Nourishing Ourselves And Creating Boundaries To Reduce Stress
Chronic stress and anxiety are a reality with most of my clients.
I love my job because I learn so much from people, and something I see over and over again is how willing so many of us are to sacrifice our own time and energy to give to others.
Despite all the negative information we receive on a daily basis about the state of humanity, in my experience, people are innately good and want to help others. Commendable yes, but this can also be very draining if we don’t also practice self-nourishment.
Giving our time and energy to loved ones and others are part of what being human is all about. It makes others feel good, and it makes us feel good to have a positive impact on the lives of others. But balancing how much we give away with how much we give to ourselves, and how much we are willing to receive from others, is very important.
We can only give what we have, right? If we are tapped, what we offer is of a different quality than what we provide when we are feeling full and charged and nurtured. And so often we all keep giving even when we are exhausted and approaching burn out.
Why is it so hard for us to say “no, I can’t right now, I need to take time for myself and recharge.”?
Being hard on ourselves
What has been so fascinating for me to witness when we dive deep into the body-mind to access the tissues that are holding the stress and associated emotions, is that at the root of these tendencies are all these feelings of self-criticism, self-doubt, and self-judgement.
From the client’s experience, these emotions are often unexpected but not necessarily a surprise; we are not consciously acknowledging how hard we are on ourselves. But when the conversation arises, the feelings hit us hard because we know it’s something we have been ignoring and pushing aside, and it resonates deeply.
In reality, a portion of our stress, and the excessive demands we continuously feel, sometimes most of it, is coming from within, and that we have not been exercising our right to personal boundaries!
And so begins the dialogue of how we free ourselves from these inflated expectations of ourselves, and we can start to connect to what it is we need to feel fulfilled and valued in our lives.
Nourishing ourselves for a change
Nourishing the soul is a practice. It requires reflection and awareness, and the strength to make conscious decisions every day to honour and love yourself, to set boundaries and to adopt a slower pace. Connect with what nourishes you. Connect with Nature. Choosing to heal and nurture over working on the to-do list.
Starting small is vital when adopting new lifestyle practices that you start. Make mistakes, forgive the unsuccessful changes, move on from the judgement and criticism. Remember that the voice we hear most frequently is our own, so making it a kind voice is a very genuine and essential piece.
Keys to successful change
In my personal experience, there have been a few key habits that have helped me make real and positive changes.
Firstly, the CranioSacral work I’ve done with a few different therapists has very much helped me to understand my inner diversity better, helping to untangle the truth behind what drives my actions. Also involved in this has been the process of letting go of a ton of personal emotional baggage, leaving way more space for new ideas and better habits.
Secondly, listening to guided meditations on a daily basis has, over time, filled my brain with much more positive language, effectively changing how my mind talks to itself. I cannot emphasise the effectiveness of this practice. It is one that takes time and regular practice, but one that has been well worth the time investment.
And thirdly would be the process of consciously selecting who I spend time with and to whom I give my energy. This process has probably been the hardest, but again, the benefits of this practice are undeniable.
Paying attention to how I feel before and after interactions with friends, colleagues, lovers, acquaintances, and even clients have been my most useful tool for developing loving kindness towards myself. This is the active practice of establishing boundaries, and it takes a lot of practice and sometimes can feel very selfish.
But the better I’ve gotten at this, the better friend, partner, lover, parent, and therapist I have become. And since there is no end point, no peak, no finish line (aside from death I suppose) I’m looking forward to the continued practice, the continued learning, and the increased ability to be kind to both myself and others.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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