STOP BEING SO MEAN (TO YOURSELF)
Bullies are a hot topic these days. Cyber bullies! School bullies! Political bullies! We have all known one, seen one, maybe been on the receiving end of one. Images pop easily into our minds. But the most insidious and lethal bully of all – the one that lives in your head.
Stop being so mean to yourself!
Come on now. You know how you talk to yourself when no one is listening or even when they are. I can’t believe I did that again. I never get it right. What a slacker I am. I’m so fat I’m disgusting. I’m a horrible mother/father/son/friend! Every day is a bad hair day for me.
Those brains, our brains, just go on and on, punishing us, insulting us, taunting us. The judgements and put-downs that we would never do to someone we love or respect. Our brains sometimes hijack our good mood, sometimes lay traps, and often ambush us.
What’s wrong with us and what to do about it.
It’s the misguided child of survival. This negativity is the descendant, the great-great-great-great grandchild, of a life and death survival strategy. Who survived when we lived in caves and hunted the bison and gathered the berries? Not the jolly carefree fellow who never looked over his shoulder to see the approaching saber-tooth tiger. Not the mother who disregarded the snake among the berries. Vigilance and hyperawareness allowed our cave moms and cave dads to see another sunrise. Their legacy is our internal dialogue and search for possible pitfalls.
But how can we be happy, or even just ok, in present time when our eyes are always focused on the shadows and never the sunshine? It is time to learn refocusing, self-soothing. Start today. Start practicing.
Self-Soothing Activities: get out of your head and into your senses. Also, this means putting down your phone, looking up from your computer, turning off the TV to be present with these.
- Touch – rub your fingers over your pet’s fur or a soft blanket or a hard rock, squeeze a stress ball, soak your feet in warm water, rub on scented lotion. Drum with wooden spoons. Massage the back of your neck. Splash cold water on your face. Take a hot shower.
- Smell – a ripe piece of fruit, bubblegum, your cup of coffee, a scented candle, a warm piece of bread, vanilla.
- Listen – music from your teen years, birds singing, the rhythm of a fan, a book on tape.
- Taste – a piece of chocolate, a salty chip, a piece of gum, a cup of spicy hot tea
- Experience – make your favorite meal, reach out to a caring friend, watch a sunset, perform an act of kindness for someone, organize your closet or a drawer, notice the intake of a full, deep breath and your slow exhale.
Some may be best soothed by focusing on a specific sense. Some people are more visual than others and some are more auditory. Experiment with the different senses to see what works best for you. You may want to create a self-soothing box full of options that you know are effective for you. Put a list of your self-soothing activities in the box along with some of the objects you might need.
And start practicing kindness with yourself. Send the inner bully to a time-out.
Finally, remember: Every day is a new opportunity to start anew. Your past does not define you. Your future cannot hurt you. Only your present matters. Take a moment, and feel it.