Episode 2: Coping With Feeling Overwhelmed

Episode Summary

This weeks episode is all about self compassion, and looking at how that can help us with feeling overwhelmed and especially when we are very self critical.

I go through some exercises that allow for a few minutes of self-care and compassionate time!

I also mention the Body Scan Meditation which you can find here

Episode Notes

The four lifestyle changes to improve your quality of life:

  • A consistent bedtime
  • Cutting back on caffeine
  • Looking back over your day
  • Getting some movement and some sunshine, ideally early in your day.


You’re listening to keep in the mindfulness community. With your host, Keith Horan. We’re talking about mindfulness and self compassion, how it can help you with stress and anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. Just bring about more peace.

Thanks for being here.

Welcome to Episode Two. Today we’re looking at overwhelm, and how self critical we can get when we’re under pressure. And I’ll share how you can use self compassion. To really soften this tendency to criticise ourselves,

we’ll do a short mindfulness practice called ‘feet on the floor’, which is one of the best practices to do right in the middle of a difficult situation. And towards the end of the show, I’ll dive into the best tips to really help you bring some self compassion into your life.

Hey, there, it’s morning, as I record this, I’m set up in the kitchen with a view across the barren landscape in the west of Ireland. It’s one of those Sunny, but really cold winter days, it’s like a nice break from all the rainy days we’ve been having. I’m just back from walking my daughter to school. She’s our, she’s our youngest of three kids. And when she’s old enough to walk to school herself and usually prefers to do that, actually, she’d be kind of embarrassed sometimes to have me or mom walk her down. Yet for some reason this morning, she asked me to walk with her, the fact that it doesn’t happen often and that we’re coming towards the end of it happening at all, maybe made it like extra special. So it was a nice start to the day. And and I have a nice topic to discuss today. It’s all about self compassion, and looking at how that can help us with feeling overwhelmed and especially feeling self critical.

Let me start with with why I have such an interest in self compassion. I mentioned last week that I went to India when I was 23. This was 1999. And I met amazing meditation teachers. And I was incredibly lucky. And I ended up from that studying Tibetan Buddhism, which is a really in depth authentic strand of Buddhism, for 12 years, I spent about 12 years, sort of fairly seriously dedicating myself to that study in that practice, and doing retreat and learning and, and all of that. And compassion based meditations are a big part of that lineage or that tradition. So it’s been a long time trying to develop compassion for others, which was a big part of the meditation. And, but my practice of self compassion came later about five years ago, four or five years ago. And it came because I really needed this. I was really struggling with something at the time and, and quite overwhelmed, and found that meditation on its own wasn’t quite enough. I needed to learn a way of becoming really kind to myself, I needed to add that warmth in how I treated myself.

Just in case, you’re imagining that you’re listening to someone who has a like really simple last year kind of life. I’m afraid I have to let you down there. I’m trying to practice mindfulness and self compassion in the middle of like, the everyday chaos of life. And actually, it was all that chaos and pressure that that drew me towards self compassion. At the time, I was still a secondary school teacher. So I was teaching in a school in Orange County Galway. And I had a separate project that I was managing for some reason I had like a building renovation project that I was looking after. And at the same time, I was teaching mindfulness, I was teaching the mbsr Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course. So I was sort of juggling three different jobs. And, you know, our kids were younger, we had three kids. And I was involved in the local athletics club, and just lots of other things. And this was actually kind of manageable, I was managing to do all these things. And with a good mindfulness practice, you can stay steady and clear and make good decisions. And so that’s what was happening. But then on top of all that, there was a huge conflict. And I hadn’t seen this coming. It was really difficult to handle. And just because of the circumstances, I knew that this was going to go on for quite a while. In fact, it went on for about two years. So for that time, I had to deal with A person that I found really, really difficult. And it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with, especially because I didn’t have much spare at the time. I was already stretched and then having to deal with this person on top of everything else. Just it all became really overwhelming. So I noticed this in like just more tension in the body. difficulty sleeping, ruminating as in, you know, overthinking and, and I was using all the mindfulness skills that I had learned to try and sort of help me stay steady with that. And that was really effective. But what I noticed as well was that I was starting to kind of blame myself, or I was starting to be a little harsh in how I spoke to myself or kind of self critical, even like the extra thing of like, well, you’re a mindfulness teachers or you shouldn’t be, you know, freaking out here. And, yes, so there was all of that pressure, and I realised I needed to do something about us.

I started to read about self compassion, and study it and started doing some of the main practices. Actually, the main one I did at the start is called the self compassion break. And I’ll share that at the end of this episode.

