When I was at school and started seeing the school councillor, she was always repeating a phrase which really stuck with me, and since then I always hear it in the Rooms. This phrase being ‘This too shall pass’. It is a great everyday reminder that this horrible day isn’t going to last for ever, like all the other shit days I’ve had, this one will be over soon and tomorrow is a new day. It reassures me that everything will be ok, all I have to do is make it to the end of the day and take the rest of the day one minute or one hour at a time.
My other motto which is more recent and has helped me the most during the last year is Stop. Think. Breathe. It’s to remind me to do exactly as it says on the tin. I use this phrase particularly when I’m having an anxiety attack or when I can’t sleep because my head’s swimming or I’m just feeling really overwhelmed.
Stop – This has two meanings. First – stop what you’re doing (walking, watching tv, all the physical things you can stop doing). Or second – Stop thinking about it, force yourself to focus on something else.
Think – Again this can be in two ways. First goes with the first stop – give yourself a set period of time (30 secs, 1 minute, 10 minutes, whatever works for you but stick to it!) and let your mind go crazy with whatever it is that’s going mad in your head. Let it go full steam, but only for that period of time, when that time is up, move on to the next step…. The second goes with the second Stop – go back to basics. What do I really need to be worrying about right now? If I was walking down a street for example I would only concentrate on breathing slowly (next step!), putting one foot in front of the other, not walking in to anything/anyone and set small goals like walking to the next corner or crossing the street. And work like this until you feel a bit calmer, quite good for when you’re overwhelmed at work.
Breathe – The common sense one which I ALWAYS forget to do! Just breathe it out, long, slow, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 8, breathe out through your mouth for 12-16 counts (if you can’t do it for that long then that’s ok, just exhale for longer than you inhaled.) It is so easy when your anxious to start hyperventilating or sometimes, in my case, hold your breathe. I used to have a piano teacher who would have to remind me to breathe because I would be concentrating so hard on the sheet music that I would forget to breathe.
These mottos won’t work for everyone, but they work for me and help me in tough moments. If I haven’t been practising self-care I do forget them, so I now have both tattooed on me to remind me. I have ‘This too shall pass’ tattooed on my ribs in black, and I have ‘Stop.Think.Breathe.’ tattooed on my right wrist (my self-harm wrist) in white. I’ve got them in relatively hidden places because they’re for me, they’re my reminders.