giving yourself permission to move away from the drives of convention and habit.

So make sure you get some time every week where you’re on your own, and make it ‘me time’, not ‘catch-up time’. It’s good for your soul.

IT’S ALL WRONG – WHAT CAN I DO?

Everywhere we look at the moment, things are going wrong: the war in Ukraine; climate change; the continuing spread of Covid; the problems with the NHS and many other institutions; the supply chains; the mess called our government; the rising cost of living – not to mention all those other things we all have to deal with in our everyday lives, whether it be illness in our families or failing to get hold of someone on the phone, etc, etc.

Distress, upset, delays, frustrations, doom-laden predictions – they seem to have become part of everyone’s life. It can leave us feeling powerless and miserable. And that doesn’t help.

So what can I do?

Well, it’s the actions of people that change the world, for better or worse, so I have decided to do something each day that makes a small positive difference, hoping that they all add up to something that helps.

At the macro-level, I can write to my MP, I can donate to a charity that is helping those who are suffering most. I can make my voice heard in protest against wrong – as Amnesty International say: one extra may be what tips the balance.

At the micro-level, I can continue to wear a mask in crowded places, I can ensure that I recycle as much as possible, use less plastic, waste less food. I can live my life as ethically, ecologically and caringly as I can.

At an interpersonal level, I can listen to and sympathise with other people’s issues and frustrations, without judgement or interruption, allowing them to express their frustrations so they don’t just go round and round in their heads.

At a personal level, I can tackle one of those frustrations at a time: keep making that phone call until I get a result or whatever it is. And I can take care of my own physical and mental health, and use things that bring me joy to lift my mood. I’m not doing all of this all of the time – that’s too much and would just send me into despair again! But if each day I do something, then at least I’m doing my bit to right all this wrong. And if we all did…

IF ONLY…

There are some phrases we would be better off not knowing, and one of them is: ‘If only…’ It almost always expresses regret about something in our past: ‘ If only I hadn’t eaten that chocolate cake’, or ‘If only I’d held my tongue in that conversation’, or ‘ If only they had noticed that I was struggling’.

Most of them give us reasons to beat ourselves up, and some of them give us reasons to resent other people. None of them are useful!

They are usually referring to things that have already happened, and we can’t change that. It’s a terrible waste of our energy to wish something in the past were different, and positively sinful to beat ourselves up about it!

The alternative is to use those thoughts as a means of doing something different in the future. We can use those phrases to help us to create a different story for ourselves from now on.

If I hear myself doing an ‘if only..’, I ask myself a couple of questions:

  1. Can I do anything to rectify it?
  2. How can I approach similar situations differently next time, so that it turns out in a better way?

Can I rectify it?

If I ate chocolate cake, it’s done! But if I was mean to somebody, or unfair, I may be able to apologise to them and acknowledge that I know I got it wrong.

If someone upset me and I’m holding a grudge, there’s not much I can do about being upset, although sometimes when we re-examine the situation, we have a different perspective on it, and realise that it wasn’t really that serious – we just took it that way at the time.

How can I approach similar situations differently next time, so that it turns out in a better way?

Here’s the useful bit!

If we think about alternative approaches we could use, we are doing two useful things:

  1. We are learning from our experience, instead of repeating the same errors, or beating ourselves up about it – and by the way, beating ourselves up about it means that we replay the experience and practise to do it again next time!
  2. We automatically play our improved version in our minds, and this is like rehearsing to do it more effectively next time we experience something similar, so we have some practice at the new improved way of handling it, and are more likely to use this version.

So next time you find yourself saying: ‘If only..’, use these two questions and stop it in its tracks!

SOLITUDE

There is something lovely about being on your own. We often confuse being solitary or alone with being lonely, feeling deprived of company. The two do not necessarily follow: we feel lonely if we wish we did have company, but being alone is a choice to enjoy your own company.

And that choice allows the possibility of just doing and being whatever we feel like – it is a form of freedom. When no-one else is involved we have the opportunity to follow our own rhythms, to indulge our own fancies, to consider ourselves first.

