Take good care of yourself…be kind

I have a job that tends to have an endless source of vicarious trauma.  I work with vulnerable youth and bear witness to their joy, pain, and sorrow.  And I am often reminded of the stories that we all hold.   The pure resilience of the human spirit is never lost on me.  Most days I leave work feeling inspired to be a better person, a better clinician, and just better.  Some days…well some days just kick me in the teeth. This is when I need my self-care more than ever.

Today happen to be one of those days and I knew I was going to need to pay attention to my regimen of self-care.   It started with my favorite P!nk CD at the maximum volume on the way home, led to a walk with the dog at the park, and may wrap up with some mindless television watching after a thoughtful spurt of writing.  Is today a model of good self-care?  Maybe.  I guess it depends on who you ask.  See, I will be the first to tell my friends to take good care after days like this.  I will ask them, “What is something fun you can do tonight?  Something relaxing?”  The problem with this approach is that fun and relaxing activities are great, but they don’t often release my heart of the burden that I absorbed that day.  When you are truly present for someone in a time of need and bear witness to their pain and allow them a space to release their energy; a simple activity is not going to erase a memory that was etched in your heart.  Sure, I feel better on the short-term.  I lower my blood pressure back down and give my heart a healthy boost through my structured activity. But the pain has not dissolved, not completely.

So I’m trying something new.  Well, maybe not new…but I am adding something to my usual ‘go to’ strategies.  I am exploring this idea of more purposeful kindness.  Not only to myself, but to others.  I am finding that the more kind I am to others and to myself, the more I heal that vicarious trauma and ultimately the more I can give in those moments that I am called upon. I am doing this a variety of ways.  First of all, I’m not criticizing myself for not knowing what to say in a tense moment, instead I’m practicing self-compassion and giving myself permission to simply not know how to respond.  I also am being proactive with kindness and taking opportunities to smile at people more and say ‘good morning’.  I am reaching out to people I haven’t spoken to in a while just to say hi and that I was thinking of them.  I am taking many deep breaths on my commute home and remembering that everyone wants to get home just as much as I do and that if I let one car merge over (even though they don’t have a blinker on), I’m not hurting myself with this act of kindness and actually improving my own well-being in this process.  The easiest way I’m practicing is by asking myself “what is the most kind response I can offer with this particular situation?”   And the most beautiful part of this process is the more I increase my own awareness, the more opportunities I am realizing each day.

It’s not that being kind keeps me from experiencing pain or prevents the sadness from hurting my heart some days, but I can tell you that it has insulated my heart and soul to a point that makes it easier to recover from these hard times.  I still need to do the fun things and relax my body and mind. It’s just that adding kindness to this regimen provides a thicker layer of insulation from the harsh impact of trauma and pain.  So today I am going to practice kindness to those around me.  I’m not sure what that will look like just yet, but I’m sure it will come to me soon.  That’s the beautiful part of life….if you want an opportunity to practice something all you have to do is open your eyes to see what is present in front of you.

Be Kind Photo

 

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Love this poem by John Fox

When Someone Deeply Listens To You

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.

When someone deeply listens to you
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind’s eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!

When someone deeply listens to you
your barefeet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.
-John Fox

Monday attitude check

Happy guys

I rarely approach a Monday with the same enthusiasm as a Friday.  Maybe it’s because I have more restless sleep on Sunday night, maybe it’s because my mind can’t turn off the ever-increasing ‘task list’ for the week, or maybe it’s just because I’m not quite ready to release the sweet but so short weekend.  There are a variety of factors at play here, but it is not lost on me how lack of restful sleep and a stressed mind impacts my overall sense of well-being and my attitude to approach the pending day.

The problem is that it’s not just me who feels this energy.  When I am overwhelmed, tired, and frustrated the people in my life can tell and feel this energy too.  I spend a lot of time exploring things that improve my well-being and working on my self-awareness, but things still don’t always work out the way I would like sometimes.  Some days I am simply in a foul mood or just don’t feel my best and being hopeful and enthusiastic doesn’t come so easily. I have to practice self-compassion on these days and remind myself that nobody is perfect and being happy or at peace doesn’t mean living in some delusional state that is void of frustration or challenges or even heartache.  However, when I am feeling frustrated, tired, or otherwise discouraged; it is important for me to pause and think about who I am subjecting all of this awesomeness to and what is my motivation in sharing this kind of energy? Do I just want everyone to know that I’m in a bad mood or am I looking for help and support right now? And most importantly, what can I do to change my outlook on things?

