Self consent: Self care when you have to do something hard.

white earphones on a black background

For most of us, a part of life is having to do difficult things that in an ideal world we would rather aviod.  The last post  acknowledged that sometimes it can be impossible to avoid things we don’t want to do. This one offers an exercise for working out how to look after yourself when you have to do difficult things.  

Exercise:

Next time you have something coming up that you really don’t want to, for whatever reason, consider what action you can take to make it slightly easier. Write it down, type it out, make a plan. Here are 5 prompts to get you started:

  1. Consider the physical environment: the smell, sight, sound, texture. Are there things that you can wear or take with you that might change how you experience these (e.g, noise-cancelling headphones for sound, strong chewing gum for smell, particular clothing or barriers for touch)? If distraction will help, by all means bring some. Whatever it is that will make the context around you easier, see if you can find a way to include it.
  2. Preparation time: can you plan in some preparation time so that you have calmly thought through what is going to happen and the outcome that you want from the situation?
  3. Recovery time: lots of research has shown that resilience relies upon having recovery time. Whether it is academic study, work or psychological trauma, bodies need recovery time to get the energy to face new challenges. So work out what works for you as recovery time and try to plan some in.

  4. Engage your support network: maybe you are less of a wimp than I am and you don’t need human (or canine) support at medical appointments and the like. Even so, your important people can be invaluable. You don’t have to have someone go with you; they can meet you for a coffee before or after; they can be a sounding board or a nice distraction. They can also be someone to help process your feelings.

  5. Plan something nice and acknowledge your emotions: simply acknowledging that something is difficult or unpleasant, rather than trying to push away difficult feelings, can help with treating yourself compassionately. I like this video as a metaphor for struggling against feelings. Allowing yourself to have emotions however difficult, and still doing things that feel meaningful, fulfilling or otherwise important makes a huge difference. So plan that meaningful thing, and try to focus your energy on doing that, rather than struggling against having the emotions that you are experiencing.

Try this exercise with a few things that you are doing because you have to rather than because you want to. Once you have, reflect on how you felt doing the activity, and in the days that follow. If you asked for support, what was the impact on those relationships? If you discovered a new tactic for making sound/smell/light easier, how did that feel? If you found that it made everything worse, what was it about the exercise that did that? Experiment with it, use what works, discard the rest. Afterall, nothing works for everyone!

  1. Some crowdsourced ideas to help with self care:
Earplugs Chewing gum Sunglasses or coloured lenses Fidget cube/spinner
Emergency snack Special treat (like fancy tea) Call a friend Masturbate beforehand
Exercise Make something Take a book Music
Femme armor Wear something fabulous Get a hug Meditate
Drink some water Find feline or canine to spend time with Book a massage Gardening
Put some essential oils in your hair Simulate a hug with a tightly wrapped duvet Play a game on your phone (esp while waiting) Make a list
Knitting Vapour rub on a tissue Do a progressive relaxation exercise Use a toilet break to take 5 deep breaths
Go for a cigarette Wear sexy undergarments Write a story Listen to a podcast

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