A few years ago I read a book in which the protagonist insisted that you should always keep enough money in your bank account to run away. No matter how secure your situation may seem, how happy you are with you at whichever moment in time – make sure you have that money. Nothing says security like that. That struck me at the time and has always stayed with me as a wonderfully sensible thing to do. However, that’s impossibility for most people – to sustain a runaway mission – that’s got to be at least a thousand pounds.
So, I came up with my own rule. Always make sure you have four pounds. Whether there are four pound coins tucked away in the receipts section (that you have been meaning to empty for six months) in your purse, or a couple of coins wedged into that useless little pocket that sits inside the useful pocket of your jeans, make sure it’s there. Four pounds will buy you whatever coffee/hot chocolate/elderflower tea you choose at a coffee shop.
I really love staying in – and I also really love going out. However, I have one of those personalities that makes up its mind very quickly and is unforgiving from then onwards. Let me give you an example: sometimes when I’m working on a piece of writing, I will stay in the house for days. It takes me a very long time to finish and be satisfied with a project because I like things to be a certain standard. The problem is, I live in a fairly small and messy house with five other people and in situations like this I can very suddenly feel trapped.
That’s when my four pound self-preservation rule comes in. I’ll put down whatever I’m doing, put my coat and boots on, on top of whatever I’m wearing and go to costa coffee. For the first half an hour or so I’ll just concentrate on breathing. I’ll breathe whilst I’m sipping my mint hot chocolate, I’ll breathe whilst I listen to the heating up of the hot water machine and the sound of porcelain cups on wood.
Sometimes, I think for everyone and for seemingly no reason, things can get overwhelming. I can become overwhelmed simply by a series of underwhelming things. You sort of feel like there’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing you want to do. But as long as there’s four pounds in my purse, I know what I must do.
Here are my top five rules for self-preservation:
Write a list of next steps:
After you’ve got breathing down, help yourself by creating a plan of action. Bring a piece of paper and a pencil and tell yourself what to do (take a bath/ shower, read a chapter of Harry Potter, make some toast, keep warm). That way when you’ve finished the list, you don’t have to think anymore – just blindly do what you’re told.
Take things at your own pace:
No-one knows what you need now except you – and because of that you are the only one that can help yourself. If someone wants you to go out, say no. At this point you need to be your own best friend, don’t listen to anyone else.
Do not beat yourself up or harbour anger towards yourself:
There’s just no point. You might counter with, “well if I don’t punish myself, how will I learn?” You’ll definitely still learn, don’t worry.
Do not think ‘what if?’:
Similarly, you’re the only one who’s going to protect you here. I honestly know and totally appreciate how important self-discipline is – but you need someone on your side. Channel your ‘good-cop’.
Don’t worry – you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be:
This is a Chris Martin quotation that I learned a few years ago and you might think it’s a load of rubbish coming from a rich and successful musician (it is) but it’s worked for me on a lot of occasions. It goes without saying that this one needs to be taken with a generous handful of salt – but it won’t hurt to bear it in mind.
I can imagine people reading this article and thinking I’m pretty lame. And I can understand that. I was in two minds as to whether or not to write about this subject but I decided to in the end because abiding by this advice has brought so much happiness and comfort to an otherwise demanding disciplinarian.
And if only one person takes only one percent more mindfulness or well-being from it, then it’s worth it, I reckon.
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