I talk a lot in this blog about that place and those feelings that I support clients to reach.
I talk a lot about the starting point that a lot of the wonderful women I work with find themselves at when they start their journey to that place, and about the powerful, eye-opening work that goes on in our time together.
But none of that is to say that therapy makes you immune to the wobbles and the tough days that life brings.
In fact, here’s what I rarely talk about: That often therapy brings about more of those tough days – especially in the beginning.
You know the days I mean, where all of your old patterns hit you in the face, you feel like you’ve taken not just a step but a giant leap back, and all you want to do is curl up in a ball and eat your body weight in chocolate… or maybe that last part is just me.
And I say that because yes, I get those too. Even now after years of training for and working in the job I love so much, and of even longer doing my own work behind the scenes to understand, own and work through my own shit, there are still tough days.
I know, I know, that’s not what you want to hear. But let me tell you right now, it’s something that’s important for you to hear.
It’s important that anyone starting a journey of counselling – or of any other personal or spiritual development work for that matter – knows that it almost certainly won’t be a gentle skip through a meadow full of bunny rabbits and rainbows, at least not straight away.
Because when you make the decision to work on your own shit, whether you tiptoe gently towards it or dive in wholeheartedly you can be sure of one thing; that the patterns you’re used to falling back into, the blockages that have kept you stuck, the fears that haunt you and the negative experiences that have help you back will pop right back up to be witnessed and work through.
It comes along to show you just how much that change is needed. It comes along to test your determination to change. And it comes along because all of those things that have had a hold over you – just like the monster in a horror movie or the bad guy in a computer game – want to protect their own survival and just will not go down without a fight.
Of course what they don’t know is that they’re facing a different hero now – one who has set the intention to make some changes and simply refuses to let them win.
But that’s not to say we might not worry that they’re going to win occasionally. And that’s not to say the fight is always easy.
So what do you do? How do stay in the present rather than being pulled back into exactly the headspace we’re trying so hard to avoid. How about we start with five simple steps?
1. Stop. Breathe
When the anxiety, or the fear, or the trauma or whatever it is that manifests itself in you rears its head, it’s all too easy to be carried along in a wave of that shit until you feel so far back you can barely see the progress you’d made.
But that needn’t happen, because the very fact that you decided to face your shit in the first place is proof that you’re too damned strong for that.
So stop. Take a breath, and focus your whole mind and body on following that breath in and out, in and out until you feel yourself come right back into your body and into the here and now. Come back to yourself, back to the here and now and remember your roots, knowing that a sturdy tree can withstand even the tallest and most ferocious of waves.
2. Reach out for support
No matter how unbelievable it feels, you need never go through one of these shitty days or wobbles on your own. Whether it’s your partner, your mum, your best friend or the other members of a course you’re on, reach out to your support network and tell them how you’re feeling.
Whether it’s a phone call to talk things through, someone who knows you well enough to bring exactly what you need, or maybe even just a text message to remind you of how amazing you are, allow the people you love to support you.
And remember, if that doesn’t sound possible and you truly don’t believe you have any personal support out there, there are always professionals able to help you. From the Samaritans here in the UK and in the USA, to Lifeline in Australia and so many others alongside and in between, there support out there. Never be afraid or ashamed to reach out.
3. Tune into what you need
I don’t know about yours, but when my anxiety drops by for a visit it tends to bring along a great big bag of shoulds, guilt trips and reminders of all the ways that I could be going about my day in a “better” way.
Bullshit. The lot of them.
Go back to those breaths we talked about earlier, and once you’re in that place of centeredness within yourself take the time to ask what you really need. Maybe it’s to get out of the house and immerse yourself in nature, maybe to call up some friends not only for support but for a good catch up, maybe it’s movement or meditation, or maybe it’s a deep delve into the shit that’s coming up with some heavy duty journaling.
Or maybe it’s none of those things.
After years of drowning out my anxieties with a bottle of wine, I’m not a proponent of self medicating. But I will tell you that often the best way to soothe my own anxieties is with some serious self care; a castor oil pack and a face mask, a long hot shower and a couple of hours spent eating something nourishing with a book in my hand or something suitably lovely on TV.
And on the days when it all gets way too icky to even contemplate something else, I bundle myself into some blankets and sleep – maybe for an hour, maybe for ten – it’s all about remembering that everything feels better when you’re well rested.
4. Remember the key words: This too shall pass
When you’ve found yourself in the pits of depression it’s easy to think that every trip and wobble you have will take you right back there again.
But do you know what the only thing those pits, trips and wobbles actually have in common is? That you came out of the other side of them.
The brutal truth is that sometimes on those down days the feelings take hold so strongly that you feel a cloud over you for the entire day. You can do all of the breathing exercises, read all of the books and eat all of the chocolate available to you and you still just don’t feel right.
On those days do what you can, know that a wobble is natural and nothing to be ashamed of and remember – this too shall pass.
5. Keep track
And finally, whether you do it on the day itself, or head back to it once you’re feeling more like yourself, be sure to face up to that shittiness. Because as any action hero will tell you – the more you understand your opponent, the easier it is to overcome them… or maybe even befriend them.
Journal on the day itself – how you felt and what you did, and journal on the build up to it. Think particularly about:
How did it feel to be in that place of feeling shitty?
What was going through your mind – did it take you back to any time or experience in particular?
How did your body feel during that time?
What happened when you tried to think more positively?
In retrospect, were there any signs in the days leading up to this one that you were headed for a slump? (Mine is when I don’t wash my hair for a few days on end… not taking the time for that simple act of self care at the end of a shower is always a sign something is wrong)
Then look outside of yourself – what time of year is it? What is the weather doing?
What has been going on with the people around you recently, or even more widely out into the world.
What are the planets doing right now and what phase is the moon at? If you bleed each month then what day of your cycle are you currently on? What have you eaten over the past few days.
I know, it sounds way too geeky and you’re inevitably wondering what sort of weirdo dives back into their shitty days with quite such enthusiasm.
This kind of weirdo. And let me tell you why… Because by recording all of these things into a diary I started to learn that day 16 of my cycle will always be a wobble for me, that on certain days of the moon cycle I struggle more than others, that I always have a little plummet in early March, that over-indulging in dairy leaves me anxious as hell, and that if I so much as try to go four days without taking a few hours out to retreat into my cave then I’ll probably overwhelm myself and pay the price with a shitty day or two.
That doesn't mean I can always avoid those things, but it does leave me more able to plan for them, and to manage the tough times that might just follow.
The truth is that doing the work of owning and healing your own shit isn’t just about signing up to the courses, taking notes from the books and celebrating the wins with the idea that life will be shiny and sparkly forever more. Sometimes it’s about remembering that there will still be shitty times, and about learning to sit in and work through those times without losing yourself in the process.
And remember, if you’ve taken the decision to own your own shit and work on the things that have been holding you back, then Soul Centered Counselling might just be for you… click here to read more.