Keeping Things Real

In the last couple of posts, I’ve shared some of the techniques that I’ve been drawing on as my life has been going from ‘busy’ to ‘more than a little crazy’!

I’m aware that reading this sort of thing can sometimes make it sound that the writer – in this case me J – has got it ‘sussed’, and that it’s obviously ‘easy for them’ in some way, but it still seems out of reach for you, the reader.

I therefore thought I would share a little more of the realities of my day-to-day experiences during this time to hopefully let you see that I’m nothing special, and that this is possible for anyone!  If I can do it, then you can definitely do it too.

My journal during the month after Dax arrived was full of feelings of overwhelm: 

May 13

“Today’s been a real roller coaster, much of which I’ve spent feeling completely overwhelmed and wanting to cry and run away. I’m feeling caught in the middle of a lot of people with strong views on horses…

I’m a little better now, just absolutely shattered”

May 26

“I feel like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and all of my ‘stuff’ is being triggered at once. This has hit me hard, emotionally and physically, so I need to take some time…”

This was where I needed to remember to breathe and to take some time out to support myself in order to keep my sense of balance and perspective.

I’m very fortunate to have a great friend who offered a sympathetic ear and a calm voice of reassurance and encouragement.  She helped me to take a step back and explore my feelings.  This allowed me to be more objective and to see the bigger picture.

I realised that I was afraid of failure and of letting people down.  My friend helped me to put these fears into perspective and to realise that, while it’s always possible that things won’t turn out as we hoped, that doesn’t mean that we’ve ‘failed’.  It’s actually an opportunity for learning; not least, learning about ourselves, our needs and our strengths.  It also helps us to realise that reaching out to others can be a great way to make wonderful connections.  In addition, I came to see that this support wasn’t only one way.  I was able to give, too, which helped to restore my sense of self worth and confidence.

It hasn’t been an easy time as it’s brought me face-to-face with some old hurts, but this has given me deeper insight and the chance to acknowledge the pain and to take steps to release it.

Isn’t it funny how we can think that we’ve ‘dealt with’ something, only for it to raise it’s challenging face again?!  This can be disheartening, until we realise that it’s actually another, deeper, layer.  It’s not quite the same as the stuff we dealt with before – we actually have dealt with that – but now we’re ready to clear even more.  How amazing is that?!

Life is always giving us opportunities to move closer to Love and to Freedom.  Sadly, we’ve sometimes become blinded to these due to our conditioning and the limiting beliefs that this brings, but if we can stay open, trusting and curious, then suddenly opportunities are all around us.

Sometimes we need to reach out and ask for support in seeing and responding to these opportunities, but that’s ok.  It doesn’t mean that we’re broken or need another to ‘fix’ us, it’s just that we sometimes need a reminder of how to access the truth of who we really are.

With Dakota it was interesting as I could see strong parallels between us.  There is a sense of disconnection about him and he appears to be afraid of allowing others to get too close.  This is similar to me when I feel overwhelmed.

He shows strong independence of thought and decision making, but also there’s a sense of abandonment, loss and isolation about him, as if he feels that he needs to guard himself against rejection and being unwanted.  I can empathise with this, too…

My dream is for the 2 of us to have the space and time to find our way to connect together.  I know this will be a unique path, special to us and what we each bring.

And I think we might just have found the perfect space!

If you’ve been following my blog recently you’ll know that my husband and I have been looking for a new home.  Well, we think we’ve found the perfect place.  It’s a sweet little cottage set in 8.5 acres of Welsh countryside.  There are woods and paddocks and although it feels like the middle of nowhere it’s actually only 15 minutes drive from Abergavenny.  I’m hoping that this will give Dakota and myself the peace for reflection and building of trust and understanding to build that special bond.

I want to find ways to hold space for Dax, so that he can find his inner balance, confidence and strength.  In doing this for him, I hope to then find my path to achieving the same for myself.  So often we learn best by offering to others what we need for ourselves.  Perhaps this is why we can set out intending to rescue another only to find that it was actually ourselves who needed rescuing!

