I'm ill and can't sleep, so decided to do some writing. I wish you well this season and hope that you have a happy and healthy holiday. This can be a very challenging time for many of us, when the shiny, glitzy images of Christmas perfection adorning adverts and shops can highlight our emotional or physical pain, or whichever of "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" (as Shakespeare put it) we may be experiencing in the moment.
This was to be my last day of working but I am currently off sick with a chest infection, combined with asthma and a mostly lost voice, unable to sleep well. As soon as I lie down at night, or try to slightly lay back, even propped up on a stack of bolsters and pillows, my asthma has been triggering. The sensation of tightness in my chest varies in intensity and I am frequently coughing. Sometimes it is quite frightening - having an asthma attack is potentially life-threatening, and it certainly feels that way. On Sunday night I found myself actually scared to try to sleep. Triggered by colds, asthma and chest infections have been my Christmas experience many times in the past as well - one memorable year it was combined with a stomach bug! So I thought I would share this in case you are struggling in some way, whatever way it may be - asthma, flu, a cold, loneliness, anxiety, a difficult relationship, depression, grief, or just not feeling as happy as you would like. Just to know that many of us struggle in various ways at this time of year - you are not alone.
This is very individual of course, but here are a few things I have been finding helpful:
# 1 Great Expectations
Noticing and practising letting go of expectations about how things "should be" right now - allowing yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. If I resist my asthma symptoms I tense up and it feels worse - so I practise allowing them to be there, softening around them. As the serenity prayer says: "grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference".
# 2 Gratitude
Appreciating blessings - e.g. the fact that I can use the NHS; being able to muster enough voice to speak to my GP on the phone and get a prescription; then the ability to drive to the pharmacy; the ability to walk in and pick it up. Many people find writing a daily "gratitude journal" every day helpful - just 3 simple things.
# 3 Mindfulness
Bringing mindful awareness to thoughts, feelings, body sensations and impulses is incredibly helpful, as it gives us the opportunity to step out of repetitive cycles of negative thoughts - even if just for a tiny moment. I find the Body Scan Meditation really helpful for relaxing me more into my whole experience of body sensations, rather than being so caught up in what is painful or difficult - e.g. usually my toes feel pretty good! Try one here, guided by me: https://soundcloud.com/user-45703635/body-scan-30-mins
# 4 Self Compassion
I have been practising mindful self compassion for a while now, a phrase I use often is "may I be kind to myself" - a hand on the heart helps too. This website has great resources: https://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/
# 5 Shared Humanity
I just googled this: worldwide, there are about 334 million people with asthma. Wow! That's worth repeating: 334 MILLION of us with asthma. Imagine, whatever difficulty you are facing, there will be literally millions of people all around the world having a similar experience. You are not alone - suffering and difficulty is part of the fabric of human experience, but so too is kindness, love, compassion and care for others. Bringing to mind and wishing others well, who are going through the same kind of experiences as us, is a powerful way to soften the isolation that can come with difficult experiences.
May we be safe and protected.
May we be happy and healthy.
May we be peaceful.
May we be kind to ourselves.
May we accept ourselves and our lives as they are.