The system I studied was developed by Kristin Neff and Chris Grimmer, and I found this practice, it immediately started to just soften how I held myself and how I spoke to myself. So I was really lucky, I got to study with Kristen and Chris for a week in, in the Netherlands. And so I’ll just give you a quick overview of what self compassion practice is all about. I think the best model for how to describe self compassion comes from Kristin Neff. So, you know, if you’re asked the question, what is self compassion? What’s it all about? Well, with this model, you say, well, it has three parts. And the three parts are mindfulness, common humanity, and kindness. So the first one mindfulness, you know, it just means tuning into our own experience. So if I’m really struggling, being aware of that, like looking in, and realising, you know, physically I feel like this or emotionally or my thoughts are in this place. And so mindfulness and mindfulness training and practice is crucial for self compassion. Otherwise, we just wouldn’t have the skill to be able to tune in and lock them. And, and also the stability to be able to actually acknowledge where we’re at. Like, it takes a lot of balance and stability to realise where we’re at. And so that’s where mindfulness practice comes in. The second part common humanity. This is lovely, like this is just acknowledging that actually, we all struggle, it’s just part of being human. Like, if I’m having a difficulty with something, it’s not because I’m personally flawed. It’s just part of being human. So yeah, by kind of broadening our awareness and humanising the situation, it really helps. It takes away that sense of isolation. just acknowledging Yeah, this is part of life. This is something that we all go through. We have different types of struggles, but we all struggle, and then the third practice kindness. So if we realise that we’re having a difficulty, and that it’s part of being human, doesn’t it make sense to just treat ourselves with kindness. And later, I’ll kind of share some of the most effective ways of actually doing that.

The nice thing about self compassion is that we already have a lot of insight into how to do this type of practice. So if you wouldn’t mind just joining me on this kind of imagination exercise for a moment, if you were to consider a really good friend, so like even now thinking about someone, a friend who’s having a difficulty or going through a hard time,

and just imagining how would you speak to them?

Like, what tone of voice would you use with a good friend, if they’re struggling?

What words would you use? What would your tone be like?

And if you are with a person like that, physically, how would you be? Like, what would your posture be like?

If we were in normal times, would you give them a hug or maybe rub their shoulder?

What would you do? Or if you know a child was to fall, how would you treat them? What’s your tone of voice? How would you physically be, just kind of considering that and then switch the focus and just consider at times, if you’re having a difficulty You’re on your own, something isn’t going right, you’ve made a mistake, you’ve got a problem. You’re struggling with something. And just just for the fun of it just to compare, how might you speak to yourself?

Like, what tone of voice would you use? Would it be soft? Or might it be demanding?

Or forceful? and physically? How do you carry yourself? How do you look after yourself.

And even just with a quick snapshot, it becomes obvious, there’s something out of balance here. The way we treat a good friend, when they’re struggling can be really different to how we treat ourselves. And that’s at the heart of self compassion, practice, learning how to treat ourselves the same way we treat a really good friend.

So it’s not a complicated intellectual thing. And actually, it’s something that with a little bit of practice, we can really develop the habit so that naturally, we’ll we’ll treat ourselves with a lot more kindness. And it turns out that by treating ourselves with kindness, we become stronger, more resilient, more able to help others even more able to achieve the type of goals we want to achieve. So it’s not at all something that makes us weak or anything like that, actually, we become more ourselves, we become more capable.

Okay, so now’s a nice time to do a really short practice.

Here’s a really nice, simple way to come into the present moment. So it’s called the feet on the floor practice. And it’s one of those practice to do at any time during the day. And it’s one of the few that you can even do in the middle of a conflict or disagreement or something stressful.

Whether you’re sitting down are walking or standing, or even driving, just becoming aware of the contact that your feet have with the floor. To help you drop your awareness all the way down to the feet. It can help to notice things like whether your feet are warm or cold.

Can you sense that at the moment, like right now, can you tell if your feet are warm or cold or in between?

Can you notice touch, like what your socks or shoes are with the ground?

Sometimes it’s possible to notice things like pulsing or tingling in the feasts, especially if you’ve been walking or moving. But sometimes it’s not. And it’s not about looking for anything in particular.

It’s just bringing our awareness into the body, and all the way down to the fees.

So just for the final moments, being in the body, aware of the contact with the ground,

and just the steadiness that comes from that.

And then letting go of the practice.

So far, we’ve looked at the theory around self compassion and self compassion as these three parrots mindfulness, common humanity, and kindness. But then to really make it come alive, it helps to learn a little bit about how we can treat ourselves with this kindness. So it turns out that there’s two really simple things we can change. And they’re all about tone, and touch. Thinking back about the tone of voice you’d use with a really good friend. Or if you saw a child falling over and you were kind of comforting them.

How would you summarise that tone what that tone all about?