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6 further tips for when life feels a bit crazy!

Last week I started sharing some of the things that I’ve found helpful when I start to slip into stress and overwhelm.

Below are some further thoughts on this:

  1. Having trained in a range of energy therapies I am very fortunate to be able to draw on these when I feel triggered and emotionally raw.  Two of these techniques are:
    Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT / Tapping) which helps to lower the intensity of my feelings, again helping to keep me from slipping into overwhelm and allowing me to keep a better sense of perspective.
    Reiki which helps to restore balance and to bring my body back into ‘rest and repair’.  This supports me in several ways:
    • breathing, digestion and circulation function more effectively so that my body is able to stay healthy
    • I sleep better, meaning that I feel less tired and can think more clearly
    • I feel more grounded
    • it supports other therapies, such as the EFT mentioned above, meaning that they are then even more effective
  1. Using these therapies on myself is obviously good, but sometimes, when I’m tired, my resources are at a low ebb and I’m feeling overwhelmed and loosing the ability to be objective, I need to turn to others for help.  This is ok!  It’s not a sign of ‘weakness’ or ‘failure’, but rather a sign of strength and the wisdom of recognising that we can’t do everything on our own – nor are we expected to.  This help can come from friends and family, and also from professionals.  There are many wonderful therapists out there, offering a wide range of approaches.  It’s good to ask for recommendations and to have an initial chat to see if you feel they would be a good fit for you.  Remember that this is about you.  It’s ok to put yourself first and to be ‘fussy’ on who you choose to work with.  Don’t worry about hurting the therapist’s feelings if you decide not to work with them.  They too will want you to find the person and the therapy that is going to be the most effective for you.

  2. Through my healing journey, learning and practice, I have realised that we really are all doing the best that we can do with the resources that we have access to.  Also, that our perception is a very subjective thing which is deeply coloured by our past experiences.  This has given me a greater capacity for compassion, both for those around me, and for myself.
  3. I’ve also learnt the importance of having a sense of humour!  The ability to not take myself too seriously has been of such an enormous benefit to my wellbeing.  That’s not to say that I can always laugh at things, but generally I can catch myself and gently remind myself that everything will be ok and that things are not nearly as serious as my fears would have me believe.
  4. Another important lesson, which might seem to be almost the opposite of the one above, is that’s it’s ok to be ok with not being ok.  In other words, it’s ok to feel sad / angry / guilty / anxious / depressed / etc, I just need to remember that these are only ‘e-motions’.  That is, they are energy-in-motion.  They bring me valuable information about my needs in a situation and when I tune in and listen I can address these needs, allowing the feeling to process and be released.  It’s when I suppress my emotions, holding on to them or resisting them, that they cause me the most pain, and can even lead to illness.
  5. I’ve also needed to pay attention to my self talk.  We can tend to be our own worst critic and when we’re triggered into stress, it brings out the most negative inner voices.  Often these are voices from people who have been significant in our lives, such as parents, teachers and peers.  When our confidence levels are low it’s all too easy to accept – and continue – this critical voice, but it doesn’t serve us.  There is a saying: ‘Take the thought to court!’  Look at the evidence.  Is your inner voice telling you the truth?  We can probably find evidence to both support and contradict the voice, so why, then, is it so much easier to listen and believe, rather than to laugh it off?  There will be several reasons for this:
    • we’ve been listening for so long that our neural pathways around this are very strong.
    • we are evolutionarily geared to look for the negatives (see Our Brain’s Negative Bias)
    • we trusted the people whose voices we’re repeating

So what can we do?

    • we can choose to remember to look for the evidence that proves that we are actually thoughtful, competent, skilled, caring, intelligent, capable, beautiful etc
    • we can choose to believe this evidence and to hold it up every time our inner critic raises its head
    • we can recognise the fact of our negative bias and understand that this is just our ego’s way of protecting us.  We can then thank the ego, and let it know that: ‘It’s ok, I’ve got this covered!’
    • We can use techniques (such as EFT and other energy work) which help to support the breaking of old habits – by releasing the beliefs and emotions behind them – and the creation of more helpful ones.

