Breathe: Using Meditation for Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

I originally intended to write today’s post for the #AtoZChallenge yesterday and schedule it for this morning, but somehow I didn’t get down to writing it at all. I hadn’t even decided on a topic yet, although several floated through my mind. Eventually, I decided to continue with the self-care theme. B is for “breathe”.

Deep breathing is often hard for people at the best of times. It can be a real challenge if you’re anxious. That’s why you may benefit from breathing exercises while you’re calm. Then you will train your body to breathe properly, so that it comes more naturally when you’re stressed.

That being said, the first step to learning to breathe deeply into your belly is to be aware of your breathing. You can use meditation for this.

Beginner’s guided meditations often focus on being aware of your breathing without the need to change anything about it. You will learn to notice each inhale and exhale without judgment.

Once you are aware of your breathing, you can learn to control your breathing more consciously. Often, it is recommended that you take a long, but not too long, inbreath through your nose. Then you are advised to hold your breath for a few seconds and then do a long outbreath through your mouth.

Another common meditation practice is the body scan. This allows you to feel each sensation in your body systematically without judgment. Start by feeling your toes, feet and ankles. Then gradually move up through your legs, lower abdomen, upper abdomen and chest, hands and arms, shoulders, neck and finally your head. Most body scan meditations have you check in with your mental processes at the end. Remember, this is a check-in. You don’t need to change anything.

You can add other aspects of meditation to your practice, such as mantras or visualizations. I like to use affirmations as mantras. I also love visualizations, such as visualizing the colors of the rainbow.

There are tons of good meditation apps out there that offer guided meditations and often a timer to practise on your own. I have tried a few and must say my favorite is Insight Timer. This app has thousands of guided meditations by a variety of teachers. Most guided meditations are free. The premium plan offers additional content, such as courses. Right now, the app has a specific category called For Uncertain Times that’s geared towards coping with the COVID-19 crisis.

What Emotions Drive Me to Bad Habits? #Write31Days

Welcome to day eight in #Write31Days. Today’s post, like last week Monday’s, is yet again focused on emotions. I took another prompt from The Self-Exploration Journal. It asks what emotions drive me to bad habits.

I have a few self-destructive habits, some of which I engage more regularly in than others. For example, I overeat on average at least once a week, but only self-injure by cutting occasionally. Then there are these little habits that I engage in so often that I barely even notice them anymore, such as nail-biting or most recently teeth-grinding. Just a few minutes ago, my husband asked me to stop grinding my teeth.

Basically, I can be pretty sure that the type of emotional state that drives me to engage in all of these bad habits is stress. Stress is usually thought of as a type of anxiety, but it is not necessarily fear that drives it.

I tend mostly to engage in the little bad habits, like nail-biting or teeth-grinding, when not feeling much of a clear emotion at all. Rather, I tend to be in a state of worry, thinking in circles.

When emotions do reach the point where I notice them, they are pretty close to boiling point already. When this happens I may engage in self-harm behaviors or overeat.

When I look closely at what emotion causes me to engage in these self-destructive behaviors, I see that it is usually a sense of loneliness. Loneliness is not an emotion or so I’m told. At least it isn’t a primary emotion. Sadness is and that’s often what’s underneath this sense of loneliness.

Anger can also drive me to engage in self-destructive habits. Usually though, I am angry at something too minor to matter. The emotion underlying this anger is once again sadness.

What emotions drive you to bad habits?

Embracing My Neuroses

A lot has been on my mind lately, but for whatever reason, I can’t get it out onto the screen. As such, I keep reverting back to standard, mundane blogging features such as #TToT and the like. I don’t mean these aren’t important to me and they are among my most popular posts, but I intended this blog for myself, not (primarily) for my readers. Of course, now that my blog is off to a start, I do worry about my stats.

As I was browsing Paperblanks, a journal writing prompts app on my iPhone, I came across an interesting prompt in this respect. It is: “This year, I’ll learn to embrace my neuroses, such as ___”.

Embracing neurosis. That seems like quite a counterproductive thing to do, as neurosis often is seen as something negative, something we need to overcome. Then again, in dialectical behavior therapy (I think), it is said that you cann’t change something without accepting it.

This year, I will learn to embrace my neuroses. I will learn to accept them as they are and move on from there. I have several neuroses that I need to embrace.

My main neurosis is my heighteneed response to being triggered or criticized. Pete Walker calls this the fight-flight-freeze-fawn response. I tend to lean towards fight. As such, I tend to perceive an outer critic as more severe than it is intended as due to my own inner critic chiming in. I am to an extent aware of it, but not usually when it happens. By practising mindfulness, I hope to become more aware of this response.

I also want to embrace my freeze response of retreating into my inner world. I am often judgmental of myself and my alters when not online, but this doesn’t seem to do us well. I am going to learn to validate myselves.

I have a lot of little “neuroses” that I’ll want to embrace and not change much at all. These include my stims, such as twirling my hair. I will write more about stimming on the upcoming International Day of the Stim.

What is a neurosis you need to embrace?