This week I surprised myself. I run a coaching group for my patients with chronic pain and we were talking about strategies to feel better when you are put in a caregiver position despite living with chronic pain. Understandably, this is a difficult position to be in, a position that is wrapped up in a lot of emotions: love, guilt, obligation, overwhelm, helplessness… and some more guilt for feeling all of these.
I asked them what they can do to feel better, to take care of themselves, when put in this situation.
They didn’t know.
So on a whim, I tried a mindfulness activity combined with the strategy of powerful questions (more on this in a minute) and the positive results were instantaneous. A little crack appeared in the overwhelm and from there they were able to pry it open further with brainstorming and ideas.
They had a plan, a next step forward, some agency in their life.
That’s what I want.
As I found myself a little overwhelmed this week (it happens), I decided to try this strategy on myself. After all, I often see a correlation between patients dealing with chronic pain and the nursing experience.
We both have a difficult condition that we deal with daily, one that is governed by outside forces.
We both have a lack of understanding from the people around us.
We both have a desire to keep going and live a fulfilling life despite the conditions.
We both have outside expectations on us that can be difficult with the daily stressors we deal with.
Now I am certainly not minimizing the impact of chronic pain. What I do know is that the strategies that have helped me reframe my work stress have been useful for my patients dealing with daily painful conditions. So this time I was going to reverse that and try the strategy I gave them.
I invite you to read through the strategy and then to close your eyes and do it yourself. See what comes up for you. If you really want the full experience, record yourself reading it and then listen to it back with your eyes closed. You may be surprised and just how effective it can be. I know I was.
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Drop your shoulders, relax your jaw.
Feel your body supported by the chair you are in.
Allow yourself to settle as best you can.
As you sit there, supported and relaxed, zoom out and picture yourself as you are now.
Imagine that you are one of your close friends and you want to support yourself going through this difficult situation.
Feel the love and compassion that would have for them and feel that toward the person sitting in the chair in front of you.
Take another breath.
Now just ask yourself, what do you need, love?
What do you need to feel a little bit better right now?
Sit with that.
What do you need to feel a little bit better right now, since we can’t change the situation?
See what comes to you.
What answer comes up?
I will give you the examples of what came up for my patients because I think it outlines exactly how helpful this can be and how you may have a similar experience.
The two things that were immediate responses were sleep and some evenness in life.
Now we had something to work with. We started with sleep and the group was able to brainstorm around this and a plan that would work. It was a beautiful moment of shared decision making and support. Ideas were given, some taken, some put aside. We were able to move out of the “I don’t know what would make me feel better” to a measurable, and personalized, action plan. Overwhelm was replaced with control.
When we explored evenness in life, what this really meant was having some control over what she did rather than being reactionary.
Does this resonate? I know it did for me.
The answer my patient came up with was taking some time to plan, plan when she was available to help and when she wasn’t. She would plan when she was going to get things done for herself and a backup plan if her pain got in the way.
This one strategy allowed them to put judgment and guilt aside and find the answer they needed from a place of love and compassion.
Doesn’t that sound lovely?
So I used this strategy on myself this morning as I try to figure out how to do all the things.
It took under 2 minutes.
What I need to support myself right now is connection. Admittedly I was a little surprised that this was what came up.
But I am going to trust that what I told myself is true. I am going to focus on connecting with people this weekend, with my family and friends. I am going to go all in on being present and having the connection be what I am supposed to be doing.
I am happy that I get to start by connecting with you.
Enjoy your weekend. If you find yourself struggling, close your eyes, take a breath and ask “what do you need, love?”
P.S. If this resonates with you and you need some 1:1 help, book a consult call here. I would love to connect :)