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A powerful hug

A gentle reminder today on the importance of self-compassion.

  • Cop27 is happening, generating some pretty scary headlines.

  • The US midterms are happening, generating some pretty ugly headlines.

  • It’s hard to avoid headlines around inflation, recession, interest rates, cost of living crisis.

  • And each day seems to highlight another political scandal, creating instability and havoc where we need stability and level-headed leadership most.

We can internalise all of this to the point where we don’t even realise that distress has become an ever-present, low level hum within us, sitting heavily on our diaphragms and making a full breath just a squidge…too…difficult.

We need to remember that this feeling of discomfort ISN’T normal…even if it has become normalised.

I was reminded of this when talking to a friend this week.

She’d just come back from a trip to New York, and after telling me how wonderful it was to be in New York in the autumn she paused and said, “But I couldn’t help but wonder, are the Americans EVER going to turn off the lights in skyscrapers at night? And are they ever going to stop serving so much food on the plate and creating so much waste? It made me wistful for a time when these thoughts wouldn’t have even occurred to me, a more innocent time.”

There was a real jolt of recognition in what she was saying; that sometimes we only realise how heavy we feel by remembering times we felt lighter.

We live in worry-drenched times, it soaks the air, a near constant mizzle. Experiencing non-specific worry mizzle that’s not ours - but lives within us - takes a toll on our nervous systems.

And that’s where self-compassion come in.

We really do all need to take of ourselves.

Working more won’t do it.

Looking after others first won’t do it.

Shopping/drinking/gaming/eating it away won’t do it.

But self-compassion will.

And here’s a super simple, gentle exercise to get you started, a cut-out-and-keep self-compassion primer.

Peter Levine’s ‘Container Hug’* is particularly wonderful as we experience both hugging and being hugged at the same time. Your body neither knows nor cares that you’re the one doing the hugging; it simply appreciates the quality of touch and responds accordingly.

Simply put one hand underneath your armpit and then wrap your other hand around yourself – and hug yourself.

If you like, you can take your attention to the hand that’s being hugged, then take your attention to the hand that’s hugging and see if you notice any difference.

Or you can just hug yourself, for a moment, knowing that the gesture of self-compassion is gently bringing you back to yourself, a you that has a little more capacity to breathe, a touch more freely, in and out.

And all good things come from a happy breath.

Take care of yourself today, and every day, you beautiful human x

* For more information on the exercise, see:

Cover image: Photo by __ drz __ on Unsplash

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