We can eat and drink what we like, when we like. We can sing our hearts out, or have complete quiet. We can get up when we’re ready to, or lie in bed with a cup of tea and read a book. We can even have complete control of the TV remote!

In our busy world, it is good for us, once in a while, to have some solitary time. It allows us to replenish our energy, and that freedom to be completely ourselves,

So this year, see if you can find yourself a little solitary time. If you live with others, suggest they go out for the day, and bask in the freedom of solitude for a little while.

May 2019 be a great year for you!!

CAN YOU LET YOURSELF HAVE A DAY OFF?

I’ve just spent ten days pushing myself to keep going and finally realised that I knew better – I needed to let myself have a day off. That made me reconsider what a day off really means.

In this case, I was feeling somewhat under the weather – just not well. I made some allowance for it, cutting down on my expectations of myself, but I wasn’t willing to ‘give in’ to it. The consequence was that I didn’t even meet the expectations I did have of myself, so got cross with myself, or did and felt unreasonably exhausted. And of course, my health didn’t improve at all.

So eventually I remembered that the answer is to remove all the expectations, even those we aren’t usually conscious of, like getting washed and dressed or answering the phone. I spent two days doing what I felt like when I felt like it, with no list of must do’s at all, and I feel so much better for it!

It’s the removal of expectations that makes it a real day off, because that frees you up to genuinely follow your own body and heart preferences. It doesn’t mean doing nothing – unless that is what you feel like – nor taking some of the tasks off the list. It means giving yourself free rein for a day.

Usually we fill our days with expectations of ourselves, which come from us, from our culture and from others, so can be quite a collection! We assess how successful our day was by measuring ourselves against these expectations – and frequently fail to come up to the mark!

If we do allow ourselves a bit of space, because we’re feeling a bit ‘off’ in some way, or sometimes because we think we’ve earned it, that usually means that we take a few of the expectations off the list for the day. ‘I’ll leave the washing till tomorrow, or make that phone call later in the week, or finish that task another day.’ So we load our next few days a bit more, and still have the rest of our expectations of ourselves in the day we have alleviated.

I have known for a long time that a day without any expectations of myself at all, except to do just what I feel like doing, is as good as a holiday. It allows my mind and body to reset and refresh themselves. And yet I realise that, although I am kinder to myself than many, I rarely give myself permission to really take time out from the demands of everyday life.

So I won’t be waiting next time till I’m desperate for that relief. I’m going to write some days off into my diary, and teat them as a priority for my mental and physical health.

So what about you? Do you let yourself have real days off? And if you don’t, can you plan one in and experiment with it?

JUST BEING HERE NOW

We spend so much of our lives doing stuff: work, chores, going places, watching things, talking with others. Even when we’re not busy doing, we’re usually busy in our heads: reviewing what’s already happened or thinking about what’s ahead of us.

And in all this occupation, we miss something important: this moment now. If we stop for a little while, we can appreciate our world, and be with ourselves more completely. I don’t mean some grand or difficult version of being present. I just mean that moment of noticing what’s happening around you, what’s going on with you, how you are in this moment.

For example, I am sitting in a courtyard with warm air around me. There are noises of people and movement and cars outside but they don’t feel intrusive – they just highlight the peacefulness of this spot. I am enjoying my morning cup of coffee and feel quite relaxed. And I feel comfortable with myself this morning. That’s it! It doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful – it is just a way of being present for a moment, before the mind rushes off somewhere else.

As we stop, we notice more of what’s around us in the world and can appreciate the buzzing of the bees, the light playing on the wall in front of us, the colour of a favourite cushion – whatever it may be – and take a little taste of delight. We can also assess our own state and if necessary, do something to improve it.

So why not take a moment now, to just be here, now, – and then another in an hour or so. It gives us an extra fillip to our everyday.

USEFUL DISTRACTIONS

I used to think that distractions were a bad thing. If you were distracted, you weren’t paying attention to what was immediately in front of you. And that is true – that’s exactly what a distraction is: something that pulls you away from whatever you were attending to.

