Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Art of Self Soothing

We all have people we turn to in times of crisis - people we might refer to as our "rocks," close friends or spouses or family that we rely on to help bolster us when we're down, calm us when we're stressed, and tell us things will be okay when we can't seem to say it to ourselves.

As all-important as those people are, it's just as - if not more - important to have some tools in your mental/emotional toolbox to soothe yourself.  This is something I've thought about a lot at different points in my life, usually when a friendship unexpectedly implodes, or when I've been far from my family and feeling alone.  Now, a few days out from when Marc will be off on his first regional gig - yay! - I'm faced with forging ahead without my rock to give me a squeeze at the end of a hard day.

Not to exaggerate things, of course - with the magic of technology, we'll be able to stay in touch as often as we please, and since he's not going that far from the city, I'll be able to visit him twice.  On the scale of long-distance hardships, ours is nowhere close to being the hardest a couple can bear.  He's still in the same country, and he's doing Pride and Prejudice, not going off to war.  Still - life is all relative, and for us, it's a big deal.

So what does it mean to "self-soothe?"  Being able to comfort yourself as you would comfort a friend, or would like to be comforted, to me is all about consciously making a choice to treat yourself as you would treat your best friend.  You change your internal dialogue to one of support and positivity, and cultivate the ability to tell yourself that it will all be okay.

The yogic practice of mantra is invaluable to this.  When I was interning at Florida Studio Theatre, far from my mom and from my CNU family in Virginia, and going through a phase there where nothing seemed to be going right, the mantra that popped into my head one day was, "At this present moment, everything is exactly how it should be."

A little wordy, but that's what stuck for me, and it truly helped me.  The funny thing is, if someone else had tried to tell me that, I'd have found it far more irritating and condescending than helpful!

It could be something super simple like, "Strength" or, "You've/I've got this."  Whatever it is, it's a choice you make in the midst of stress to either stay attached to being stressed, or to give yourself permission to feel better and break out of it.  For me, I know it's a tool I'll need to use during a very hard run (like this morning's near-disaster!), when I'm overwhelmed after a crazy day at work, or when I'm just plain missing Marc and feeling sorry for myself.

Running without music or headphones for me is a great time to tap into an active meditation of sorts where I'm in a position to more consciously choose my thoughts and ask - are they helping or hurting me?  A physical yoga practice or seated meditation practice is also a wonderful place to cultivate this mental relationship with yourself and ability to self-soothe.

Try choosing one mantra or one tool to use throughout your week, and instead of immediately reaching for the phone to call a friend and vent, see if you can sit with it, breathe through it, and if you can help yourself.  Like anything else, it takes time to build up that "muscle," but it's worth taking the time to try it.

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