Imagine going into 2023 knowing that you don’t have to change a THING about yourself. Knowing with every fibre of your being that acceptance, self-compassion and self-love make it a gazillion times easier to change than endless stress response triggering self-loathing and bullying…
‘The best version of me is me right now’ Viola Davis told Brene Brown in this gorgeous podcast episode about her memoir, Finding Me.
Just hearing that, your whole system may seem to exhale more deeply as the message resonates in spite of the heavily weighted usual perspective of a lifetime of ‘Be more/less/different’ messaging?
Your feelings are there to HELP you
Modern neuroscience means we know that yelling at ourselves, beating ourselves up and generally attempting to bully ourselves into changing anything is doomed to not only feel exhausting and nasty but to fail.
First of all, the thought that you’re not good enough, that you need to resolve to be better, to sort your life out, to fix your finances, to become super fit, to eat better, to cut back on whatever bad habits aren’t serving you, to be a better parent/partner/friend/etc etc is likely to trigger a stress response.
Even typing all of this, I notice my breath has become more shallow and faster.
My practice is called Feel Better Every Day not because life will suddenly become all sunshine and rainbows but because, when you learn how to better regulate your nervous system and to take better care of your Self (that highest, wisest, truest, most miraculous part of yourself) even when life is hard (and holy macaroni, the last few years have been especially tough for many many people), you know that you’re not making things worse.
It’s like going to the gym. Muscles may ache but ultimately, it’s good for us.
One of the best, most (ironically) transformative things you can do for yourself in 2023 and beyond is to become kinder to yourself
Our ancient ancestors lived most of their lives in ‘rest/digest’ (the mode of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system).
Their stress response would be triggered when they sensed a sabre toothed tiger. They’d go into survival mode and the stress hormones would often save their lives by helping them move away from danger.
But modern living has us go into ‘fight/flight’ (the mode of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system at mere thoughts of danger.
An energy bill? Seeing petrol prices? Worrying about what you said to ____ or what she/he/they said to you? Feeling insecure about your work? Your relationship? Your home? Feeling like you’re not doing enough to progress in ______? Wishing you had more energy to work out? Better health? More motivation?
Worried about our lack of progress re reversing the climate emergency? Our failure to stop perpetuating unjust social systems let alone properly making reparations? War in Europe? Those gorgeous new shoes having potentially been made by a small child?
These are just a few examples of thoughts that will likely trigger your stress response
That’s not even going into serious health issues or chronic pain or dealing with the aftermath of trauma, tragedy, grief, loss and so much more.
Mindfulness is another huge element of my Feel Better Every Day practice. When you’re mindful (paying attention with curiosity and compassion for yourself rather than piling on scorn and judgment for the feelings) you’re more likely to notice that you’ve had a stressful thought.
Instead of reacting and acting out and making things worse, you’re more likely to be able to pause in the moment and recognise, wow, that thought (or physical sensation) is tough.
You’re then more likely to be able to find a way to better support yourself through the physical or emotional pain rather than piling on more pain by blaming yourself and judging yourself for having the feeling.
The self-loathing loop of, ‘Urgh. What’s WRONG with me? Everyone else seems to know how to handle _____ and I’ve made a mess of things again’ keeps us in stress response with the amygdala, the alarm bell of the brain, staying in high alert.
You forget your resourcefulness and become trapped in a vicious cycle.
But by learning to catch yourself, you’re enabling yourself to regulate (do something to help yourself feel better), maybe by working with the breath, or grounding and centering… the prefrontal cortex, the more evolved part of the brain, is then better able to come online and help you actually resolve the issue or talk you down from the stress.
It can be hard to go against decades of conditioning
This is part of the reason I developed Cat Coaching – many of my clients and groups find it easier to adopt a kinder tone towards themselves when imagining talking to themselves as if they were a beloved kitten, puppy, lizard etc.
Tone of voice (especially inner voice) is something Stephen Porges demonstrated with Polyvagal Theory. A kind and gentle tone is essential for creating that sense of safety we need to thrive.
Think about all the New Year Resolutions you’ve kept and abandoned
For years and years, decades, even, you may have used this time of year to amp up the pressure. THIS year is going to be different. THIS year, you’re going to x, y and z!
And this year, you’ve survived a global pandemic and many other stressful situations. It’s totally normal if they’ve taken their toll on you.
I hope you give yourself this little gift of wishing yourself happiness, peace, ease and more with a simple Metta (Loving Kindness) meditation that focuses on different aspects of yourself
Which part/s of yourself need some extra love and acceptance right now?
How might you continue to amp up the self-compassion as we move into the New Year?
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Each week, members have the option to dive deeper into their self care with a special email filled with simple suggestions around the week’s theme. There’s something for everyone (it’s designed to work with different energy levels).
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