Don’t get me wrong; I am a firm believer in the micro-step approach. The choices we make for our wellbeing in the moment lead to actions that become habits. No matter how grand our future plans are, they are meaningless unless we put them into action. And we can only act in the moment.
But, I may lose it if I read one more article that tells me to take a deep breath and a walk around the block when I’m feeling overwhelmed. There’s an integral piece missing in this guidance. What else is going on while I’m breathing and walking? That makes all the difference.
I can breathe deeply for 5 minutes all the while ruminating on whatever it was that had me holding it in the first place. Once I have created the space that focus on my breath offers, how am I going to fill it?
Similarly, I can walk the block with feet stomping in my head or I can walk the block with a view toward shifting my perspective. It doesn’t just happen; I have to get out of the way of it happening.
Over the last few months we have collectively held our breath and stayed apart. It’s not so much about knowing what will help us as much as it’s about doing what will help us. And how we engage makes it more likely that we’ll notice the benefits.
Breathing and walking are great strategies for redirection. They interrupt our current trajectory, which is especially helpful when we notice that where we are headed, is hurting us. But, we have to set the coordinates in the direction we wish to move.
Micro steps are pattern disruptors. They are meant to shift us out of an unpleasant or dysfunctional state and into a state of wellness. I am reminded of the idea that time heals all wounds. Ask anyone who has suffered a broken heart or immense grief about how they healed over time. Most will tell you that it wasn’t time that healed them but how they spent that time. Your use of micro step strategies like deep breathing, mantras, or quick sprints outside is maximized when you set an intention.
Here are a few steps for intention setting that can help keep you focused on your desired outcome ~ which is usually to feel better:
- Close your eyes
- Identify what you are feeling currently (stressed, frustrated, angry, helpless, sad)
- Ask yourself what you would prefer to feel (relaxed, calm, energized, peaceful)
- Set the intention with focus on your desired feelings
- Engage in your chosen micro step with your intention in your heart
- Let go of the outcome
Reflection and Meaning Making
It has been suggested that connecting to your original sense of purpose can provide the kind of stamina and endurance you need to move through difficult times. If you are a service provider responding to the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual needs of others, you may have felt called to your vocation. Examining your current motivations for this work (it may be different from the original call) can provide a container within which you can tap into a personal form of inspiration.
Knowing what drives you to do what you do can be a resource when you feel depleted. But take this a step further ~ how is that motivation connected to your experience of joy and fulfillment as a result of the service you offer? It may not be enough to connect to what motivated you many years ago or even a few months ago if you are fresh in your field. A health crisis has the capacity to change on a fundamental level the very fabric of your personal guidance system. You may find that what you have always believed is morphing before your very eyes.
Here are a few Powerful Guiding Questions to assist the process:
- How have my values and beliefs changed since the pandemic began?
- What inspires me to be of service?
- How do I wish I could feel in my role as a service provider?
- What quality do I feel is most relevant to my expression of service right now? (compassion, patience, respect, empathy)
- And how does this quality apply to my self-care plan?
Asking the question only takes a moment; however, the answers may flow through you for hours or even days. It is not necessary to stop everything else in order to listen. Pose the question with gratitude for the answers you trust will come and carry on. It can be helpful to capture insights as they arise on your phone or a notepad. You can take more time later to reflect on what was unearthed for you. These insights then become touchstones to connect you back to motivation, inspiration, and values-driven action.
Anchor the micro steps you take with your intention and connection to personal relevance. When what you do for yourself emerges from a place of self-love and self-respect, then even the smallest act on your own behalf has profound impact.
Another instalment in the Conscious Service Series for Helping Professionals and Personal Caregivers.