Sometimes I think of people like turtles.
We develop hardened shells and grow thick skin that cover what was once soft and vulnerable. We can conveniently tuck inside that shell when we need to hide. There, it’s warm and dark and offers a place to regroup and rebirth.
We hibernate like animals in the winter or like plant roots under the winter snow, where we are at once nurtured and resting, just waiting for spring to return.
While our turtle shells may be comforting when we experience pain, they are the antithesis of what’s good for us. They keep us from feeling because although they may protect us from the hurt of being alive, they also ultimately hide from the joy.
Being hidden means we’re hidden from the bad and the good. We can’t be our best, fullest, highest selves while we are hidden in a shell. There is only one way to get through hard times, and that is to march through them. We will be vulnerable, needy, messy, and real. It will be an act of pure courage. And, this is when the gift of grace comes.
There will be hands, seen and unseen to hold us and help us.
So when you are ready, crack the shell and try some of these ideas:
1) Take a bird’s eye view.
From on high it’s easier to get a perspective on what’s happening in the grander scheme of life. Measure and think about how you will feel about this in five or 10 years. When we are in the swirl of what’s happening, it’s hard to get that perspective. Put on your wings and take a broader view.
2) Give it to someone bigger than you.
Whether we believe in God, Allah, Mother Earth, or the Universe or something else dear to us, no matter. What matters is that we know that there is One who is bigger than us who can take our burdens and hold it for us; who can lighten our load. Faith is a magical and essential tool when you are hurting.
3) Laugh a lot or a little, but laugh.
This sounds ridiculous, but laughter is allowable even in deep grief and it is the medicine that helps balance the pain. Give yourself permission to laugh and be light, even for a moment.
4) Talk to friends.
Or maybe a therapist, too. Just talk. Hard times bring us inside that turtle shell. But, during hard times we also need the companionship and empathy of people we care about. While we may want to be alone, let those who are dear to us offer their time and love. Be able to receive, just as heartily as you would give.
5) Do what makes you happy.
What do you love to do? Walk in the woods, ride a bike, snuggle your cat, listen to music, read. Whatever it is that brings joy, bring it on! This is a time to cultivate our bliss and in so doing, we will start to inch out of that shell, again gaining the perspective that feeling good allows.
6) Self care.
Eat well, sleep well, drink plenty of water. Treat ourselves as we would treat a small child that we adore—spoil that child with self-care!
7) Create endorphins.
Move that precious body by exercising, doing yoga, walking, deep breathing, or playing sports. Be aware that our bodies are a gift and the more we use it well, the more it will gift us.
8) Practice gratitude. There’s so much about gratitude these days, but it really is a wonder how the practice of being grateful can change an entire perspective. The simplicity of realizing the absolute good fortune of having a roof overhead, a friend who cares, food in our bellies, is a wonderful thing. How are you blessed?
Staying in the moment is a precious gift and game changer. Here’s the deal: whatever happened is over; whatever is ahead is imagined. We only have this very moment. If we allow our heads to play in the past or future, we’re losing this moment, and this moment is all we have.
Stay here where there’s safety, where the breath reminds us we are alive. Follow the breath in meditation. Repeat a mantra while you breathe, “I am safe (on the inhale), I am loved (on the exhale).” Find the peace of this very moment.
10) Practice self-love.
The act of being gentle to our precious selves, just as we would to a beloved friend. If we practice loving kindness, or metta, now would be a good time to ramp that practice up. Love is the most healing elixir, and it all starts with self. If we can love ourselves, forgive ourselves, honor and respect ourselves, be gentle with ourselves, we can offer the same to the world.
Let the healing begin and let it start with you—precious, beautiful, beloved you.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Dana Gornall / Editor:Renée Picard
Photo Credit: Alex Hamel/Pixoto