Taking care of yourself when no one else will
While I was teaching in Germany this summer, I got to spend some time with an old friend of mine there. He’s going through some intense heartbroken misery right now, so that was pretty much all we talked about.
Anyone who’s ever been dumped and can’t figure out why knows how truly awful this is — and my friend has got it bad. It’s a serious case of the broken hearted blues.
And it’s been going on since February, which is a loooong time.
Anyway, it was obvious that he was a mess. And so, after we’d talked about it and processed for a few hours, I had to ask, “Honey, what are you doing to treat it?”
That was the point where he gave me the “now you’re being crazy” look. “It’s not like it’s a sickness“, he said.
Well, of course it’s a sickness. If you can’t eat and you can’t sleep and you’re driven to distraction by the (emotional) pain, it’s a sickness.
A heart sickness.
When you need to jumpstart the healing process …
If your body is telling you that it needs attention, you give it attention. Same goes for your heart. Lovesickness is just one of many, many kinds of sickness.
And when you’re sick, feeling bad, or when it just seems like something isn’t in flow, you’ve got to do something to let your body/mind know, “Hey, I’ve got your back!”
Let me toss a concept at you.
Whenever I’m working on something, I come at it from five different levels.
The big five are:
- Awareness (or “spiritual”, but only if you’re into that kind of thing).
This five-levels thing is a concept I grabbed from yoga philosophy, and it’s really useful. Because if you work on all five levels at the same time, something’s gotta give.
The thing you’re dealing with could be a physical issue or an emotional issue, a combination or something else entirely — when you apply this concept, it doesn’t actually matter what specifically you’re working on.
It’s always helpful to combine work on all five levels (what we call “multi-directional work).
Anyway, here are some things (using these various levels) that my friend could do for his heart to start making peace with the pain. And you guys are smart so I know you’ll figure out how to apply this stuff to whatever you’re working on too.
Where do you even begin?
I’m just going to toss out a few things for each level. Since I could easily wear out my keyboard listing techniques (wait, it’s already worn out), we’ll just stick to the basics here.
On the Physical level:
Movement is good. Walking, biking, swimming. Yoga.
Note: if you’re using yoga for heartache, I would recommend starting with an energetic, physical, flowing type of yoga class, not a gentle, quiet, turning-inward class. You need to burn some pain first.
Unless you’ve been yoga-ing it up for a long time, in which case just do the kind that your body is asking for.
Also, physical level means giving yourself basic TLC …
Put yourself to bed at a reasonable hour. Give yourself naps. Feed yourself with love — and healthy food. You’re in recuperation mode — your body needs to recover.
On the Energy level:
There are a ton of energy techniques, but for heartache? Acupuncture, baby. Go get poked. Trust me, you’ll feel better.
There are acupuncturists out there who specialize in broken hearts and emotional pain, but really, any good acupuncturist can help you out here. Ask around for recommendations. Poking is kind of like therapy — you’d be amazed how many people already do it and don’t talk about it.
While you’re waiting on your acupuncture appointment, you can download this acupressure worksheet (PDF) to practice on yourself with. Wacky? Yeah. But what do you care? You’re in pain. Try it.
On the Emotional level:
Talk to friends. Sing in the shower. Draw your pain. Write about your pain. Cry. Give yourself permission to fall apart.
Give your pain legitimacy, while still reminding yourself that it’s temporary and does not actually define you.
If you own my Emergency Calming Techniques package, listen to the recordings. They will be super helpful for this (and they also work on the other levels).
On the Mental/Intellectual level:
Journaling. But not just writing out your pain. This time you’re looking for the patterns.
For example, what does this situation remind you of? When was the last time you had this feeling? What might have triggered this reaction? Where is the pain located in your body?
If you’re not seeing the patterns, doing ten minutes of Shiva Nata (my yoga brain training obsession) is a good way to clear your mind and start finding connections everywhere. (Warning: everywhere).
On the Awareness level:
If you’re deep in pain (whether physical, emotional or whatever), it’s probably going to be hard to concentrate long enough to do silent meditation.
But there’s yoga nidra (guided relaxation), or heart-based meditations (chanting, singing, repeating reassuring phrases).
Anything you can do to get just the tiniest bit of distance or separation from your pain in order to learn from it and give yourself some love … always good.
Don’t force the love …. just give yourself as much as you can stand to receive right now.
Not to go all tough love on you, but you have a responsibility to take care of yourself. You have to take care of your illness or your hurt or whatever it is that you’re going through right now.
It’s not about fixing or curing it. It’s just about committing to a process of giving conscious attention to working through the hard so you can start getting better. It’s about making room for stuff to shift and move.
Just because it’s not something that can be detected with a stethoscope or an MRI … so what? It’s real.
Take your pain seriously. Treat it with respect.
And then start taking steps to do something to be with it, understand it and help it heal. Because that’s what you do.
So … what are you going to start with?