Let’s return to discussing the Check-In exercise. The Check-In is an exercise in self-care as much as anything else. To be successful with the Check-In exercise, you must be willing to pause and interrupt your normal routine. If doing so feels difficult to impossible, then work with this psychological dynamic within yourself before you do anything else. Work towards increasing your commitment toward healing through self-care and increasing willingness to modify your behavior the tiniest bit by practicing perhaps just a momentary pause to breathe. Start small. Take as tiny a baby step as you need to in order to make such a behavioral shift.
Your notes from doing the Check-In exercise along with your answers to the questions for self-reflection presented in the last blog post indicate your strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. It would be a good time to pull out your journal and review what you have written down regarding the Check-In exercise. In this blog post, I’m going to continue to address how to use this information to make the specific shifts most meaningful to you so that you can take some further baby steps towards healing your body.
Your mission should you choose to accept it is to give thought to:
- Which skills could use some of your attention because they are new or not as developed
- Which parts of yourself could use more attention because they don’t ordinarily get much or enough.
In the last blog post we addressed how to increase the skills in #1. Those skills include slowing down, paying attention, tuning into various parts of yourself, non-judgmentally observing your inner experience, and describing in words what that experience is. Now, let’s shift to addressing how to work on #2, shining light on the parts of yourself that tend to be hidden in the shadows and therefore don’t get much or enough of your attention. For the time being, we are going to ignore the connectedness category.
I’d like you to consider which parts of you were easiest to tune into when you did the Check-In exercise. Was it the feeling category, the thought category, or the body/sensation category? Now, which parts of you were the most challenging to tune into, feelings, thoughts, or sensations?
Let’s ignore the one part of you that was the easiest to tune into and turn our attention to the other two parts, beginning with the most challenging part of you to tune into. Do you have a sense as to what made paying attention to this part challenging? Do you have access to this part of you, but you just don’t typically pay attention to it, or do you believe that you need to work on gaining access to this part of you? This is an important distinction. If you don’t have access, then you probably need to work on tuning into that part of yourself as described in the prior blog post. If you do have access, then keep up with the Check-In exercise, but tweak it.
Try doing Part 2 of the Check-In exercise for another week or two, but when you do it, don’t do the connections category and start with the category (head vs. heart vs. body) that feels most challenging. Go through all of the questions/subquestions for that one category. Then shift to the category that’s a bit easier. Then do the category that is easiest.
For the easier and easiest category, decide if you need the subquestions to help you to connect with that part. At some point, you may no longer need the subquestions to guide you. If and when that happens, just stick to the main question(s).
Keep doing Part 2 until it feels unnecessary to even practice the Check-In with the parts of you that feel easiest to pay attention to. At this point, it may be helpful to practice Part 2 with only the part that is challenging until it becomes more habitual to pay attention to that part of you regularly.
Make sure you reflect on the exercise at the end of the week. It’s important that you take the time to self-reflect. Doing so builds awareness and helps the nervous system to integrate new behaviors so that learning happens and new habits stick.
Based on what you discover about yourself over the course of the weeks during which you practice the Check-In exercise, you may find it beneficial to continue practicing Part 2 on an ongoing basis until you become more adept at checking in with and staying attuned to your whole self throughout your day-to-day life. As you become more comfortable doing this, you can also begin to practice sharing more about what you’re noticing in yourself with others, especially significant others. Doing so increases authenticity, intimacy, and connection.
On that note, next we are going to get into the importance of staying connected and healing relationally when you are trying to heal from a functional medical problem, so stay connected to me.