Self Care for Catastrophic Thinking

Monday morning started quite normally – lovely Summer Solstice meditation, journaling my Morning Pages, about to do my yoga and then a quick thought that derailed much of my day: ‘I’ll just quickly share a post about using whatever platforms you have to be more visible – using that Solstice energy to be brave and put yourself out there for social justice movements and your own personal goals…’

Unfortunately, when I went to share the link I discovered the whole site was down

I get some really nice comments about my blog posts but it’s hardly viral

(Feel free to share any posts that you find useful. I want these simple tools, mind body practices and ideas to help as many people as possible).

Still, my amygdala was running the whole show as I instantly thought, ‘[a certain country] HACKERS! [A certain former president] supporters! White supremacists!]

I was stunned that they’d FOUND my little blog and horrified at the idea of what this meant for the online practice it’s taken so long to build and that I love so much.

I was worried about the evening’s membership call and members not being able to access resources throughout the day.

I wondered about grounding and doing my yoga and THEN facing things or quickly logging in and getting it sorted.

My focus was entirely on the missing site so I figured best to get it sorted first. Long story short: There was no conspiracy. The hosting account was associated with an ancient email address so I’d missed the renewal notice.

Unfortunately, while the hosting company sorted a temporary fix, the info required from the bank (to prove me as the owner of the account) would take several days longer than this so it has felt quite fraught until this morning when I was able to resolve it for good (and update to the proper email address).

What helped?

Because this is my work (taking better care of myself), I was a bit shocked at how stressed I felt, Still I hope that by sharing some of the things that have helped ME, it’ll help YOU.

My self talk used to be debilitating, so filled with self-loathing Yesterday wasn’t GREAT but I was able to focus on my sessions and, in breaks, patiently wait on hold while doing calming breaths, grounding myself, going out with my sickle (unearthing more of the roses – am rewilding AND gardening and it’s a steep learning curve). I knew I needed to get some of the frustration out of my body while walking barefoot on the lawn and making SOME progress with the weeding.

Once I knew I’d done all I could to resolve the whole livelihood issue (this feels extremely dramatic to type now but felt REAL on Monday), I dragged myself out into the Solstice sunshine and did some Sun Salutations on the lawn, looking at the trees, mountain and sky knowing how lucky I am, grounding, burning off some of those stress hormones and then feeling a gazillion times better.

I took myself for a walk, as well, even though I’d lost so much time I didn’t think I could. I knew I couldn’t NOT. And that gave me the needed perspective (as well as benefitting my whole system due to all the ventral vagal anchors I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by).

Letting go (repeatedly) was key. I start each morning asking for guidance and kept doing this while on hold, while on live chat (with companies that inexplicably no longer offer telephone services for panicked customers with shaky hands) and each time I thought about the potential loss of site. Each time I wound myself up into a tight ball of tension and terror (in my imagination, I wasn’t actually curled up), I asked myself how the situation might be trying to help me – invisible website at Summer Solstice. Not too cryptic – and did my best to step up.

To ground, to empower myself, to remind myself that, like everybody else, I’m entitled to my point of view and to, where it feels appropriate, to share things I hope will empower others.

What got in the way?

So much for my having been so inspired by all the fictional Hondo (Criminal Minds‘ Shemar Moore) could handle with grace and compassion – and focus and precision – in S.W.A.T. just the evening before.

As well as solving crime, he handles systemic injustice and tension and angst from all sides and I was shaking and feeling nauseous because my website was down.

Decades ago, I remember Marianne Williamson talking about everything coming down to love or fear and the more we were able to aim for love, the better.

But I kept slipping into fear. I remembered how long it had taken me to build the site last time I’d had a web emergency a few years back. It’s full off free resources for people as well as information. Last time I had to build a new site from scratch, my journalism portfolio and blog didn’t propagate over and it took ages to get enough back to feel representative. I’m not a very techy person – the online vids said it could be done in 2 hours. It took me 48 for the basic pages and the best part of a year (along with 3 moves in 5 months etc etc).

The idea of having to redo all of that did NOT appeal.

Progress not perfection

Even so, I was able to ground enough to remind myself that I was safe and all was well. I’ve been retraining my mind for decades and my nervous system for a ten years but my default on Monday was Olympic level catastrophising.

Still, I was able to smile – with compassion – at myself for some of the ridonkulous scenarios my brain creating. I’ve deleted a few sentences here comparing my worry with People Who REALLY Have Something to Worry About but deleted them because our bodies can’t tell the difference.

Our ancient ancestors needed to see or sense a sabre tooth tiger or woolly mammoth to trigger the same stress response so many of our 2021 thoughts set off.

We all have different challenges, different things that stress us out, different privileges, different disadvantages, different resources. Beating ourselves up while in stress response KEEPS us there.

It gets in the way of our accessing those resources. And it certainly doesn’t help the people who have it way worse. The better regulated our own nervous systems, the more we can be of service in the world (as well as feeling better ourselves).

The importance of daily practices

I’ll never forget my several months’ temping for a call centre when I was 21. I imagine things are far harsher now but even back then, new technology meant using different codes anytime we weren’t taking calls: Bathroom breaks, admin ‘breaks’, and a gazillion other controlling measures that meant that no matter how long I’ve been on hold or saying, ‘I’d like to talk to a human please, human please’, I do my best to remember that the human I eventually get through to isn’t responsible for the long wait or issues.

That being said, if it weren’t for my daily journalling, yoga, meditation and EFT practices as well as other regular but not necessarily daily self care, helps me sound ‘sensible’ as someone kindly said today even when I’m feeling far from serene.

Everything is a practice but the more we do these things when feeling fine, the more likely we are to remember them when needed. I actually forgot about Chair pose and how wonderful it can be with panic and anxiety while doing yesterday’s yoga.

Had I remembered, I could have done THIS while on hold and it would have been that little bit less stressful. But it’s not about remembering everything all the time, simply getting into the mindset of self compassion and checking in with our Selves (that highest, wisest, truest part of our Self) to ask ourselves what we need most in any given moment.

The Feel Better Every Day online membership programme includes weekly live group self care coaching calls to help members stay connected to their commitment to prioritise self care making it more likely that you remember to do more of what helps you feel better in any given situation.

Think of a stressful situation in your life

How did you deal with it? How ARE you dealing with it?

We know that distress – the kind of stress pushes us to our allostatic load and overwhelms our capacity to cope – is terrible for us.

Eustress – the kind of stress that comes from figuring things out and building our resilience – makes us stronger.

Toddlers get frustrated as they learn to roll over, crawl and toddle. But there’s that inherent drive to do better, to grow, to thrive and they persevere without being yelled at for not getting it right first time.

Somehow, we internalise harsher voices as we grow up and often yell at ourselves when we’re simply doing our best to manage whatever challenge we’re facing. We know from Polyvagal Theory that tone of voice has a HUGE impact on calming ourselves and others down. It’s a practice but so worth persevering with.

I hope that this little emotional rollercoaster description of mine will help you better connect with your own self compassion and resourcefulness whatever you’re facing.

With love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

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