Our struggle with self-control

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? We all struggle with self-control at times. Forming new habits, aiming for goals or trying to develop character, can often leave us feeling the frustration of the quote by St Paul.  

The dictionary defines self-control as:


 “The ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires, especially in difficult situations”  

But how do we get to the place of being in control of the self?

Whenever I think of having more self-control I automatically feel a bit a more tired. It’s like a funny knee jerk reaction because, I feel like to embody self control it will tiring, an uphill struggle. 

So why does self-control feel like such a heavy and weighty topic? I believe that comes from our motivation behind why we value it. Often it comes from a desire to be better, be healthier, be more productive, be calmer. 

It is motivated by wanting more of something that we feel we are lacking. Or it comes from a place of protection and preservation, protect the good that you have stored and cultivated, don’t risk depletion….but again this is also coming from a sense of lack. It easily becomes something we are striving towards using our own strength and energy. This why self-control can feel so heavy and a little exhausting. Maybe it is why we often crave a holiday from it. 

So, what does self-control look like when it doesn’t come from a sense of lack? What does a lighter but no less profound version look like? I believe pure self-control comes with truth, and truth instils a greater sense of identity in us. 

My mum always use to repeat this phrase to me when I was growing up: 

Culture often tries to tell us that the reverse is true. Do what feels good, this begins to form our behaviour, which ends up creating interesting beliefs where we are trying to grapple for what feels true.

Self-control is not governed by our emotions but helps keep them from ruling us. It is the ability to do things despite how we feel. 

It is really important when considering self-control to look at the truth that creates our foundational beliefs. How we define ourselves fundamentally affects how easy self-control is to implement. 

If I believe my value and worth lie in the success of my actions then self-control starts to become a daunting topic. Suddenly our worth and identify is resting on how well we can control ourselves. Now that is a terrifying prospect. 

The weight we feel is the consequence of repeated failure, slips ups and the dread that success will elude us, or we won’t be good enough. This feeds into the core belief that if I am not productive I am not enough.

The alternative approach starts from a place of truth and core identify, so when we mess up, have an unproductive day or react in a way that we regret, it doesn’t affect our core sense of self-worth. 

There is grace to start again when we are not defined by the moment when we lack self-control. 

There is a lightness to this approach. The pressure if off, and actually the focus has shifted. If we are struggling with self-control around a topic it can be helpful to address if there is something untrue that you are believing. 

Self-control is about having a practise where we dust ourselves off daily from false expectations, and we to tune back into that core sense of self. Rather than being motivated from a sense of lack, we become motivated to step out with the courage to be all we have been created to be. 

If you are struggling with self-control around a topic it may be helpful to assess your driver.

Is it coming from a sense of lack? I am not enough until….. I am thinner…fitter…more successful…achieve this goal. 

Or it is coming from the truth about your core belief and identity. I value my health, success is not the outcome but about giving it a go, I am a creative individual who comes alive when I …..

It is a subtle shift but I think it is a fundamental one. Maybe take a moment to check in with the true core belief you have about yourself. How that is this fuelling the motivation behind your actions. 

Visit our Track Library to do your reflective self-control meditation today.

Introverts and Extroverts in a season of Lockdown

This article is brought to you by Kerry Mcleish from Rest For Life

Having to stay at home brings with it many challenges, these challenges will be different for each of us depending on a whole variety of factors. I have been reflecting on how being an introvert, or an extravert might affect our experience in this extraordinary time. In particular, how does this aspect of our personality influence the way in which we rest or recover from all that drains us in life? How can that understanding help us to find ways that help sustain us in the current situation?

By an introvert, I am talking about someone who is re-energised and refreshed primarily by spending time on their own, having space, silence, solitude and stillness. Whereas, an extravert would be more likely to be re-energised, and refreshed by spending time in communication, community, and company.


For some of us staying home means we are alone, physically isolated from everyone but, mostly in control of our own environment. For an introvert, this may actually not bring too many challenges. But for an extravert, this could feel stressful, or even exhausting.

The challenge for you extroverts is to find new and safe ways to connect with others, to find virtual community and conversations with individuals and groups. Many people are initiating video conversations with friends, meeting virtually for coffee, and organising group gatherings online. Maybe you could be the one to initiate something. There are many schemes connecting people in local communities, either to help or be helped. In the past, you may not have had time to be well connected locally; here’s an opportunity to meet a whole new group of people. So many activities are becoming available online. Being with others while also staying at home has never been easier; you can atttend exercise classes, pub quizzes, church services and choirs. Have a look around and find what works for you.