And sometimes that can be really useful:

  • If we’re caught up in feeling a bit under the weather in some way
  • If we’re feeling fed up
  • If we’re feeling agitated
  • If we’re feeling irritated
  • If we’ve got stuck with something and can’t see how to sort it out
  • If we’re feeling overwhelmed by what we have to do
  • If we’re berating ourselves for something we’ve done or not done

In all these situations, it’s easy to get caught up into a negative spiral. We all know that an insect bite can become all-consuming, that someone’s irritating behaviour can remind us of everything they’ve ever done to annoy us, and we can convince ourselves that we’re really stupid because of one wrong move.

When we pay attention to something, it takes centre stage and starts collecting more evidence that it should be there. It’s like a magnet for more of the same sort of thought or reaction. Now that’s great if it’s something positive, but when it is something that is not useful to us, we need to be able to distract ourselves – pull ourselves away from its magnetic charm.

Being distracted allows us to regain some perspective, sort ourselves out a bit, and then approach whatever it is differently.

If we’ve already thought of some useful distractions, we are more likely to use them before we get too caught up in the negative spiral.

They need to have a strong ‘pull’ to break us out of the trap, so just switching on the TV or radio probably won’t work. We want things that take over our attention and occupy our minds.

Some examples might be: listening to some music we love, linked to happy memories; or watching an enthralling movie; or going in the garden for an hour; or going on a bike ride. If you have a particular hobby or interest, a bit of time spent on that helps, and so will a short walk, where you literally move away, and consciously pay attention to your external surroundings.

You will have your own set of useful distractions, so make a note of them, and next time you realise you are getting caught into one of those negative spirals, distract yourself!!

 

YOUR ENERGY BANK

We all have bank accounts for our finances, and most of us manage them with some care, because we know that being overdrawn is not good – in fact it costs us even more than we owe.

It is the perfect metaphor for our energy levels, because our energy is equally vital for our survival, yet most of us take very little care of our energy banks.

Our energy banks fluctuate more, but at the same time, they are easier to top up – we are not reliant on an external input once a month, and can have more control over both inputs and outgoings.

What do I mean? Well, the inputs to your energy bank are simply all those things that energise you, many of which you can actively bring into your life. And the outgoings are all those things that drain your energy, many of which you can exert some control over.

For example, you may find physical activity energising, or the company of good friends, or just having a rest. You may find certain aspects of your work draining, or certain relationships, or housework.

By the way, it is a little more complex than this: sometimes the same activity can be both draining and energising at the same time, so we need to assess whether the overall ‘balance’ is in the black or the red. And some activities may be draining one day, yet energising the next: for example, you may feel good doing some gardening one weekend, and exhausted by doing it the next weekend.

Our energy bank matters because it is what fuels us to live our lives well. When it’s well topped up, we achieve more, we are happier, and we are lovely to be around! When it’s in the red, everything becomes more difficult, and we damage our health by over stretching ourselves.

Obviously we can’t control everything that happens in our lives. There will always be the unexpected or unavoidable that lands in our laps and drains our energy bank – or tops it up!

However, we can learn to notice what’s going on with our energy bank, and deliberately choose to do something to top it up if it is running a bit low. By becoming consciously aware of it, we can ensure that we keep it as well-filled as possible.

So start by making a list of some of those things that usually give you an energy boost, and those that usually drain you – you know what they are, and you know which ones are within your control, because your physical and emotional reactions tell you. Then list those that can come into both categories, so you are aware of them.

And now find a couple of extra things you could put on the energy-giving list. They don’t have to be complicated: reading a chapter of an enjoyable book; phoning a friend; dancing to a favourite music track.

With this awareness, you can now take more care of your energy bank balance. You can plan in some energy-givers, particularly when you have to do something that drains you, and when you have time to do some extra topping up.

If you have a healthy energy bank account, the world is your oyster, life automatically gets better.