Setting this goal of writing one blog post per week was a big deal for me. I put it off for a long time for many reasons, including that I knew a week like this one would come - I'm tired, mentally and physically. I have no bandwidth for focusing or critical thinking. Researching and composing an engaging post feels REALLY hard right now. Too hard.
I'm not even stressed - I'm exhausted from all good things. Today I returned from a quick trip to Lake Chelan with my parents who are in town. It was great; a fun and relaxing mini-vacation. But I'm depleted from all the driving and time outdoors in the hot and super smoky air. And like anyone with messy old kitties, I spent a lot of time and energy deep-cleaning my house prior to my parents' arrival. I knew I'd be tired from a busy weekend, but thought I could still cover the blog post topic I'd planned.
But, I was wrong. The usual energy boost methods aren't enough so I'm spending my time instead recharging my batteries with the methods that work for me: taking naps, doing yoga, eating well, playing in my garden, moving mindfully. More importantly than writing a content-rich post, I want to be rested and fully present for working hands-on with clients this week. So I've decided to go easier on myself today; to be Self-Compassionate and honor my mind and body's need for rest.
In the past I would have taken the road of Self-Criticism, telling myself all of the ways in which I could have better prepared for this week and beating myself up for not writing the post in advance. Or I may have listened to my Inner Critic saying "you'll never complete this goal so just give up now." But neither of those voices actually serves me in a healthy way. And after practicing enough Self-Compassion, I've learned how to recognize the Inner Critic voices and not to listen to them anymore.
The interesting part of this Self-Compassion moment, is that when I let myself "off the hook" for the topic I'd planned, I realized that I could share this as a topic. It requires less of my energy to relate my current experience. So ironically, by allowing myself to not meet my weekly goal, I found the inspiration to still achieve it! And I'm acknowledging the feeling that this is just a "filler" blog post and that it is also okay.
Sometimes we have to rest and "do less" than what we planned in order to have energy to do more in the future. The next time your inner critic starts speaking loudly when you're too tired to do something well, check in with your voice of Self-Compassion. If you need help finding that voice, try this guided meditation by one of my favorite teachers, Tara Brach. Remember to start small and practice daily. Like any unfamiliar habit, it takes time and repetition to learn to be kind to ourselves
A common frustration I hear from many people is the inability to quiet the "hampster brain." I'm guessing you know that feeling when you just want to relax or go to sleep but your mind starts racing with random thoughts or worries or whatever it thinks you need to focus on instead of being calm. It can also happen when we want to focus or be present but find ourselves easily distracted.
As a solution for the busy brain, Meditation is often suggested as an ongoing daily practice. Personally, I love meditation. But let's be honest, it's not a quick fix! It has profound and positive effects, but it can take time to have a noticeable impact. So while I highly recommend starting a meditation practice (here's my favorite app) if you don't currently have one, I want to offer another short-term solution to quiet that busy little hampster wheel.
You've likely heard of setting intentions to manifest goals and desires. But intention setting can also be used to help you return to the present moment when your mind starts to wander. During sessions, when clients mention they are struggling to relax and quiet the mind, I invite them to set an intention for the session. This can be just a word or two to help you come back to the present moment. And it works better than just trying to focus on the breath.
To get you started, here are some common intentions that apply to most people at some time or other. Choose an intention that serves you best in each moment, whether it be for sleep, receiving massage or acupuncture/energy healing, meditation or focusing the mind on the present situation.
LET GO / RELEASE
I release ______ (fears, anger, negativity, resistance, etc.)
I am _____(free, whole, deserving, etc.)
This no longer serves me. / I release what no longer serves me.
There is only this moment.
Next time you feel distracted by thoughts, take a few breaths and invite yourself to set an intention.
Ask "What do I need in this moment?"
Usually, the first word or short phrase that pops into your head is the most potent intention for that moment. Say it out loud or feel it in your body. Also keep it positive and non-judgmental. Saying "be quiet, brain," probably isn't a helpful intention. ;-)
Trust yourself and focus on the intention. Breathe it in to your whole being. Exhale out the busy thoughts and return to the intention when your mind wanders.
For years it has been my intention to write regular blog posts. But I've always had more excuses or reasons why "I'll start next week instead," than motivation to do it. I tried to start a few years ago when a colleague of mine was in the midst of her own goal to write a blog post every week for a full year. I thought that sounded great, until reality hit me.
Commit to 52 blog posts? Be held publicly accountable for that goal? No way. Too scary! I can't do it, I don't have that much to say!
By now, if I had set that goal and accomplished it, I'd have that sense of achieving something that feels too big to take on. I've always connected with No Meat Athlete Matt Frazier's belief that a goal needs to be big enough to feel unrealistic in order to really inspire and provide the endurance needed to achieve it.
So I'm committing now to writing a blog post per week for the next year. Eek!.. And yay!
Another approach that has been really helpful lately came from a friend:
What does future me need present me to do in order to make her life easier? I ask myself this whenever I recognize I'm putting off something I know is good for me to do. My 38 year old self wants my 36 year old self to commit to a weekly blog posting now, the same as current me wishes past me had already.
Whenever you find yourself thinking, "I'll do it tomorrow or next week," ask yourself how that affects "future you." I love this idea because it applies both to big goals and sticking to new daily habits.
For example: How does skipping your daily physical therapy exercises affect you next month or 6 months from now when you've made little or no progress? Sure today you get to use that 20 minutes for something else, but is that really what future you needs?
Try this exercise: picture yourself in the future, maybe just 6 months or perhaps a few years out. How does your future body feel? Are you still having the same chronic pains or have they been healed because of the self-care you started doing now? Are you still feeling stuck in the same ways or are you thriving because of decisions you made now?
Go ahead, try it: Close your eyes, take a few centering breaths and connect with your future self.
After spending some time thinking about it, hopefully you will have at least one answer to this question: What does your future self need you to do right now in order to make their life better?