How can we help ourselves when we’re struggling and there are no simple answers?

 

Whatever is going on right now…
What’s happening? Give yourself a moment to acknowledge that you’re struggling right now. See if you can notice what you’re feeling in your body; any tightness or breath-holding. Are you aware of any particular thoughts and feelings about the current situation? Maybe some of these are familiar to you, perhaps totally new. Whatever the case, make room right now for what you’re feeling. Even if you feel you have to be at your best for other people later on today, tomorrow, or whenever, allow yourself a little bit of space just now. If you’re feeling wound up or just exhausted, see if you can take a moment for yourself. Notice your breath. Notice it once more. See if you can breathe a little more slowly, more deeply. Be present just now for yourself. 
Read on if you can. If you can’t, if you’ve got to carry on with something right now, maybe just acknowledge to yourself that you are doing the best that you can.   

 

How much control do I have realistically? 

 

Noticing your experience and acknowledging it; sometimes that’s the best we can do. There is no need to fight or compete with yourself, or anyone for that matter. It might even help to notice that it’s you who is feeling this way and thinking these thoughts. Imagine you were a colleague: how would you respond if it wasn’t you but someone else who was struggling right now? See if you can offer yourself a small measure of kindness as you would them. 

 

There’s likely to be a lot happening around you; perhaps you don’t feel you can do enough to help both your patients and your colleagues as much as you want. This may be true. It’s likely that you are exposed to a lot of conflicting demands at the moment: from work, family, your worries about your own health and other people’s worries about you. You may feel under pressure to do things at work or at home that you wouldn’t normally do. Maybe ask yourself who you would have to be to do everything as you would wish to do it and without any problem during this crisis. Remember that when we’re under pressure, we tend to compare ourselves critically with other people who seem to be doing better and much more in control. In fact, just like you, most people are just trying to do their best and to cope.  

 

Maybe it feels wrong to acknowledge that you’re struggling, when that’s how you’re feeling. Struggling doesn’t mean failing. Sometimes, we can have very unrealistic expectations of how we ought to think and feel about what life throws up. In fact, we can only very rarely control ourselves as we sometimes think we should. Actually, trying not to think and feel certain things – sometimes anger, sadness, fear, a sense of vulnerability – is likely to make these feelings into a real problem. Feelings are never wrong; they are always important. Feelings are complex and are never really ‘negative’ or ‘positive’. They are just feelings. Most importantly, it’s what we do with them that matters.

 

How do I want to respond to the situation?

 

Instead of trying to wrestle yourself either into being a certain kind of person or not having uncomfortable thoughts, impulses, feelings, see if it helps simply to ask yourself, What do I want to be about right now? What matters most to you in this situation? What response do you want to make to your current circumstances? What resources do you have to help you? What do you need to take account of in terms of how you judge yourself and others? Most importantly, remember that you’re human. The fact that you may struggle at times means that you have a beating heart and feelings: probably the things that led you to want to help people in the first place. If you’re showing up and doing what you can, then you’re doing enough. 

 

If sharing your feelings would be helpful to you, whatever they may be, then give yourself some space to seek help.

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