As we come up on nearly 20 months of existing with a global pandemic, the holiday season approaching, and demands of everyday work and life persisting, navigating mental health can feel impossible. All of us are low on capacity, the reality is we all need more than any one of us can give. Because of these fluctuations in capacity, building a network and finding supportive practices might look a lot different this season than they have in the past.
With busy lives, our mental health practices seem to be the first things to slip through the cracks. As our individual and collective capacities shift, it’s important to continue to commit to ourselves in intentional ways. Building the practices and routines that nurture us takes dedication to our healing. As we create deeper intention surrounding our healing practices we give ourselves permission to show up fully for ourselves and the communities around us.
Create Space to Allow
Healing happens differently for each of us; our practices and support systems will vary because we each have unique needs. In my own practice, I know that the first step is allowing my needs or my experience to become fully present. If I try to push away and ignore an undesirable experience or change it into something more palatable it ends up bringing on more suffering.
On top of the initial discomfort I experienced, I’ve now created a space where I’m not welcome to show up and simply be. I deny myself the fullness of expression and, in turn, am forced to live inauthentically. When I allow my experience to be present, in whatever way it is showing up, I begin to understand the need and move forward towards healing.
Find a comfortable way of being, seated, standing, or lying down is perfect.
Allow your gaze to soften, maybe even close all the way if it feels safe and comfortable to do so.
Notice your lungs expanding and contracting inside your chest as you inhale and exhale.
Start to become aware of any emotion, feeling, or thought rising in this space.
Name the emotion, the feeling, the thought. Repeat it 3 times to yourself.
Where do you feel sensation in your body as you hold space for what is showing up?
What is your experience with this emotion, feeling, or thought?
Without trying to change it or label it good or bad, simply notice. Pause with this experience for a few moments.
As the intensity of the emotion, feeling, or thought begins to soften, bring to mind an affirmation:
- “I honor all of my experiences fully.”
- “I allow each piece of me to be held, seen, and honored exactly as they need to be.”
- “The wholeness of my being is worthy of being seen.”
As you are ready, find a connection to your breath again.
When you are ready to inhale again, breathe in and fill all the way up. As you exhale, take a big sign out of your mouth. Repeat this three times.
Inhale and fill all the way up – Exhale and let it all go. Again, inhale all the way up – Exhale and let it all go.
When you are ready, blink your eyes open and invite the surrounding environment back in.
Express gratitude for yourself for taking this time and this pause to honor all that you are.
This space of allowing your experiences to be fully realized is something you can return to at any time that you need it. When we let ourselves hold each experience with care, attention, and compassion we see the intensity dissolve and create space to return to our whole, authentic self.
Design Intentional Space for Yourself
In the busyness of our lives, it can be easy to forget that our environment has a deep impact on our mental health. When there is no intentional space to retreat to, we move through all spaces carrying all of our experiences, our emotions, and our thoughts at the same time. With no dedicated place to release the things that weigh on our hearts, it’s only natural for that to get quite heavy.
It’s an especially important, yet delicate, balance to find separation from workspace, practice space, and general living space, if you are working from home. During the height of the pandemic, I noticed that having a small corner in my room was a pivotal practice in my ability to remain grounded. The simple gesture of having a table in the corner was a reminder for me that I matter. Even on the hardest days, I could glance over to that space and remember that I deserved to be cared for and nurtured.
The invitation is to design a space of intention that you can visit when you need to pause and check in. It might be one corner in a room in your house, it might be a separate room entirely. This dedicated space gives you an opportunity to reset and reground before stepping back into the day.
- Create a mindful corner or room.
- Use a table of any kind or size to be reminded that this is your space.
- It doesn’t have to be a whole room — a corner, a space in your bathroom, living room, on a patio is perfect.
- Make it a place of inspiration
- Place anything on the table and in the space that sparks joy in your heart.
- Use art, plants, candles, crystals, books, etc. The more you fill the space with things that nurture your spirit, the more likely you are to visit this space often.
- Allow it to be comfortable.
- Use blankets, cushions, pillows, and rugs as a way to create a comfortable nest for your healing.
Utilize this space as often as you need to, knowing that you can visit here for 5 minutes, 20 minutes, 2 hours if needed. Add in any personal touches and anything that will allow it to feel full of your personal intention.
Note: Seated meditation is not the only option in this intentional space. You might find a movement practice, a self-massage practice, or journaling, nothing is required when you create this space. It is for you and your healing so remember to create the space that serves you best.
Give Yourself Permission to Heal
Perhaps most importantly in the journey through holding space for yourself while navigating mental health is to give yourself the permission to show up exactly as you are. Knowing that nothing is wrong or bad and you are always worthy of unconditional love and ease as you move through the fluctuations of this life.
Take time in your day to check in with yourself. Always be reminded that you are worthy of taking up space in your own schedule.
What would it look like to give yourself permission to pour your own time, energy, attention, and care back into yourself?