Remember to be gentle with yourself.  Old habits have taken time to form, and will take time to change, but each step along the way will bring greater insight and move you closer to greater balance and wellbeing.  Also, even small changes can have a huge impact on how you feel.  The important thing is to approach this with an open mind, with curiosity, lightness and a sense of humour!

6 practices for when life feels like a roller coaster!

Last week I talked about some of the challenges that I’ve been facing after taking on the care of ‘Dakota Horse’.  If you’ve read some of my other recent posts you might remember that we’re currently also in the middle of selling up and moving house!  This is not only about our home, but also about my business and my vision of how it might develop in the future – so no pressure there then!!  All of this has meant that life is feeling a bit crazy at the moment.

At times like this it’s all too easy to slip into old patterns of overwhelm and the consequent unhelpful behaviours and thought cycles.  I am therefore doing my best to remember to practice good self-care.  I’m far from perfect, and still very much a work-in-progress, but they say that practice-makes-perfect, and it’s certainly giving me insight and a lot of food for thought.

I promised to share some of the things that I’ve found helpful in the hope that it will be of use to others to:

  1. The first and most important thing is remembering to breathe!  Yes, perhaps a rather obvious one, but when I feel stressed I know that my muscles tighten and my breathing becomes more shallow.  This means that my body feels more tense, and gets less oxygen, which becomes a negative spiral, feeding my anxiety.  On the other hand, when I remember to pay attention to my breath, and to breathing deeply and evenly, it helps me to relax.
    To help with this I recommend doing a body scan several times throughout the day.  This enables you to spot areas of tension in the body, and to see when breathing is shallow, allowing you to then breathe into the tight areas, inviting them to release and relax.
  2. This in turn helps me to take a step back and to have better objectivity, which allows me to see more clearly and rationally.  It helps me to keep a greater sense of proportion and not to spiral into overwhelm and feeling out of control.
  3. Breathing properly and being objective also help me in evaluating the reality of the situation and carefully considering my options.  If I slip into panic this is much more difficult to do – if not impossible.  It’s known as ‘blind panic’ for good reason!  Being able to think things through like this, usually allows me to see that there are lots of things I can try, and people I can ask for advice and / or support.
  4. Another thing that helps me in this is to get moving.  Going for a walk helps to break the sensation of being ‘stuck’ and powerless and helps my brain to function more effectively.
  5. I also find being outside in Nature very soothing.  I love the energy of being surrounded by trees and wildlife and find it very grounding.  It helps to restore my sense of perspective too.

  6. Mindfulness, meditation and journaling have helped me to develop more emotional intelligence and self-awareness.  This has allowed me to let go of some of the things that were no longer serving me, and to reconnect with my inner stillness, allowing me to relax more effectively.  This is so important for moving out of ‘fight or flight’ and into ‘rest and repair’ which is essential for our wellbeing.

 

Next week I’ll share some further techniques and insights that I’ve learnt along my journey.

Challenges and Triggers

Last week I started the story of how a handsome young gelding came into my life.  This week I’d like to formally introduce him!  In his previous home he was known as Lucky, however I felt drawn to giving him a new name to mark the start of this new chapter of his life.  I believe that names can carry a significant energy and I wanted to find one that would represent the relationship I hope to develop with this amazing being, and so I chose ‘Dakota’, which means friend or ally, as I hope that we will establish a close connection and partnership through our time together.

Dakota (Dax) and I on the evening of the day he arrived in his new home

This beautiful boy had rather a hard start in life – he was separated from his mother at 1 month of age and left to starve.  He was then rescued, and after a while ended up in the care of his lovely owner.  She spent a considerable amount of time, care, attention and money in getting him healthy again and now, at 6 years of age, you would never imagine that he had had such a history.

