Becoming an ally: Identifying Resources.
For the day to day and to keep practitioner costs at a low it is a good idea to create a list –or at least a mental idea –of what resources us in our lives and a tangible action plan to maintain contact with – and build a life directed by that.
These resources can be feeling states, somatic practices, people, places, sensory experiences, service work, causes or teachings that inspire you, animals, the ocean, and so on. Each person will be resourced in their own particular way –for someone it could be reading, someone else it could be camping, meditation, wearing a favourite article of clothing or jewellery, rock climbing, baking, or for those resourced by multi-tasking, rock climbing in the bath tub.
Sometimes when we are struggling, even reading this list –(or creating one) –can help us orient to support in our lives and feel better. It’s also an inarguable fall back when you are so low you really believe that the idea your brain has concocted to make you feel better (such as a cigarette butt and dorito smoothie to be luxuriously sipped whilst calling you ex) -might be best avoided- and replaced by one of these tried and true methods!
Resources: Do this with a few friends, or work colleagues, or in your own dear sweet company. To make a list find a comfortable and safe place and bring your awareness into the body and to your breath. Slowly soften and open your awareness, and with a pad of paper in hand, slowly create an idea –which you can add to – of what brings you peace, restores you, helps you feel good in your body, relationships and in the world. A few examples follow.
Optimum behaviours/activities, resources:
- Time in nature
- Heart centered breathing
- Making art
- Focussing on a positive state
- Volunteering at the horse rescue centre
- Receiving a massage
- Spending time with my best friend
- The colour blue and orange
- Being in water
- Listening to music or nature or children playing
- Making a gratitude list and sharing it with a friend
- The smell of oranges
Drains on well being: We can also create a more comprehensive list, which includes the above list but also helps identify things that that could kind of go either way but may be problematic, and behaviours that we choose to abstain from in our commitment to health.
For example a few could be:
Middle Circle (things that could be fine but also to keep an eye on as they could lead to a sequence that descends into less than optimal self care strategies):
- Stress at work
- Contact with stressful family member or acquaintance
- Working late night shifts or more than six days a week
- Over exercising/under exercising
- Eating in front of the TV
Inner Circle (what we have committed to avoid as we know it does not serve our well being):
- Working seven day weeks for a month
- Eating a certain food that always causes binges
- Certain addiction substances or processes if these have become problematical.
Sometimes when we have slipped into behaviour and thought patterns that are not conducive to our overall wellbeing it is like slipping in to a spell. We forget that maybe we would prefer not to argue with our spouse all the time, or eat take out (for five) alone on a Friday night, or compulsively watch Netflix or porn. Or that thinking too much in a stressful way about taxes can lead to five bags of potato chips. So this can also be a map to keep nudging us towards behaviours and life practices that make us feel good, and reminding us of the consequences of slippy middle/inner circle states.
A step further in tracking: Going even further, Patrick Carnes has created a PCI –or Personal Craziness Index –funny name right?! – but useful as a tool for recovery from addiction or habit breaking- found in A gentle Path through the Twelve steps and quoted below.
Personal Chaos Index
The Personal Chaos Index [PCI] is a tool to assist you to stay on track and maintain the changes you have made. It is designed to help you recognize those times when you are more vulnerable to slipping back into old habits. Each person uses the PCI to generate behavioral signs that are warnings that you are “loosing it”, slipping back to old habits or becoming “burnt out”.
Following are 10 areas of personal behavior. As you write down answers to the questions in each of these areas, the answers may help you to identify warning signs. When you know the warning signs you will be more capable of taking action to do things differently.
- Physical Health: The ultimate insanity is to not take care of our bodies. Without our bodies we have nothing, yet we seem to have little time for physical conditioning. Examples are being over a certain weight, having missed regular exercise for two days, smoking, being exhausted from lack of sleep. How do you know that you are not taking care of your body? [at least 3 examples.]
- Transportation: How people get from place to place is often a statement about their lifestyles. Take for example, a car owner who seldom comes to a full stop, routinely exceeds the speed limit, runs out of gas, does not check the oil, puts off needed repairs, has not cleaned the back seat out in three months and averages three speeding tickets and ten parking tickets per year. Or the bus rider who always misses the bus, never has change, forgets his or her briefcase on the bus etc. What are the transportation behaviors that indicate you life is getting out of control? [at least 3 examples.]
- Environment: To not have time to do your personal chores is a comment on the order of your life. Consider the home in which the plants go unwatered, fish unfed, grocery supplies depleted, laundry not done or put away, cleaning neglected, dishes unwashed etc. What are ways in which you neglect your home or living space? [at least 3 examples.]
- Work: Chaos at work may place your ability to support yourself in jeopardy. Signs of chaotic behavior are phone calls not returned, chronic lateness for appointments, being behind in promised work, and unmanageable in-basket, and “too many irons in the fire”. When your life is unmanageable at work what are your behaviors? [at least 3 examples.]
- Interests: What are some positive interests besides work that give you perspective on the world? Music, reading, photography, fishing or gardening are examples. What are you doing when you are not over extended? [at least 3 examples.]
- Social Life: Think of friends in your social network who provide support to you and are not family or significant others. When you become isolated, alienated, or disconnected, what behaviors are typical of you? [at least 3 examples.]
- Family/Significant Others: When you are disconnected from those closest to you, what is your behavior like? Examples are silent, overtly hostile, passive-aggressive. [at least 3 examples.]
- Finances: We handle our financial resources much like our personal ones. Thus when your chequing account is unbalanced, or overdrawn or bill overdue or there is no cash in your pocket or you are spending more than you earn, your financial overextension may parallel your emotional bankruptcy. List the signs that show when you are overextended. [at least 3 examples.]
- Spiritual Life and Personal Reflection: Spirituality can be diverse and include meditation, yoga and prayer. Personal reflection includes journal writing, completing daily readings and pursuing therapy. What are sources of routine personal reflection that are neglected when you are overextended? [at least 3 examples.]
10. Symptom Behaviors: Compulsive behaviors that have negative consequences are symptomatic of your general well-being or a warning sign that you may be slipping into old habits. When you watch too much TV, overeat, bite your nails – any habit you feel bad about afterward – these can be warning signs. Symptom behaviors are behaviors that are evidence of overextension, such as forgetfulness, slips of the tongue, or jealousy. What symptom behaviors do you notice when you are feeling overwhelmed? [at least 3 examples.]
From the thirty or more signs of personal craziness you recorded, choose the seven that are most critical for you. At the end of each day, review the list of seven key signs and count the ones you did that day, giving each behavior one point Record your total for that day in the space provided on the chart. If you fail to record the number of points for each day, that day receives an automatic score of 7. (If you cannot even do your score, you are obviously out of balance.) At the end of each week, total your seven daily scores and make an X on graph. Pause and reflect on where you are in your recovery. Chart your progress over a twelve-week period. Adapted from Carnes, P, . Facing the Shadow. Carefree, Az., Gentle Path Press.
So…to wrap up -take what you like and leave the rest- start simple -and expand if it feels right. Enjoy counting your blessings!