Compassion is crucial
2020 has seen an increase in anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health challenges for many people. We are having to manage feelings of uncertainty and navigate new changes regularly. So what can we do to help us during this difficult time?
As we look around the world in 2020, we see many strong emotions being expressed. We see rage, anger, sadness, anxiety to name a few. We feel let-down, confused, overwhelmed, rebellious, (I am going to do what I want to do) lonely (when can I hug my loved ones again?). We struggle to process what to do next - so many guidelines, seemingly changing faster than we can assimilate them.
How self-aware are we? Do we know what we think and feel internally in our bodies as well as in our minds? Sometimes if we are overwhelmed, we may struggle to think clearly. Try tuning into your body - focusing on what is going on within you. Anger may be repressed or suppressed - possibly manifesting as passive aggressive or explosive behaviour - aimed at ourselves and/or other people.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- what is happening in your stomach - is it churning?
- your head - do you have headaches?
- sleep - are you experiencing vivid dreams?
- your jaw - is it clenched?
- what are your hands doing - are they clenched?
- how about your shoulders - hunched up?
Or you may be shut down, feeling numb, in denial about what is happening in the world and its impact on you and other people. All of these responses and more are as a result of our survival brain getting us ready for fight, flight, freeze.
When things go wrong, we may look for someone to blame. We place a lot of our hope in those in power to 'get it right.' When they don't, we may believe that we could do a better job and that we would definitely have 'got it right in the first place.' It could be helpful to remember they are human too and are facing some of the same fears and anxieties as the rest of us.
It is well documented that some relationships are struggling at the moment. In some ways people have been pushed closer together during lockdown with families unable to have some healthy space from one another - parents working from home, children until recently unable to go to school. Work-place stress, furloughs, redundancies, uncertainty. It is no wonder that relationships in all directions are under immense pressure. Those in abusive relationships are even more vulnerable than they were before the crisis.
Compassion is absolutely crucial - for ourselves and for other people - whether we know them personally or not. Some ways of being compassionate are to be aware of our thoughts. We all have many thoughts; are they compassionate? Thinking well of, thinking the best of, understanding that people are (for the most part) trying their best in the situation that they find themselves. What are our conversations like? Do we gossip and criticize at every opportunity? It would make such a difference if we could do our best to speak well of others and limit our criticisms.
Self-compassion is also very important. Are we careful about what we allow into our minds? Gorging on bad news and negativity is not good for our mental or physical health. Conversely do we feed our mind with healthy thoughts?
When we are overwhelmed, we look for something or someone to bring comfort. It may be that we find ourselves drinking more alcohol than is healthy, using illegal drugs, being in toxic relationships. These things may feel comforting in some ways but in time will become destructive and decrease our sense of self and self-esteem. They can also cause us to feel powerless.
When the world as we have known it has become, in some ways unrecognizable, we may spend a lot of time thinking about what the future is going to look like. As we stand in the rubble of our former lives we may feel vulnerable and unable to visualize anything different.
It is vital that we sleep well, eat well and take daily exercise. Getting out in the fresh air is good for us - even as the weather changes and we go into autumn, nature is such a soothing place to be. When we take care of our physical needs our minds are much calmer. Often we think about the many things that we don't know the answers to. If we focus on this, we can become more and more anxious. It can be helpful to think about the day that we are in and what we do know and can do - one day at a time, one step at a time.
Self-compassion and compassion for others is vital. This will help all of us to face and work through the challenges which are before us. There are still many things which are good and are worth nurturing and valuing. Considering what we can do to self-nurture and nurture our relationships can make a profound difference.