The way I feel better is by acknowledging that I feel bad and I don’t try to deny it, fight it or turn it into something different.
This technique has had such impact in my life. Likely my most powerful strategy for my mental and physical health.
I say physical because as I age I want to mitigate the physical consequences of stress. My body doesn’t bounce back like it used to if I feel muscles tightening in my back, shallow breathing or acid reflux. It’s never too late to address this part of our human experience!
Here is what I do:
When I feel down I take time to recognize that I’m feeling trapped by a difficult feeling or negative thought and then I acknowledge the feelings without trying to change them. Sometimes I whisper to myself “yes and this too” as a way of accepting the feelings instead of denying or fighting them. Then I investigate the feelings and where they live in my body. I often find they are more nuanced than I initially think them to be. I try to get precise with the language I use to describe the feeling. I do this examination gently and with loving kindness. I ask myself what do I need in this vulnerable moment? What am I missing? And then I answer it as best I can with nourishing statements. This process helps me centre myself and feel more at ease with myself and what is going on in the moment.
This technique is called the RAIN technique. I discovered it in the work of meditation teacher Tara Brach and it has done me a world of good.
Now this is mostly a mental exercise. I also believe in the power of changing your physical state in order to change your mental state. If I feel emotionally or intellectually stuck, I like to move around. At home that might be doing some jumping jacks, pushups or dancing like no one is watching (great because no is). Out in public it might be walking to another place in a room and looking out the window or going somewhere private to shake it all out. Sometimes I wiggle my toes in my shoes and then wiggle my hands in my lap.
And when all else fails there is this kitten video on YouTube. ;-)
PS For a bunch of reasons I wasn’t taught how to acknowledge my feelings and manage stress, conflict and challenges in a healthy way. When these things occurred I would deny any difficult/negative feelings and then they would resurface in weird and ugly ways. You can read a more in-depth exploration here.
Wow! It has been a while since I have shared a personal blog entry. It is not that I have not had a personal life. I have. That is one reason I have not written a personal post in some time. I have been busy with living life that I haven’t had much time to write about it. What has been keeping me from writing?
I have been spending A LOT of time with family and loving it so much. Being an aunt is awesome. It has opened me up to so much love that I feel like I might burst. It has also made me work hard on being engaged and present in a whole new way. I find that so rewarding. The downside is that it also involves travel as my niece is not in Montreal. When I am gone it means when I get home I have to play catch up on my different obligations and activities and some stuff has been at the bottom of the to do list. I have re-arranged some things and I should have a better schedule in 2014 once the holidays are over. Regular postings to come!!! Streamlining things!!! Woo!!!
Speaking of streamlining, a bunch of that has been with regards to burlesque. I have combed through my costume collection a couple of times in the past year and focused my selection for my strongest numbers – ones that I can do at more upscale shows and for private events. This has been a smart move and for the past few months I have been getting more gigs and even making some decent money off of my burlesque activities (decent is subjective of course – in my case it means more money coming in than going out). I have also been hosting more which is something I very much want to pursue in 2014. I like helping to hold a show together and showcase other artists. It is a very good feeling to bring the community together.
Fear & Other Stuff
It also hasn’t been that pressing for me to write about the ups and downs in my life as it was before because there have been a lot less of ups and downs. After a few very tumultuous years things have settled down for me. All my personal work has paid off and I am feeling very grounded and focused. There have been some bumps in the road, but I have dealt with them with a new found sense of equanimity. Thank you three years of therapy and my Buddhist influenced personal development work (mindfulness practices saved my life – truly).
Though I would be really deceiving myself (and you, my readers) if I said I am not also dealing with some fears. Money has been an issue. Depression and anxiety kept me pretty much flat on the floor for many months (on and off) which made working and earning an income pretty inconsistent. I have had to take a hard look at my expenses and the meager ways I can earn in living with adult content these days and look at other streams of revenue.
