Having both squeeze and ease
I find January marketing and messaging somewhat tiring. ‘New Year, New You’, resolutions and the plethora of products and stuff that marketers proclaim will help us in the quest to self-improvement. You might be someone who loves a New Year resolution and has achieved things you wanted to through the process. That’s fantastic: we are all different and are motivated in different ways.
As a counsellor, I am passionate about supporting people to grow, evolve and move forward in life with meaning and purpose. I just don’t believe it has to be in a certain month of the year or that it necessarily needs to involve ‘resolving’ to do something. Does it put more pressure on us to add even more ‘to-dos’ in a time when it seems that many people feel overwhelmed and time-poor?
In the West, we live in a society that pushes achievement and excelling in life. Success is often defined as being the best at something. There can sometimes be a tendency to admire those who are ‘at the top of their game’ or perhaps those who ‘have it all’. What is the all? When did it become so important to have all of it? To be the best worker, mother or father, lover, organiser, friend, to be working out regularly, eating our five or more a day, being ecologically conscious and making green choices, keeping on top of the housework, the life administration, hobbies, family commitments, keeping up with politics and world events. Can it all feel a little exhausting at times?
How much of are our lives are shaped by the culture and world we live in, rather than us actively choosing? If you put aside societal expectations and ‘shoulds’, are there changes that you want in your life? For there to be more of something, less of something? A change of scene? An internal change in how you relate to yourself: feelings, thoughts and self-talk? To be more involved in community and creating change in your world? Try spending a little time exploring. It might be in a moment of daydreaming, as you drop off to sleep, or getting creative with some art materials. Picture what that change would be like if you had got there: imagine it already done. What is going on? What is your energy like? Notice what feelings come up in your body. Without getting too Marie Kondo about it, does the idea of this change spark joy? Or a sense of peace and groundedness?
What about picturing a change and you feel uncomfortable? I would say that this is all useful information. What is this discomfort telling you? On my journey of counselling training, personal therapy and working in a number of different settings, I adopted a mantra of ‘If I’m uncomfortable, I’m probably learning’. This has helped me to move from a place of ‘if I’m feeling discomfort perhaps it isn’t the right thing’ or ‘it’s scary so I don’t want to do it’, to approaching things with a more compassionate curiosity. What’s going on for me that this feels uncomfortable? What might it be bringing up for me in terms of past experiences? Can I be open and wonder instead of closing off options and feelings?
Is there resistance here and a sense of ‘urgh it’ll be too hard’? Well, change can be hard. Sometimes we can be creatures of habit. We need to want something enough to make space and time for it and perhaps that means letting go of other things. Small and related aside here: it will likely come as no surprise that social media tends to be the biggest sucker-up of time on a daily basis*. Internet users last year were spending an average of two hours twenty two minutes per day on social media and messaging platforms. What else might you like to use some of that time for, if you chose to? If you are making a change, is there something you’re going to stop doing, or do less of?
What about your energy? For me, this is where the idea of squeeze and ease comes in. What sort of energy do you find supports you in moving through your day, or through different tasks? Sometimes that teeth gritted, ‘I can and I will’ mentality and physical sense of being strong and tough can support us in making changes. At other times though, we may want to cultivate more of a sense of fluidity and flexibility: making changes doesn’t always have to come from a place of ‘squeeze’. Taking time to check in with yourself about how you’re feeling and where your energy lies can help you to get a sense of what you need in that moment. If you’re feeling sluggish, perhaps finding ways to raise your energy: a dance around the kitchen to a favourite song; or a breath of fresh air in nature for example. Or do you need to ‘be’ rather than do? Change can be tiring as it’s different from the ‘norm’ and that takes energy too. Giving yourself time to rest, breathe and replenish in your week is just as important an aspect of any process of change as the ‘doing’ (or the ‘stopping doing’). Take time to take stock and congratulate yourself for the steps you are making, consciously focusing on these and tuning in to the feelings that this brings up.
Finally, in any process of change, remember it is your journey. You come to it with your own beliefs, expectations and experiences that will make creating change a process that’s unique to you. If you find it motivating to read about how others have done things, look at their pictures and posts and gain inspiration from this, that’s great. But you are the expert on you. Give yourself the time to explore what lights your fire, what you need to support you in your journey of change and find your own unique balance between squeeze and ease. Above all, be kind to yourself when making any kind of change: it takes time and energy to develop and integrate new patterns and ways of being, and that’s ok.
Jane Williams is counsellor in private practice working in Bedford, UK. If you are considering making changes in life, counselling can be a great space to explore and consider your next steps. Get in touch with Jane on 07732 709200 to find out more.
*According to a study by Global Web Index