When We Slip–Compassion for the Process

I’ve been doing something that I don’t normally do today–I’ve been staring at the screen.  I haven’t been able to focus on my writing or my to-do list.  This isn’t just about today–I’ve been off my game for at least a week or so.  I notice it in snappishness at home, or in a larger volume of negative thoughts.  I have been trying to herd myself back on track, trying to power through the fatigue and sense of being overwhelmed.

That happens sometimes.  Even though I focus on good self-care with my clients all day every day, sometimes my own self-care takes a beating.  Sometimes I am much better at teaching than practicing.  Being a mental health professional doesn’t come with any guarantees that we’re done learning this stuff.

Does that sound familiar?  Have you hit a patch where you are doing things that you know are not ideal, and then been frustrated when you don’t feel happy or safe or productive?  Have you noticed that, despite all the good stuff you know how to do for yourself, you’ve slipped into some habits that are less caring and less helpful?  Have you caught yourself being negative and judgmental (about you or about the people around you)?

Yup–been there (this week in fact).  As a reforming perfectionist (hat-tip to Brene Brown), these moments when I realized that I was getting off track used to really throw me for a loop. Sound familiar? Maybe some blame and self-shaming thrown in on top? Oh yes indeed.  Fortunately, along the way, I’ve learned some good tools for managing this cycle.

If this is a story you recognize, let me invite you along for the next step.  Once you can name and recognize that you have slipped a bit–that you are repeating older patterns that are less likely to get you where you want to go–then you have the power to do something different.  And our power to choose our behavior in any given moment, no matter what we have done before, is one of our biggest strengths.

So, I’m choosing compassion today.  And I’m inviting you to choose it with me.  Here are a few steps that I’ll be using.  Feel free to modify them so that they fit you best.

  • Pause. For me, this will include hauling out my yoga mat and doing a short practice so that I am grounded in my body.  Whatever lets you take a step outside of your rushing thoughts is great.
  • Assess.  I’ll be asking, “Is the big stuff okay?  Am I safe? Is my family safe?”  If the answers to those questions are yes, then I will remind myself that everything else can be dealt with.  Your questions should reflect your situation.
  • Be kind.  There will be things that I am disappointed with–and I’ll remind myself that they are not the big stuff.  I’ll try to recognize where I have made good progress. This can be the toughest step, but it’s important.
  • Breathe.  I’ll take a few minutes to let myself soak in the message of my break, to refocus on the big picture and to re-energize myself to deal with my tasks.

I hope that you are able to choose compassion as well.  I’d love to hear how you did that–please feel free to share in the comments.

 

Image Credit: Photo by quinn.anya via Flickr

8 thoughts on “When We Slip–Compassion for the Process

  1. Ann – A home run with this one! I’ve been off my game alot lately too…I guess a hurricane and a noreaster and no power, internet, or gas will do it! I lvoe how you quantify it iin yourself…it is similar to how it shows up in me! ” I notice it in snappishness at home, or in a larger volume of negative thoughts. I have been trying to herd myself back on track, trying to power through the fatigue and sense of being overwhelmed.” Know this feeling well!!

    And als I cant come out of it sometimes! I need some help, like a talk with a friend or a call to my own therapist! Yes “… sometimes my own self-care takes a beating!” How true!

    And I notice that when I practice self-care, I am more able to be kind.

    “Be kind. There will be things that I am disappointed with–and I’ll remind myself that they are not the big stuff. I’ll try to recognize where I have made good progress. This can be the toughest step, but it’s important.”

    take care, Kathy

  2. Being kind to myself is the biggest challenge for me. Often it is not creating the space in the day for me.

    When my daughter was young, I would time myself out if I found I was about to blow over some minor thing (and still have her safe). Interestingly, she would let me know when 5 minutes was up and tell me to come out if I was calm.

    Maybe I need to time myself out for a little calm time on a regular basis to be sure I have that nice to myself time.

  3. Ann, thanks for this post. I agree with Kathy, it’s a home run. So often when we are feeling most judgmental of others, we are also giving ourselves a hard time. I recognize the point about catching yourself in negativity and then shaming and blaming yourself for lapsing in self care. Been there!

    Recently I’ve been over committed with meetings for organizations that I truly value. If I cancel out of a meeting, I feel guilty. Between last Friday and last night I cancelled out of four meetings. I feel so much better today, and the world didn’t collapse due to my absence!

    Now back to the yoga mat…that will really help. Thanks for the reminder.
    Best,
    Carolyn

    1. Carolyn,

      Your example about the cancelled meetings is a great one. It’s a relief to recognize that the world goes on–even if we’re not knocking ourselves out to meet overcommitments. I hope that you got some wonderful yoga time to re-energize!

      Warmly,
      Ann

  4. I’m a reforming perfectionist, too, and I can definitely be harder on myself than is necessary or helpful.

    Something that delighted me recently was finding a friend’s blog: badparentmd.com. She and three other co-bloggers are all physicians with young kids, and they share how they don’t live up to their own standards for parenting on a regular basis. It’s refreshing to be reminded that no one is perfect, and we don’t always practice what we preach!

    1. Rachelle,

      That site sounds amazing. I think the more that we can remind parents that we are all struggling, that we all have good days and bad days, the healthier we and our kids will be. When I have a parenting fail, I try to model humility and accountability to my kids. I tell myself that, if I can own my mistakes, maybe I can spare them the perfectionism roller coaster. Thanks for your thoughts!

      Warmly,
      Ann

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