In his previous home he was living barefoot, non-ridden and with 24/7/365 turnout, on a diet of ad lib hay and a few wonderful Thunderbrook supplements.  Unfortunately I have been unable to find facilities in this area that quite match this, so we’ve had to make some compromises.  This has triggered me in ways that I was not expecting!

I feel such a huge sense of responsibility for this animal who is now solely in my care.  I might know the theory of looking after a horse, and have practised it in various ways in the past, but it has never been all on my shoulders before.  With other people’s horses, I wasn’t the one who had the final say on decisions such as:

  • when and how to introduce him to the other horses on the yard;
  • or when might the grass be safe enough for him to go out on it,
  • and for how long.
    (When he arrived he was in the ‘winter field’ with ad lib hay and very little grass, but that was not going to be a permanent arrangement.)

We also, obviously, need to fit in with the others on the yard, as I’m not on my own land…

I know that all this takes time, and is a matter of trying things, then tweaking them as necessary.  The others on the yard are there to discuss any concerns I might have, which can be helpful, but sometimes it is actually more confusing – and stressful – when everyone’s opinion is different.  It has pushed old buttons within me and raised some uncomfortable feelings for me to explore – about my abilities and also my sense of worth and the value of my opinion and views.  I know that these feelings relate to old fears and conditioning that no longer serve me, so this is a great opportunity to look into what my discomfort is showing me:

  • where do I have old needs that have not been met?
  • how can I best learn the lesson that they have for me in order to let them go?

Previously, my coping strategy was often to push down my feelings, however I’ve learnt that this actually makes things worse in the long run.  In fact it has made me ill in the past, leading to migraines, eczema, digestive issues and anxiety.

Over the last few years, on my journey of learning more about myself and how I can support my own wellbeing, I’ve learnt some very valuable techniques that generally work well for me.  This can be a very individual thing, as each of us is unique, with our own challenges and personalities, but next week I’ll share some of what has helped me, in the hope that it might be useful for you too.

 

A new arrival!

Oh boy!  What a journey this is turning out to be!

As I began writing this I was waiting in excited anticipation for the arrival of the horse that I’ve taken on permanent loan.  He was travelling from St Albans to join me here in Bristol, so had a long  road ahead of him, but the physical distance felt like nothing compared to the journey I’ve been on to get to this point, or the adventures that we have ahead of us.

I have spent a fair bit of time around horses: riding as a child, playing with friends’ horses, working with them, volunteering at HorseWorld and horse ‘sharing’, but have never quite managed to have one of my own… until now!

I started looking in earnest for my new equine friend at the beginning of this year.  I put feelers out through friends, and friends of friends, and was surprised at the number of horses that were brought to my attention.  I went to visit almost all of them – which was lots of fun – meeting many beautiful animals and their lovely guardians: the handsome Knubstrapper X, the sparky young Friesian, the beautiful mare from Valegro’s line, the gorgeous Appaloosa X that I fell in love with but who was then removed from sale, and the 4 amazing rescued horses at HorseWorld…  Sadly though, none of them felt quite the right ‘fit’…

All through this process there was a handsome bay gelding that was waiting in the background.  His carer and I first made contact back in February but as he was living 3 hours’ drive away, it took some organising for me to go and see him.  We booked in a date for the first weekend in March – but then it snowed and I couldn’t get anywhere for about 3 days, so we had to rearrange.  We set a new date for 18-19 March… but again it snowed!  What on earth was that all about?!  We then had to wait as the horse’s carer was going away for a while and then I was going ‘home’ to Ireland for a few days, so a new date was set for 15-16 April.

This time there was no snow, and the sun even made a brief appearance, though the wind was still decidedly cold.  The journey went smoothly and I soon found the field where I was to meet with this striking fellow and his human and equine friends and family.  I was made to feel very welcome and spent a lovely couple of days just connecting in, and we started the process of getting to know each other.

Then came the process of arranging for him to make the move to Bristol, to the lovely yard where I’d reserved a place for him.  This is where things began to get a bit complicated…

Next week I’ll explain a little more about some of the challenges we faced and what this has meant for me.