A little self-care in challenging times
“Our attitude in the face of life’s challenges determines our suffering or our freedom.”Tara Brach (Author of Radical Acceptance)
Earlier in the year, life threw a few curve balls at me, which stopped me in my tracks.
We have had lots of wild weather here on the Atlantic coast, with some impressive storms that brought power cuts, phone cuts and the end to my faithful old MacPro laptop.
As I work for myself and am dependent on my laptop, I had to put my work on hold as I sourced a replacement computer and got things back on track. In the midst of all of this, a beautiful friend of mine died suddenly and war broke out in Europe…
For a few days, I felt like the ground was being pulled out from underneath me.
My business is about supporting people to harness heartfelt creative power for positive change in our world. But in this sense of free-fall, my faith was shaken, in our collective capacity to change, in my decision to work for myself (creating such a vulnerable working situation) and in the tangible value of my work in the world.
It is normal when you are working on something so close to your heart, and at times to have doubts and feel stuck or disempowered. And sometimes it requires some time and extra care to find our sense of ground again and polish off our confidence.
I found my way back to a steady place and I want to share some of the ways that allowed me to navigate this shaky ground.
1 I surrender
“There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to your entire imperfect and messy life”Tara Brach
Challenges can lead us to recoil and reject what is happening to us. After struggling to control and fix what was happening in my life I realised that I needed to stop fighting and instead find a way to surrender— but I struggled to understand what that could look like.
I wanted to take time to listen to the still small voice inside of me– to pause, to create space and time to stop and surrender but in the midst of chaos, I found it hard to stop. Instead, I held the intention to surrender and just held myself with compassion until I found my way to slow down and listen. Surrender isn’t a switch; it can take us some time to get there.
What this process of surrendering currently looks like for me is: twenty minutes of meditation for peace in the morning, sea-swimming at lunchtime and walking by the seashore at sunset. This allows me several chances each day to lean in and give space for all that is happening inside and out.
2 I hold my internal stories with compassion
There are many gradations between the extremes of success or failure, good or bad and right or wrong and believing that the world, or ourselves, is strictly either one thing or another can be painful and anxiety-inducing.
To calm my nervous system and bring compassion to the part that is jumping to extremes I listen to guided compassion meditations and source gentler music to move to — this brings me back into the present moment and back into connection with my body.
And for moments when we do get caught in the story and are feeling overwhelmed I recently heard a simple exercise from Sarah Blondin on Insight Timer. Place a hand on your heart, tell your inner child that you love her and rock yourself gently until you feel calmer. A simple gentle conscious rocking movement while even sitting with your eyes closed and breathing consciously can greatly soothe a jangled nervous system.
3 I let myself be seen
Something I am getting better at is reaching out to people who I feel safe around when I am doubting myself. In the last few weeks, I talked to friends who love and see me, who have witnessed my journey over many years and who see my light and encourage me to shine.
To be seen is to be reminded that you are of value, to have your beauty and your uniqueness reflected back to you. My friends remind me of who I am when I can’t see it for myself.
I am a better artist, a better designer a more creative person for being seen, for the mirroring of friends and colleagues, for being reminded of what I am capable of and for being loved as I am.
4 I open my heart to SEE beauty and goodness in others
When I feel the love of my friend’s attention I feel myself coming back to life and back into connection with myself. From here I have the capacity to widen my awareness and offer my attention to others and to the world around me.
In the last few weeks from a place of initial recoil, I found hope and renewed faith when I opened my awareness to friends, loved ones and complete strangers who are bringing their love into action in the world.
I wondered about times throughout history and what makes the difference between when a creative idea became a real positive change or remained latent potential. What was the difference in their lives – between those who were seen as insane for their ideas and those who are held in our histories as initiators of positive change? I imagine that many of those who we remember in our history had some good people in their lives who saw them.
There is no record of Van Gogh ever having sold a painting — yet he goes down in history as one of the greatest painters of all time. He lived a life of mental suffering and was never aware of the magnitude of his talent. What would Van Gogh’s life be like if he had been truly seen and acknowledged?
Take a moment to watch this scene from ‘Dr Who’.
Watching it brings me to tears because it hits home the fundamental need in all of us to be seen, and the healing it can bring.
5 I listen to others’ perspectives
I gravitate toward people who see and respect me but also who can challenge me and offer constructive criticism. This is not about randomly getting everyone’s perspectives — this is about seeking out those in particular who can offer a kind nudge or challenge to my thinking.
There are people in my life who challenge the stories I tell myself, challenge my ideas and offer valuable and wise insight that keeps me in check in my personal and professional life.
Over the years I have seen how my own self-belief and my creative projects grew stronger with the right amount of challenge and critique.
I’ve learned through trial and error that I am not always able or open to even the gentle challenges of others and that not everyone has an opinion relevant to my circumstance and particular challenge. But I have learned that it is essential to my own creative growth and to the development of my own resilience to remain open to constructive criticism — it teaches me to expand my creative thinking, keep my heart open to new ideas and embrace failure as a stepping stone in my creative evolution.
6 I nurture my support system
This is something that we can be nurturing all of the time. It is about building the systems you need to support you when times are good so that there is a network there to hold you when times are challenging.
This might include nurturing friendships and groups where you can have fun, joining a group of like-minded people that supports your creative projects- e.g. a coach or mentor who is specifically there to support, guide and constructively challenge your professional growth.
The main reminder from these last few weeks has been that I am not alone, in fact, I am in profound connection with remarkable creative human beings who I dearly love. I am a better and more creative human for their presence in my life and they are also all the richer for my presence in theirs.
When times are really challenging and your faith in yourself and your creative work is faltering do find gentle ways to surrender, hold your stories with compassion, let yourself be seen and keep nurturing a network of support in your life. Our creative capacity to imagine a better world has never been more important for our collective future. Even though these times are dark there is so much light and creative possibility
Hold yourself and those around you with compassion and love — and let’s use the power of our hearts and our imaginations to picture our world at peace.