All of that said, I am not suggesting that everyone suppress bad days, gloomy moods, or emotional challenges…I am suggesting that we think about why we feel the way we do and what we can do about it ourselves instead of falling into the habit of using complaining as our primary coping mechanism.  And if you are having a bad morning or entire day, own it.  State that you are in a bad mood, but don’t just complain about it to people.  Assert your problem then figure out what you are going to do about it.  Otherwise it makes for an endless cycle of complaining and bad energy.  And that makes for an exhausting day, any day of the week.

My goal for today is to reduce my complaining and focus on solutions and healthy outlets.  I am not so unrealistic to say that I won’t complain at all….could you imagine?  But at least I’m increasing my awareness and maybe instead of continuing to complain, I will respond and resolve my feelings before it turns into a full-fledged bad mood!  Of course, it may mean that I do nothing more than pause, breathe, and repeat.  Who knows, with enough practice, maybe someday I will bookend my week with TGIM and TGIF!

Hope everyone has a Happy Day! 🙂

Being creative

Inspiration from vacation

Inspiration from vacation

I can spend days (and even weeks) sometimes and wonder if I am ever going to feel inspired to get creative again.  Then, like a rushing creek, I am flooded with ideas around me.  For instance, I went to an art festival with a friend this weekend and was reminded how much inspiration exists all around us.  There were so many beautiful photographs and creations that at times I felt completely overwhelmed with the pure talent and creative energy at work.

I used to think that being creative meant I had to be a skillful artist, or know some amazing craft.  I thought it meant that I needed to be able to create powerful poems or sing amazing melodies.  Since I rarely can even color within the lines or carry a tune to save my life, you can imagine how elusive this whole creativity thing used to be for me. Regardless, I had this desire to create something and explore new ways of expressing myself.  And I knew that something that was holding me back was the fact that I didn’t know if whatever I would attempt to create would be judged, criticized, or even appreciated.

One day I decided that even if I sucked at it, I was going to be creative and make something.  My first project?  Sewing.  Ha!  I had big ideas that I was going to sew some awesome pajamas.  I was doing okay until there was this thing call an in-seam I had to figure out. Then things kind of went south.  I tried to piece together a few other things and eventually put the sewing machine back in the closet for a while.  Then, I dabbled in the idea of painting, scrap-book, and even card creations.  I enjoyed all of the experiences but never felt like any of them were things I just had to do.  For a while, I was convinced that I was just going to be a boring, non-creative, and uninspired soul.  Let’s face it, I was not okay with that option.    So I kept on dabbling in different things and eventually I realized that my true creativity was not so much about my finished product but the fact that I was willing to explore all of the different ideas of my personal expression. And the more I explored different ideas, the more comfortable I started feeling about even acknowledging my own creativity.

So I drag out the sewing machine every once in a while and work on something a little simpler like pillows and I take time to create thoughtful gifts for friends and family.  I even signed up for this painting class called “painting with a twist” that was one of the best learning experiences ever.  That one included wine though, so I may be slightly biased. 🙂 I like to make CD’s for people who love music as much as me and I often am thinking about new ideas to share with my co-workers.

And most importantly, I am writing again.  I know this isn’t something I am a pro at or anything but it is my passion.  It is my own personal therapy.  When I write, I am reminded who I am.  When I haven’t written in my journal, sent anyone a thoughtful letter or even a simple email, I realize that I also haven’t been paying much attention to taking care of myself.   I am finally admitting that I need to write.  It doesn’t matter if anyone else reads it or even understands it, I need to put my thoughts down on paper.  You can imagine how exciting this is for me as I am staring this blog.  I have no idea why it has taken me this long to explore this platform.  Wait, that’s not really true.  I know why it has taken me this long…because the idea of anyone being able to read this and have an opinion other than “wow, this is awesome” scares the heck out of me.  But the reality is that my comfort zone isn’t doing me any favors right now, so I’m feeling the fear but doing it anyway. As I figure out how to navigate this new territory, decide what I would like to share with everyone, simply figure out the process, and learn from this community; I can’t help but get excited about the endless possibilities.

It’s funny how inspiration can come from so many different places.  This weekend I received it while looking at a photograph; last week I felt it when I was at the park and watched about 7 deer gallop across the path; and I definitely continue to experience it as I start exploring this blogging community and see how many amazing people are out there with similar thoughts, ideas, and attitudes as me.  With all this endless inspiration, it would be unnatural to refrain my creativity!  Now, I’m going to sit back and enjoy my new photograph that I bought from the fair and see where my new inspiration takes me.

The photo above is from a vacation a while back, but if I get permission to post a picture of the photo I bought this weekend I will update it then.  In the meantime, I thought I would share this picture since it still provides me with that sense of possibilities.  Happy creating!