I often feel overwhelmed at two points in my year, September and March. It sounds weird but over the years I have just come to know myself. I am an institutionalised person, I have either been in school, university, school again, university again or the church. This means that my life is generally underpinned by a three term system now and is punctuated by the two largest Christian festivals of the year; Christmas and Easter. (Just because none of us care much about March right now, and you may be wondering: I generally feel out of resources by March but know that I have to get myself up for Easter before I can have a rest.)
September on the other hand is my true nemesis. I dressed my young son for his first day at school today. I could feel a knot of dread in my stomach for him as I straightened his tie for the obligatory ‘first day photo’ in the back garden. Just before I left for work, I shot upstairs for my best gel with which I carefully spiked and styled his hair. As a victim of some pretty extreme school bullying myself, my son wasn’t going to be the polite and attitude-less lamb to the slaughter that I was.
I know! My wife often tells me to stop reacting against my past. Stop teaching him Karate moves. Stop encouraging him to imitate a T-Rex. He is only 3.
September: A time of dread when the new school shirts were bought at Co-Op and the pencils were sharpened and a little nervous tic and would start appearing in the corner of my eyelid. And here we are more than 25 years since '3 terrible years' and still September has its tremor.
I was wondering yesterday how many of us who suffer from Post-Holiday Blues are actually suffering from Pre-Term Anxiety. Of course there are events pressing, pastoral issues that have been brewing, courses and sermons and meetings and projects, all of which flash up as 'valid reasons' to feel on-edge, low or overwhelmed. They would appear much more ‘grown up’ and sensible reasons for this season. Yet it’s the little school boy in me that needs to have his day, make his voice heard, remind me that I am still he.
September is a season to practise self-compassion, not to bully the inner-child out of the door and through the school gates of life. (A self-attacking internal narrative is common for many people in this season as the ‘inner-bully’ drives them to task). It is time to listen to your inner reservations and aspirations for the months ahead with kindness and understanding.
How can you practise self-Compassion?
Self-compassion is not the same as self centeredness. Instead self-compassion is only available to us because Jesus has shown us what compassion is and invited us to nurture his compassion within us.
Find a place of physical stillness and turn your palms upwards laying them open on your knees.
Breathe consciously and lightly from your diaphragm (upper stomach area).
Pray, “Jesus or all compassion, awaken in me your heart of kindness that I may find the voice within me. Give me compassion for what I hear and a heart to nurture and soothe those wounded parts of me that raise their voice. Amen.”
Wait and allow thoughts to come to mind, without disputing or diminishing what you see.
Speak words of kindness and compassion to yourself, as if the concerns and fears you have seen where spoken to you by a dear friend.
Pray that you might live the rest of the day informed and compassionate towards these fears.