Today I learned a different way to relate to myself when I’m feeling stressed out. Usually, when I’m feeling stressed, a part of me gets worked up and I feel a sense of urgency. It tells me, “There’s not enough time! There’s too much to do! You have to do more!” and variations in that theme. I feel tension in my body and a sense of impending doom. It’s as if–if I rush around, if I push and berate myself–I can ward off a bad outcome.
What bad outcome, I don’t know. I’ve never been able to figure that out. This experience has been a nebulous but heavy wall of anxiety with no specific worries.
Today I took time to sit with all this. I noticed my habit of cramming more and more in when I feel this way. I thought about something that occurred to me this past summer, when I was longing for a vacation. I had inquired into this wanting for myself and saw that I was wanting the feelings of vacation, not so much vacation per se. Then came the thought, “Rest has to be now or never.” In other words, if I didn’t start providing myself with inner experiences of rest, I would never get that vacation feeling.
Sitting with how I felt today, and the memory of this wanting for rest, for ease in my body and mind, I thought, “That’s what I can do! When I feel that urgency, that anxious call to action, that self-driving-onward, I can be curious and ask myself: how can I make space here?”
It’s paradoxical that, when I’m telling myself there’s not enough time, I’m not good enough, there’s too much to do, and I have to do more, the best response is to give myself space.
Even if it’s only in my mind and body, if not in my schedule or in my to-do list (although hopefully there too; I’m becoming more and more willing to let go of things) I feel better. Space is the antidote to tightness and stress.
Similarly, when I’m criticizing and berating myself, if/when I catch myself, I can also be curious and say, “How can I bring more love to this situation?”
Rushing around and beating myself up when I’m stressed just diminishes my capacity at a time when I need it the most. So…
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
(see http://youtu.be/0IagRZBvLtw if you feel like singing along)
…why not support myself by being curious, and asking myself, “How can I bring more space and love to it all?
How do you care for yourself when you’re feeling stressed or sad? Why not share your strategies in the comments below?