This week, the Kindle eBook edition of Self-Care for Givers and the Helping Professions has been released. To celebrate the launch of the digital edition, I spoke to Emma Sims about lockdown, New Year’s resolutions and looking after our wellbeing.
Jan Longshadow: Emma, what is your advice to people who are struggling with their wellbeing amid yet another lockdown? What has proven helpful to you?
Emma Sims: This is a really interesting question as it helps me to reflect on my own challenges during this latest lockdown. A strategy that I have employed throughout has been to be kind to myself and know that I won’t be as productive and that’s OK, using the adage ‘this too shall pass’. Recently, due to events, I felt more challenged with mental and emotional impacts and I reminded myself of ‘acceptance’ and the Serenity Prayer
‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference’.
I was battling in my mind with things that I couldn’t control, I remembered to enlist acceptance again and also to take each day at a time and each moment at a time. I ask myself, ‘Am I ok right now?’ and the answer is ‘Yes’. Guiding my thoughts back to the present time allows me to stay focused and helps with potential worries, which are always set in the future – understanding that worrying in itself will not change the future but staying in the present can be fortifying.
Also, throughout I have asked for help and support from business professionals such as my supervisor and have had frequent sessions with her; help with technology and admin with doing more online and a general business support check-in, as well as Townsquare who provide a wealth of business support.
It’s great to see that local mental health organisations such as Advance Brighter Futures are doing a lot to help people who are struggling, as are NEWCIS, an organisation which supports carers. It can be scary asking for help when we feel unsure, whether that be help from friends and family or professionals, but it is such a relief when we get that support and find there is something that we can do.
Being kind to ourselves and taking responsibility for our own health and well-being can ultimately be very empowering though, and help us to feel like there is something that we can do rather than everything is out of our control. There are often little things we can do such as not generalising our thinking by using comments such as ‘everything’ is out of our control – well what can we do? Researching ‘immune support’, what is good for the immune system, what else can we do to help my mental health, buying a book on self-care… Not that I would recommend one 😉 ) and if all else fails take one day at a time. Tomorrow is another day, things can change, if I’m struggling with something I may decide that today I will just be kind and not have too high expectations of myself or it may be that I have to face any fears head-on and get through it. I often do a self check-in and ask myself ‘what do I want to do right now?’ and listen to how my body feels. Over Christmas, it was great to revisit some old brain switch offs such as Freecell and solitaire and don’t forget the therapeutic power of nature!
J.L: There is a lot of pressure on people when it comes to New Year’s resolutions – what are your thoughts on this topic and how do you like to start the new year?
E.S: For many years I’ve realised that I tend to hibernate in winter, as I experience quite a drop in energy and that’s part of natural cycles of the seasons; if we are sensitive we can be strongly connected with the seasons and cycles of the moon. Because of that, New Year’s resolutions often felt undoable for me, I lack oomph and don’t want to set myself up to fail. I see many people making resolutions and not attaining them – though some do and do well and it’s always good to try if we have that motivation. However, what I came to notice over the years was that Imbolc, which is around Feb 1st, signifies the start of me waking up from winter. My energy stirs, I begin to have more creativity and if I have any intentions (rather than resolutions) these seem easier to start to take steps to fulfil then.
The covid epidemic has been challenging and, like many, my weight has increased due to less activity, the joy of cake and Christmas eats. However, what I have noticed is that whereas in the past I may have been hard on myself about that I am more accepting which really does take the pressure off. I was reflecting today if we can change our self-talk and lessen our self-pressure perhaps we can live in balance yearly rather than just ‘trying’ in January.
I often joke about how several years ago I decided to give up being hard on myself for lent and how learning to do that lasted for several years, not just until Easter. It wasn’t until we went into the first lockdown that I realised I was actually cultivating greater self-compassion and achieving something. Resolutions aren’t just for January. It doesn’t mean that you have failed if you fall off any wagon, but you may well fail if you don’t keep getting back on it! As someone said to me once, ‘What have we ever learnt by getting something right first time?’
Mindfulness increases our awareness of our learning about ourselves in the creation of better habits.Emma Sims
J.L: For a lot of people, diet is a priority in the new year. Could you tell me very briefly about your solution – mindful eating?
E.S: Often the resolution is a weight loss/get fit goal and whilst healthy eating is a good intention, mindful eating tends to work better for me than slimming or exclusion diets. Mindful or conscious eating looks towards staying balanced generally rather than yoyo mentality of eating and dieting. Mindfulness in itself can help to turn the new year resolutions into all year rounders, noticing how we are at any point during the year.
Mindful eating takes a balanced approach to what we consume. It is about cultivating awareness of what we eat and why, so we get to know ourselves better through this practise. It leaves judgment behind and the value judgements of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. It is as it is. Most of us know that a modern diet isn’t necessarily a healthful diet, with processed foods and high sugar and so on. Many of these factors about what is healthy, however, are debatable and change as we understand more. We often know intuitively what we probably should do, and it can be unique to us, what works for one might not work for another. We don’t always achieve our ideal, but instead of criticising ourselves for this, we take the view that we will do what we can to promote healthful eating, we slow down notice and savour what we are eating. This can help us to consume less, noticing our feelings too, rather than ‘stuffing’ them down. If and when we don’t or aren’t able to or don’t’ feel able to make fully wholesome choices we accept and own that, and by doing so just enjoy what we do choose to eat.
J.L: What do you enjoy most about your role as both a therapist and an author?
E.S: I get immense satisfaction working with people who are wanting to make changes to their lives, who take responsibility for their health and wellbeing and are looking to help themselves. Intuition flows and I find it inspiring. There are moments during hands-on therapies, such as massage or reflexology, where I feel intuitively drawn to work in a particular way and where and how to work next. It is extremely relaxing for me too and then seeing how the client frequently benefits from that treatment is so rewarding (I love it when I have often forgotten to take payment from clients as that reminds me how it is in the doing that I enjoy).
Now, as an author too, the enjoyable part of that process again is being in that inspired ‘flow-state’, working intuitively. Similar to doing the therapies, I open up for the words (or the therapy) to flow through me. I hear the words in my mind, they make sense as if I’m taking dictation and I feel a sense of wholeness. I may read back and think ‘Did I write that?’. Again, it’s the feedback from others that something they have read has benefited them that is so rewarding. It surprises me and I feel an immense sense of gratitude for being part of that process for the person. I’m rather astounded and touched at the positive feedback that the book has had so far, as in the lead up to publication was a time where quite a lot of self-doubt crept in that I had to work through. How it is helping people who don’t just consider themselves as professionals but everyday givers such as parents and ‘good friends’ is really humbling.
J.L: Do you anticipate releasing any more books in the future?
Yes, there are a couple of books that I have worked on over the years and are coming to the forefront to be finished. Those are ‘Your Intuitive Heart’ which is about the benefits of and how to develop the intuition further and my own journey with that. Also, a Holistic Approach to Better Mental Wellness/Health is a course that I have run in the past and the book will expand on that with examples of my own holistic journey which continues to help my mental health. My experiences will illustrate some of the approaches that I have used that may be able to help others.
With suicide up 70% at this time, I felt from the beginning of this time that the implications for mental health problems could be a major issue. My own ongoing experiences make my journey into something meaningful – ‘composting’ I call this!! There is also a Holistic Approach to Fibromyalgia and what has helped me with that and being a Reiki Master Teacher, a book about integrating Reiki into our daily lives.
Self-Care for Givers and the Helping Professions is was released this week in Kindle eBook format. Click here to view it on Amazon.