I’ve been struggling lately. Our family is experiencing a painful situation that has had me digging deeply to try to find my usual creative, positive methods for moving forward. It has left me feeling raw and vulnerable on a whole new level.

My friend and I were talking about how I have been finding it hard to present my usual up-beat, inspiring self to the world. She suggested I talk about that. I’ve always been a heart on my sleeve, open type of person. It’s what comes naturally to me. To not talk about what is in my heart is painful for me.

Everyone struggles at some point. I hope that by sharing my strategies for coping that they will resonate and be helpful.

When life is a struggle here are some of the practices I have to survive.

One Loop at a Time

This can look like one day, one moment or one breath at a time. I try to take each moment as it comes and as much as possible not to be overwhelmed by what’s to come. If I have a bad day or a bad week, there is always tomorrow. I don’t pressure myself to figure out everything in advance – just what do I need right now to take the next step?

Self Kindness

The topic of self care is popular in social media these days. To me self kindness goes beyond self care. It is basically taking care of yourself but really meaning it, with love and kindness.

I’ve written before about the idea that your body hears what your mind says about it. When I am struggling I can sometimes need to remind myself to be patient and kind – to myself. Self kindness is remembering to say only nice things to yourself, to refrain from self criticism.

Some days my mind says I will not survive this. I try to acknowledge that thought with kindness.   For example, I might say to myself “Yes, this really hurts. It’s okay to despair.  Have a good cry and write out your feelings.” I don’t beat myself up for having a bad day.

After my cry and pouring my heart out on my page I always try to write myself some notes of encouragement. For example “I can do this. I am whole. I have a right to be here. I am strong and resilient. I will bend and be flexible. I will bounce back from this.”

Sometimes self kindness looks like cutting myself some slack. Taking an extra beach walk or not going to a networking event that feels stressful when I’m feeling fragile.

Self kindness can be having a look at my expectations – for my home, for my business and maybe taking one thing off the list for today. For example, today we are having BBQ burgers and salad for supper instead of my Buddha bowl extravaganza that I had in mind.

Self kindness looks different on different days and to each of us. The bottom line is to approach yourself with love and support. Ask yourself “What do I need right now?” and then do it.

Look for and notice those moments of joy

Sometimes I need to remind myself to stop and look for those moments of joy, however fleeting. A phrase I use is “I open my heart to the joy in this moment”. These moments help to bring some lightness and healing flow when my heart is heavy.

A Writing Exercise

At a recent Writing Circle through the International Association for Journal Writing the topic was listening to our bodies. This topic was inspired by the book Writing from the Body for Writers, Artists and Dreamers Who Long to Free Their Voice by John Lee. We used the writing prompt: Body, what do you want me to know?

Here is an excerpt from my response.

I want you to know I am here, part of you, carrying you. I want you to know you deserve to be here, you are whole, down to your very cells. I want you to know of life. That every part of you is alive and thriving, solid, protecting, dynamic. That we are an integrated system you and I.

That I’m here for you, giving you substance and form and that we need each other. You to nourish and cherish me and me to be here, be here now, solid, dynamic, alive, whole. I want you to know we are a team, you are my reason for being. I want you to know you are loved.

With much love. Thank you for reading.

Warmly,

Meryl

Self portrait of the artist becoming