And it turns out that right across different cultures in the world, there’s this common sort of way people have of expressing kindness, and it comes through what’s called soft vocalisations

We can we naturally do these do this to other people, but we can kind of offer this type of tone towards ourselves, like, not even having to say it out loud. But in our minds, we can kind of speak like that towards ourselves. Keith, you know, and equally using sort of gentle encouraging phrases. And at the start, this feels really awkward and sort of for me, but it just becomes a habit. And then it becomes really helpful. So at the end when I do the practice, I’ll sort of guide some of the phrases we could use.

So that’s tone. And then the other powerful way of expressing kindness is touch. So again, think of how you might touch another person, the gentleness, maybe rubbing someone’s shoulder holding their hand, those types of touch, giving someone a hug. So we know from all the research that a hug will produce all these positive hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, and all these things that make us feel well. And it turns out again, that by offering ourselves the same kind of soothing touch, actually, that produces the same impact on us. In other words, if someone gives you a hug, you’ll experience all this oxytocin and dopamine in the body. But if you offer yourself a similar type of soothing touch, you will have the same experience. So this is really nice, because it means that it’s always available, we don’t have to always depend on the world to give us what we need, at the heart of self compassion is learning how to offer ourselves what we need, tuning into, understand I’m in need right now, knowing what will work for being able to offer it to ourselves. So it’s like that with soothing touch. So some examples of types of soothing touch that work. And you can test this out for yourself. It’s very personal, so you can kind of see what feels comfortable and also nurturing. So often people will find maybe what’s it like to place one hand at your heart at the level of your heart?

Or maybe both hands there?

You can just see, does that feel, okay? Does that feel nice? Or it could be both hands at the stomach, or one hand at the heart and one at the stomach.

or other options would be like rubbing your own shoulder, or crossing both arms to rub both shoulders,

or passing your shoulder or maybe cradling your face, in your hand or in your hands.

Or maybe it’s just holding your hands together or lightly rubbing your hands together. Some kind of really, obviously, soothing way. You know, ideally, no one can see you doing this. So you can think of like how you’d really nurture a young child,what type of touch would you offer, and it may be something similar for yourself. So you can find a way of doing this, that would work in private, but you can also have something else that you could use when you’re in public, which would be more like maybe just the hands together or something like that. Okay, so I’ll guide a three or four minute practice, called the self compassion break, which brings all of this together. And before I do just jump back to when I was saying earlier about being really overwhelmed, and dealing with all the different projects, and dealing with this really difficult person. So that was when I dived into this practice. And I actually did it every single night for over a month. And it was amazing.

I found myself more and more able to cope with all the difficulties that were happening, I found myself becoming more resilient. And, and I found that that conflict was sort of it wasn’t I still had to deal with it. But it wasn’t having a big emotional impact on me. It was you know, that phrase water off a duck’s back, I was dealing with the conflict, but it wasn’t bringing me down.

So let’s do the practice. So in order to do this, it helps to bring up a difficulty. And it’s good to start with something small, like out of 10, like three or four.

And so with that difficulty in mind, then, like I’m thinking about, I have a deadline for a few things that is putting me under a little bit of pressure. With this in mind, I’m just kind of checking in to see how how am I with this. So this is the first step, using mindfulness to just check in and see like physically where am I with this? Is it possible to notice any emotions? And it’s not trying to change anything here. It’s just looking. Maybe there’s a little bit of anxiety, or in the thoughts what’s there you know, I’m slightly overthinking this is a little bit of rumination and with no need to kind of give out to ourselves or need things to be different just looking and seeing what’s here.

So I can see I yeah, there’s a little bit of difficulty around this. And then the second step is common humanity, just kind of realising, I’m not alone and struggling with things. There’s lots of people who feel under pressure. There’s lots of people who have different struggles, different things to deal with. There’s nothing uniquely flawed about us. It’s not our fault that we’re finding something hard to cope with. It’s just part of being human that we struggle.

And the third step is kindness. So realising that I’m struggling with something, and that that’s just part of being human. Doesn’t it make sense then to just offer ourselves kindness. So using tone like, finding phrases that would work for youkeep, I can hear this as hard. Maybe using your own name,or a nice way of like a pet name. I’m here with ya. It’s gonna be okay. You’re doing fine. I’m here with you. I’m here for you. Just exploring even though it might feel uncomfortable, just gently exploring, are there words that could feel supportive. Also bringing in soothing touch. So just seeing is there somewhere you can place a hand and even as you’re thinking these phrases towards yourself, just also using this supportive touch, really offering yourself this support and this kindness then in your own time, just letting go of this practice.

That’s this self compassion break. And I really encourage you to explore us, and just generally even just to open up to the possibility of treating yourself with more kindness.

Okay, I hope you found that helpful. Thanks so much for being here and take care.

You can find today’s show notes and more great resources at Keith horan.com. And I’d be delighted if you leave a quick rating wherever you listen to your podcasts. This helps us in reaching people and growing the show. Thanks so much for listening.

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