Horses are experts at teaching us about consent, touch, and boundaries, just watch a herd and how they interact with one another, you’ll soon see how instantly sure they are about whether they feel safe. Humans on the other hand, we have a very ambivalent relationship with letting someone know that we are uncomfortable with what they are doing. We can become overly sensitive to how the other person feels; not wanting to upset them, reject them, or afraid that they might not want to be around us anymore if we turn them away, so we deny how we feel in order to make someone else feel ok.
This article gives a great example of how horses can teach us about respect, consent, and boundaries: Horses can teach us about consent, respect and boundaries
In the helping professions we are just as guilty of putting ourselves last as the people we are aiming to help. “You can’t pour from an empty cup” is a phrase I use often with my Supervisee’s, followed by “How’s your self-care at the moment?”.
When we give out to others, we have to make sure we have enough fuel left in the tank for ourselves. We can’t give out to others what we don’t have in reserve for us, if we do, we risk burning out. If you’re working particularly hard then your self-care needs to expand with this, and keep reviewing it. Is that coffee and cake after on the weekends still feeling like enough to help you get through another week? Or do you need to take yourself away into nature for the weekend to recharge? Whether you’re a therapist, a yoga teacher, or a parent, make sure you’re making space for yourself whilst holding space for others.
Exercise, we all know it’s good for us, right? Not just our bodies, but our minds too. But how many of us set up the beginning of the year with a new gym membership and the best intentions but find our enthusiasm waining by week two, feeling like we have failed and reaching for the biscuit tin?
Exercise doesn’t have to mean slogging it out in the gym doing repetitive weights or circuits, how about a hula hoop class? Maybe try your hand at some Circus training, or how about some Nordic Walking? Bouldering or climbing perhaps? Doing something different, something fun means you are more likely to stick to it, it has to be enjoyable! If you suffer from anxiety or depression it can be hard to be around people at times, but meeting with people with a common purpose, in this case exercise, where the focus is on that rather than having to answer any questions about who we are, what we do (stuff that’s all linked to our identity and self-worth), can be the connection and sense of community with others we are looking for to help us through tough times and help us become more resilient to future dips in mood.
There are so many classes out there to try, a good way to find out about and try out some of them is to join MoveGb, a website listing a huge range of different activities provided by independent and personal trainers. There’s a monthly fee which ranges depending on how many classes a week you want to do, and in some plans you can also get free swims and use of sauna facilities.
Exercise is a great way to support your body whilst in counselling, as are other therapies such as massage, reflexology, and other holistic therapies.
If money is a problem there are many people who will offer low-cost places, you just need to ask. Hamilton House in Bristol have a low-cost clinic during the week, as do Neal’s Yard in Clifton. Many people who are just starting out and need someone to practice on will also offer treatments for a small fee, it’s worth asking your local college too.
We only have today, let us begin!
Anxiety, that nagging voice that you are not good enough, funny enough, not deserving of someone else’s company. It can stop us from feeling connected to others, or even seek out company in the first place because our fear of being rejected is overwhelming.
This fear is often accompanied by shame, a feeling we get when our ‘bond’ to others is threatened. Our primitive brains created this emotion because together we are stronger, strength in numbers were needed to survive an attack of a Saber-Toothed Tiger or to gather enough food to feed ourselves and our families, serving to keep us alert to danger, helping us stay safe from attacks. Anxiety can also trigger our other ‘safety’ mode, the fight, flight, freeze response when we feel threatened.
With the age of computers keeping us in touch remotely more than ever, when we do get together without the aid of a screen we can become hypersensitive to our environment, vulnerable to the prospect of any incoming danger. So how can we reduce our anxiety and start to reconnect to others without our brains wanting to get the hell out there?
- Prepare before you go. Think about the situation you are going into and decide how long you are able to stay before your anxiety becomes unmanageable. So, say you know 30 minutes is all you will be able to manage on this occasion, tell the person you are meeting that you can only stay for 30minutes, before you need to leave the house. Remember, you don’t need to explain yourself!
- Meditate. Learning to meditate is a great way to gain control of the internal dialogue that often occupies an anxious mind, retraining yourself (and re-wiring the brain) to have a more positive frame of reference than a negative one. If you have never meditated before, you don’t need to sit crossed legged or burn incense to achieve it! It does take practice to clear and quieten your thoughts, but once you get the hang of it you will wonder why you never did it before.
There is a great blog by Sarah Fader below taken from Psychology Today which is worth a read on this subject.
When I hear the terms ‘mental illness’, ‘disorder’ and ‘disease’ to describe someone’s suffering, I get pretty fired up. I’m not sure when we started to pathologise our very human reactions to experiences like trauma, but it is potentially the most damaging thing to a person to make them feel like there is something ‘wrong’ with them because they have been traumatised by something traumatic, distressed by something distressing. By being diagnosed for these experiences ensures that the person suffering feels that they are wrong to feel the way they do which is totally devoid of the compassion that they not only deserve, but is essential to the person’s recovery. Carol Spring has written an article on this very subject below which I found an interesting read.
Ted Talks offer a great source of information. This Ted Talk discusses emotions and why they give us important information about our environment. Knowing what our emotions are and what they telling us isn’t something that we learn about, often this leaves people feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and anxious with no way to process what is happening or how to cope with the feelings we are left with. If we can identify what we are experiencing, we have a better chance of knowing what to do to self-soothe in a healthy way and seek the right support.
Click the link below to watch this interesting Ted Talk
Should emotions be taught in schools?