Today was a really hard day at work. We all have them, and this one was a stinker.
Amongst the frenzy of emails and deadlines and calls I had two really challenging and largely unproductive meetings. It felt like all the negative and emotionally-charged feedback was directed at me personally.
On a rational level I know it wasn’t. Pretty much every person who works in the NHS right now is tired, drained, and frustrated that their hard work and dedication doesn’t seem to be making even a tiny dent in the pressures we’re experiencing and the patient care we can’t deliver to the best standard.
But when you’re on the receiving end of difficult feedback or harshly delivered words? In the moment, I felt small. I felt inexperienced. And honestly, I felt I didn’t have anything left in me to be polite, even though I think I managed to be.
It raises an interesting question, because when we just feel like we can’t go on anymore, where do we pull this additional energy source from? The ability to give just one more fuck when the day has chipped away at you and you feel there can be nothing left.
I’m sat here writing this instead of getting into bed fully clothed and watching Jane the Virgin with the cat and a glass of wine. I was certain as I closed my laptop today I’d be there in less than 10 minutes. But I’m not. I do have a glass of wine though.
Starting to let go
I gave myself the last 10 minutes just to sit. I put my phone on silent, went and sat in my favourite chair in the living room, and just enjoyed the quiet of being unreachable for a short while.
I focus on my breath, the loyal side-kick who can always be called upon to start to level me. The feel of it through my nose, the sensation of my chest rising, and the pause at the top before I gently let it back out again.
It’s like a circle, a loop going on and on and on. It’s still there when I’m feeling attacked staring at the fifteen faces on my laptop, though maybe the circle is a little shorter and my breath shallower. But it’s there alright.
The minutes pass and my mind replays the conversation. Their comments, the stab I feel in my heart, the smile I make myself give as I wish them a pleasant evening and leave the meeting.
I bring myself back to my breath, my body slowing even if my mind resists. It’s okay, I won’t be hard on myself for re-playing the hard moments, I see each thought as a small release of the anxious energy that accompanies it. And I come back, back, back to my breath.
Going back, and down…
As I breathe I make an internal decision. I take my breath, my awareness, back inside the walls of my body. If it started in my forehead (it usually does when I’m having rushing thoughts), on the in-breath I pull it back against the top of my spine, to the point where my neck meets the top of my back.
And as I gently and slowly exhale, I pull it down, vertically moving my focus down through my torso until it sits somewhere near my pelvis. As I’m doing this, I sense I am moving behind the drama, distancing myself from it, getting away from the hamster wheel of my thoughts.
And as I go down, I am going further still, and for a brief moment it gets quiet down there in dark silence of my lower body.
It gives me an instant, often brief, but always helpful, way to feel some respite.
I repeat it several times.
I allow my body to relax. If I’m standing maybe I only relax my shoulders. If I’m sitting at my work computer maybe I dangle my arms over the side of my desk chair and let them hang, or rest gently on my lap.
I try to relax the muscles in my face as I am almost always clenching my jaw to some degree. This opens up some space inside, and I don’t feel so claustrophobic squidged in there with my hundreds of thoughts and emotions.
In that space, there is a well. It’s a well of energy that can’t be heard or seen or smelt or touched. But it can be felt. It dwells there just waiting to be found and used.
As I feel I have been able to settle ‘down’ there for a short amount of time (it can be just a few seconds) I imagine bringing some of it back up with me. It is both powerful and gentle at the time. I feel it rising inside my body and filling me.
Like a stream it starts in one channel and expands out into hundreds of smaller tributaries until it touches the inside walls of my body.
I wiggle my fingers to let it get into all the spaces.
I relax my face again (it’s remarkable how quickly my jaw tightens) and allow it to move into the spaces around my eyes and nose and under my tongue.
I can do this. I can handle difficult situations. There will always be difficult situations and running away (usually) isn’t an option. I might as well face them and accept them with all of what I have.
Going back and down is so simple. Ridiculously so actually for the power it has.
It’s not changing the external situation, or reversing time so I asked better questions or gave better answers. But it is changing the internal situation. It moves me from a heightened, anxious and regretful place to one which is a little bit more bearable. It takes about 6 seconds, but I’ll give it 30 or a minute if I can.
I find I’m employing it more and more. And it works for me. I’m curious to know what the power of the well is. What is it made of? Where does it reside? Why, when I am feeling stressed, can I only feel it when I go looking, yet when I am feeling excited or joyous about something it seems to bubble up and over the sides voluntarily.
I guess finding out is all part of the adventure!
If you’ve had a shitty day, or simply enjoyed this post, check out Mastery of the Mundane, which I also use to override negative thoughts and feelings by rooting myself in the majesty of the present moment.