Last summer things finally came to a head and I did some major emotional and physical housekeeping and have spent much of the past 18 months cutting things and people out of my life, tying up lose ends (filed for the divorce and ended that chapter of my life officially), and creating a new foundation for my life.
Then there is my love life. I have a better understanding of what I want, but I am lacking some confidence. The risk of dating is very real to me. I cannot go about it as discretely as I would like as I have lived a very publicly documented life since 1998. Online dating holds zero interest for me as having online profiles and dealing with emails and strangers reaching out to me is something I have done on a daily basis for many, many years. Playing it light and sleeping around also doesn’t hold much interest for me. You could say I am looking for something new which in this day and age of extensive social networking is not easy to find.
I am in the process of figuring out what it is. I expect I will know it or rather him or her – when I see it. I haven’t given up hope, but I am feeling cautious, even risk averse. I want to make smart choices and right now being single and solo is all part of this new foundation of mine.
I have been trying to figure out where my malaise is coming from. I have been sleeping so much and having a deep desire to disappear. I have been experiencing some anxiety and physical discomfort, but mostly I have felt stuck, still, passive, inert – dead. The only desire I have had is the desire to fade far into my dreams and away from my reality. I have felt like this for a number of weeks. I was feeling so on the ball, so focused and excited in January and part of February and then heighten emotion hit me and then I froze.
The truth of my situation came upon me and I am scared. That is what it is. I am feeling a sense of healing and closure coming with regards to the end of my marriage and I am seeing the trainwreck of my rebound relationship truly for what it was and coming to terms with that.
Now, an unknown future lies before me and I am terrified.
In my darkest moments I feel as if there is nothing good and true ‘out there’ for me. I am not smart enough, quiet enough, calm enough, strong enough, assertive enough, balanced enough, and most definitely good enough to deserve anything of value in my life. These are my darkest moments and wow, did I ever have that one last night.
This morning the darkness lingered, but I decided to think of my new toolbox.
It’s an invisible one filled with thoughts and actions that bring me an understanding to the suffering that is life and provides me with radical acceptance and even if I am sad, lonely, or angry I feel something deep inside myself resonate with a sense of YES.
I have been having a rough time of it lately. I am dealing with lots of grief over the end of my marriage. I think it is because it has been one year and I am reflecting on what I have experienced so far. The pain that I didn’t deal with, couldn’t deal with, is re-emerging. I am having all sorts of dreams about it. Usually sleep and dreams are such a refuge for me. It doesn’t feel that way right now.
There is more to the situation than I am saying. I want to protect his privacy. But I can say that I am feeling so sad and powerless. It is overwhelming at times and I am having trouble functioning. This feeling brings back memories when I was in crisis and was living with so much fear and despair. So that makes it all worse.
One of the things I do when I experience a strong negative emotion is run away. I think of people who have it worse than me as a form of rationalizing my pain away. Escaping – I cannot do that anymore because it does not help me. It makes things worse. The pain comes out and it is worse than before. It is tainted with anger, bitterness and envy. So now I am sitting with my feelings. I acknowledge them. I let myself cry. I breathe. I treat myself with kindness. It’s really a new way of dealing with things for me. It’s going to take me some time to change my instincts and my behaviour.
The last few days have been particularly dark. I lost my appetite and I was often overcome with tears. I was worried I was going to slip back into how I felt in late 2009. Then last night by chance I went to see what Halycon was up to on his Hug Nation channel. I read a post of his that the current entry was about relationships. I always enjoy his insights so I clicked and listened. It was helpful.
It got me thinking that I need a plan, that I need to develop my map towards happiness. I thought of the things I have done in the past that make me feel grounded. I thought of the things that make me feel hopeful and loving. I thought of things that make me feel part of the flow of energy. I am going to take some time today to privately journal and develop this a bit more.
I am sure I will always feel pain and sadness, but how I handle this is changing. It has quite a bit this past year and it will continue to do so.