Now that you know what the Green Zone is you may be asking yourself “What now”?
The first step is to identify what your Green Zone looks like. Not what you “think” it should look like.
Can you think of the last time you know you were in the Green Zone? If not, ask a friend, spouse, partner or child. Can they think of a time when you were calm, present, and focused? When you can identify a time, I want you to write it down. I want you to take time to remember what it felt like. What were you doing? How long did it last? How did your body feel? Write down whatever you can. You can use this handy-dandy worksheet if you’d like.
Since most of us are not used to being in the Green Zone, it’s kind of like we have to build a tolerance for it. Seems strange, to have to build a tolerance for calm; but, for those of us who are used to being “crazy busy”, there is going to be some discomfort. There are, however, some tools and skills that can help with this process.
The first one is Mindfulness. Oftentimes mindfulness and meditation are used interchangeably or get confused in our culture. When I talk about “mindfulness” I’m not talking about being still, in a perfect lotus position, with a mind as clear as a Buddhist monk. I’m talking about washing the dishes while you’re washing the dishes. What I mean is that while you’re washing the dishes you are thinking about washing the dishes. You’re thinking about the dish. The soap. The brush. The feel of the dish in your hands. The smell of the soap. The feel of the lather. The sound of the water. And then picking up the next dish. Yeah, that shit’s hard.
The most important thing about mindfulness isn’t being present with the soap. The practice of mindfulness happens when we catch our mind wandering to the grocery list and bring it back to the soap. THAT’s mindfulness. The practice of returning to the present moment. When you practice this skill you are retraining your brain. It has taken years, sometimes decades, for your brain to get used to Crazy Busy. And now you are trying to get it used to doing something totally new. There will be resistance. Because change is hard. So please be kind to your brain. It’s learning a new skill and it’s going to take practice.
Which brings us to our second tool, self-compassion. Self-compassion is treating yourself the way you want others to treat you. If you haven’t seen Kristen Neff’s Ted Talk about the Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion, please do yourself the kindness of watching it. Or, if you’re an HSP and you find the audio challenging you can read the transcript of her talk here. According to Dr. Neff, there are three elements of self-compassion:
Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgement
Common Humanity vs Isolation
Mindfulness vs Over-identification
So, if you were going to show compassion for yourself while learning the new skill of mindfulness it may look like:
“Oh shit. I’m rehearsing a conversation in my head about what I’m going to say next time I see my mom instead of thinking about the damn dish soap like Blair told me to.
(Self-Kindess) “It’s ok. I’m learning a new skill. My brain is used to worrying about the next thing and not being mindful. But I can choose to be mindful now.”
(Common Humanity) “Blair was right. This shit is hard. I’m not the only one who struggles with this. That’s why it’s called a mindfulness “practice”. Everyone has to practice this. I’ve never heard of mindfulness mastery!
(Mindfulness) I’m worried that if I don’t rehearse what to say to my mother then I’ll say the wrong thing like I do every time. But I’m not with my mother right now. And just because I practice what to say doesn’t mean I'll actually say it. In fact, I spend a lot of time rehearsing imaginary conversations with her that never actually happen. So maybe, for right now, I can set that aside and wash this dish. The water feels nice on my hands. Oh, I’ve never noticed how nice the soap smells. What is this gunk stuck on this dish? Gross, I bet John didn’t soak his plate after he ate grits this morning. He never does...oh wait. Nope. Dishes. Soap. Water. Here. Now.
Self-compassion is magic. I know this is true because I spent years "should-ing" on myself. But the "shoulds" only put pressure on me, making it harder and harder to move forward. The "shoulds" kept me stuck in perfectionistic thinking and in self-destructive behavior. The "shoulds" felt like resentment and looked like self-sabotage.
The "shoulds" are birthed from shame. And the antidote of shame is empathy. Self-compassion is how we show ourselves empathy. Self-compassion is the light that makes our own darkness seem less scary. And when we're not afraid of our own darkness we can share our light with the world.