There’s a certain kind of restlessness that I’ve been noticing - for me and for others.
It’s like an itch that can’t be scratched. Or maybe more like picking at a scab; uncomfortable and a little bit painful but somehow you can’t quite stop doing it.
Have you felt it?
When there’s nothing else you need to “do” but somehow you can’t quite settle. Like something is tugging at the edges of your awareness. As if you’ve forgotten something and it means you can’t relax or even tune into what you’d like to do to relax.
You think about the things you could do to relax (maybe even that you feel that you ’should’ do), like have a bath, find some new skill to learn, spend time enjoying the chance to be quiet or being in nature. And let’s face it, social media is FULL of all the things you *should* be doing right now!
But even when you try to do those things, it just doesn’t seem to connect.
One of my clients described it like this:
"I keep promising myself I'll do some nice things with my time after I've done the chores but can't seem to even get started on some nice stitching or reading or even just relaxing. A few friends of mine seem to be feeling like this too!"
So what’s it all about and how can you shift it?
Let’s pan out a little here to this situation we’re in.
We’re in this global pandemic and the whole world has shifted. Nothing is certain - not how long it will last, how it will still impact you, and the people you care about, in the future, nor how you’re going to get through.
In fact, your whole nervous system has likely been operating over the last 12 weeks in a state of hyper vigilance. When even getting groceries means risking your health or that of other people, it’s not surprising that our bodies self-defence mechanisms are on red alert.
There’s an underlying anxiety trigger that's constant - like having a low grade fever that isn’t so bad that it’s taking you off your feet but it’s rumbling under the surface and making you feel a bit rubbish.
Here’s a 3 step plan to shift that feeling so you can calm your body and mind:
Step 1. Stop and tune in
The thing with this restlessness is that it creates a jittery kind of energy. It keeps you moving and makes it feel uncomfortable to slow down.
It’s like slowing down to 30mph in your car but still being in 5th gear. Your nervous system is still operating in threat response and you’re asking it to be in relaxation mode.
So the best place to start is actually to put the brakes on completely for a moment.
This is the time to notice exactly what’s happening in the body right now.
That’s where we can begin to get some clues about how we really feel so we can let things go.
Step 2. Notice without Judgement
One of the things we can also be really good at is judging ourselves for how we’re feeling. So when you stop and listen in to the sensations of the body, see if you can do that with curiosity.
We can be really good at creating stories about how we feel and how it “should” be.
See if you can just be with exactly what’s there. So instead of trying to pin down what emotions you're feeling or what you’re thinking about the situation, simply notice exactly what sensations and experiences you are having in your body.
Our thinking mind can get in the way of being able to calm ourselves. Can you be kind to yourself and just allow this experience to be what it is?
Step 3. Let the stillness come
We can’t force calm.
In fact, the more we try to beat ourselves into submission, the harder we try to find peace - the more likely we are to stay wired and stressed.
Instead, just like under the crashing waves of a stormy ocean there’s a stillness in the deeper waters, let yourself gradually find stillness. No effort or trying.
At first, you may just be aware of how much turbulence you feel, but the stillness is always there waiting for you.
I recorded a live meditation recently to help you do exactly this. You can listen to that here:
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