Or my list of low-key self care tools
I used to read about self care practices, but I always felt I fell short, because I never managed to create the serene setting that seemed to be implied. Being a homeschooling mum with children around me all the time, a home that is always very lived in, and not much time – or headspace for that matter, it seemed that I couldn’t get to the right state or circumstances to do these practices in. I felt frustrated and sad, because I had a specific idea about self care, which I couldn’t fit into my life. I also had judgments about myself because of this, so it was a bit of a double whammy, and I felt really overwhelmed, because I strongly believed that if I could find ways to help my own mood, it would help the moods in our family.
It wasn’t until Simone introduced me to the idea of the PowerBook, that I began to see the actions that I actually did take in my everyday life to create calm and peace. However, I usually forgot about these when I was frazzled or angry. Increasing my awareness about them, by writing them down, made me able to use them more deliberately. Working with the PowerBook also made me aware of new practices that I could add to calm myself and create peace within and without.
Actions created for and by you
Our family set-ups are all different, so I am not suggesting that the practices that work for me will work for you. Instead, I think it’s important to focus on the particular person we are taking into account our personality, overexcitabilities (OEs) and life experiences, to build a set of helpful practices that are unique to us. When I read my list of practices, I can now see that they each serve a different purpose, or they may of course overlap, but there are specific areas that I need help with, that are all connected to different OEs, a challenged nervous system, or self beliefs that are not helpful.
As I, in various degrees, live with all of the five OEs set out below, it’s helpful to have practices that cover different areas.
1 – Psychomotor OE
Psychomotor OE means that you have an enormous amount of energy in your body which, depending on the situation, can be experienced as positive or negative. As someone who can often experience an overflow of energy in my body I needed to develop specific practices to help deal with this. Psychomotor OE is great when you do activities that take a lot of physical stamina, but if you’re home a lot for whatever reason, then an overload of energy can build up. If this is topped with stress, my energy turns into massive body tension that also impacts my way of thinking in a negative way. For this, I have found that certain short meditations and breathing exercises, and a short yoga programme really help me a lot. I find that Psychomotor OE also plays a role, even when I experience exhaustion, so despite my need to be still, I still fidget and have endless streams of thoughts that need to be directed in a positive way.
2 – Intellectual OE
Intellectual OE refers to having a deep need for the truth, a thirst for knowledge and a strong sense of fairness. Meditation and breathing exercises also help me if my intellectual OE and the need for answers to big questions, get in the way of living my daily life. I can get quite obsessed and I have discovered that it works for me to connect to my higher self, to calm the uneasiness I often feel around many big topics concerning the world.
3 – Sensual OE
Sensual OE is how we relate to what we see, hear, smell and/or touch, and when there is an increased sensitivity in these areas. In terms of my sensual OE, I can be very challenged with sound, light and the feel of different materials I’m in contact with. If I want to change my mood I might need to walk out of a noisy room for a moment, if it’s safe to do so, or I might need to lie down in a room with gentle lighting. Certain pieces of clothing with particular textures and patterns may also help calm my nervous system down.
4 – Emotional OE
When it comes to emotional OE, which is when people experience complex emotions and intense feelings, both positive and negative, the PowerWood Awareness Process can really help. This is a simple tool to change ingrained ways of behaving, thinking or feeling – that can help me calm my mind so it doesn’t spiral downwards in negative thinking loops or bleak scenarios about both the past, the present and the future. Simply put, the PowerWood awareness process involves catching ourselves when we have fallen into unhelpful thinking patterns and using a calming technique such as a breathing exercise and mantra to disrupt the thought loop.
5 – Imaginational OE
Imaginational OE can manifest as having a rich imaginative life. As I’m increasing my awareness of my OEs, it’s becoming equally increasingly clear how much of my day I spend on daydreaming. Given that my imaginational OE can bring me both incredibly beautiful scenarios as well as very bleak ones, I am now focusing on bringing forth the ones that strengthen my wellbeing. I can easily get stuck in very black and disempowering inner worlds, so I have taken on using the tool of creating a happy place in my mind that I can switch to, if I start going down the bleak scenario way.
The clues are in the details!
I created my list of low-key self care tools by paying attention to the details of my life.
Some of the self help practices that I have discovered over the years have surprised me by their simplicity. Had I not paused and paid attention, I might not have realised how much they feed me in a positive way.
My PowerBook list of practices
These are some of the things I do in my everyday life to bring myself back to a state of rest or calm:
When feeling overwhelmed and exhausted I will lie in bed, watch a series/film, have a bath, call or text a friend, smell an essential oil, do a breathing exercise, allow myself to cry for a moment, think consciously of a couple of things I’m grateful for, think of a few things I feel I did well, look at a pretty pattern/picture, I use my imaginary OE and think of a lovely thing I have planned or think of a positive experience I’ve had in the past, or watch cute animal videos.
When I have energy but feel overwhelmed or upset, I will play solitaire next to my children, go for a walk, do some gentle yoga, dance around the kitchen, offer a hug to my children, make a cup of tea, go into my garden, leave the room for five minutes, knit or crochet or sew by hand. Knitting, crochet and sewing are quite meditative for me, and they soothe my Psychomotor OE, because of the hand motion (the way to calm psychomotor OE is to move), and the sensual feeling of the yarn or fabric is soothing to my senses. I have to be careful in choosing those, though, as certain materials can make me very agitated within seconds.
Instantly focused and joyful
Some of my self-care activities help me change focus instantly, like the animal videos or beautiful patterns, and that is useful to help break a downward-thinking loop. For example a typical thinking loop for me could be that a conversation I’ve just had reminds me of something I’ve done in the past, and I feel upset about the way either I or another person behaved at that point. My brain will begin to look for evidence about how I am or the other person is wrong, by remembering other incidents, and in the end I feel so bad or angry, that I can’t focus on anything else. The (often random) incident that I was reminded of suddenly has an effect as if it’s occurring right now. I have learned how helpful it is to apply the awareness mantra the moment I’m aware that I’m having an unhelpful thought, and then change focus, by looking at a video or beautiful colors and patterns or choose one of the other activities on my list, because they calm my mind instantaneously and bring me great joy.
Self love and responsibility
I sometimes wonder how something so simple could take me so long to discover, but when life is full of big stuff like marriage, moving, education etc, it’s easy to let the small details pass by unnoticed. And, in fact, berating myself for not having taken these steps earlier is a good example of one of the not helpful thoughts I use these practices to counter!
I now know how to turn focus away from the more negative aspects of my OEs to the positive ones. Having consciously created a list of calming tools to choose from, gives me the opportunity to get back on track quickly should I go down old roads of self blame and negative energy. Importantly, having tools to hand means I don’t have to make decisions or come up with creative solutions at a time when I’m overwhelmed, tired and distracted, and my thinking brain is out of action.
From weakness to strength
Working with my list of low-key self care tools, has given me a better understanding of ways to utilise and celebrate the sensitivity and hypervigilance that I was born with. There is not a day that doesn’t go by where I don’t use these practises. I need to manage my OEs, my nervous system and my thinking throughout the day and through this practice I have found a way to take responsibility for myself, in a way that is full of self love and also helps those around me.
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