For others staying at home means being surrounded by others in a relatively small space. Each person with their own needs and personalities. For the extraverts among us, they may be enjoying the social interaction. However, for an introvert, you may be finding this overwhelming, anxiety-provoking and exhausting experience.

The challenge is to find ways to have time alone, pockets of quiet, even if you need earphones to achieve that. Choosing to go for a walk alone, to soak in the bath, or retreat to your bedroom/spare room. These are all ways of creating that vital quiet space.

You may also need to be careful about how much you communicate with those outside of your home; how may group chats you join or video calls you accept. You may not be able to fully control the amount of contact you have with those you are sharing your home with, so think carefully about any extra communication where you do have a choice.

Creating sustainable habits

In both cases, recognising what you need is the first step. Finding new, creative ways to meet your needs will take a little time. It will require experimenting and reflecting on what works for you and what doesn’t. Since we do not know the length of time this situation is going to go on for, it is important we invest time figuring out how to create a sustainabily healthy environment. It is important to make sure we keep as energised and well as possible, both for ourselves and for those you are in community with, both real and virtual.

Remember, you may have both introverts and extraverts in the same house; not everyone is aware of their own needs or reactions to the current situation. Perhaps you could start a conversation today around how to create safe environments for those with whom you share your home.

Rest for Life, provides coaching and training on how to learn the art of resting well.

Browse the reflective meditation library to help facilitate your rest today.

Why am I so tired when I am doing so little?

Mental, emotional, social and spiritual effects of living in lockdown.

By Kerry McLeish from Rest for life

Many of us are not doing our normal jobs at the moment, and we may be doing less physical activity than usual, but that doesn’t mean we are not working hard. Living in lockdown is a tricky thing to navigate.

Mentally we are all trying to figure out how to do life in these extraordinary times. Whether you are working at home for the first time, with all the challenges that this brings, or you may be trying to juggle three jobs at the same time, you’re paid work, parenting and teaching. Or even just trying to find a way to get enough food for next week, perhaps not only for yourself but for vulnerable others as well. We are all problem-solving in many and various new ways at the moment, and this can be tiring.

Living in lockdown

Many of us are working very hard emotionally right now. Caring for our families, friends and neighbours who may be struggling with the crisis emotionally themselves. We may be concerned, anxious, or even fearful ourselves about what tomorrow may bring. We are grieving for those occasions, events or regular activities that are important to us but no longer possible. All this is going on even if we and all those we love are well and safe. But of course, it is multiplied if anyone we care about is unwell. This emotional work drains us of energy and can leave us feeling exhausted without having actually ‘done’ anything.

Social distancing and social isolation have brought changes for all of us in different ways, and the effect can be socially exhausting. Either because we have little or no contact with anyone else, or because we are living in very close quarters with others and everyone seems to want to connect with us but in new and unfamiliar ways. We may be struggling with having too few or too many interactions in a day – either can be draining. In addition, many are finding that connecting through video calls is a great tool in this time, but it can be much more tiring than meeting with people face to face.

Lastly, during this time the big questions of life are starting to crop up, ones we usually can manage to happily ignore. Questions about life and death, about what I value most, what am I prepared to sacrifice, who do I trust, and what do I put my faith in. Some of us will be reflecting on these issues seriously perhaps for the first time, others will be working really hard to avoid thinking about these questions. Either way, this is spiritual work. 

So even if we sat in a chair all day and ‘did’ absolutely nothing, at the moment, we will all be working hard, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually if not physically. So, if you are feeling more tired than usual or completely exhausted, even though you feel like you are doing very little, this is not surprising. 

Be kind to yourself, and those you live with who may well be feeling the same. While living in lockdown, take time to rest, you need it, maybe now more than ever. 

Browse the reflective meditation library to help facilitate your rest today.

Meditation and the Brain

Over the past few years we have seen meditation become increasingly popular. It has become recognised by healthcare as being a practice that can improve a person’s mental health. But, how exactly does it do this?

To understand why meditation is good for our mental health we must do a whistle stop tour of how meditation effects the brain.

The science

You may have heard of the terms grey matter and white matter, which makes up the brain. Simply put, grey matter is the cell bodies and white matter is filaments or the wires that extend from these bodies. Studies show that meditation can increase the grey matter in our brains; this means that there is an increasing density of cell bodies in certain areas of the brain.

The particularly interesting aspect, is which areas of the brain, meditation practice seems to affect. Here is a description of the top 3 areas affected:

  • Assessment centre of the brain = lateral prefrontal cortex:  This part of the brain helps us perceive things more logically, rationally and from a balanced perspective. It can override our ‘Me centre’ of the brain which takes things personally.
  • Me Centre = Medial prefrontal cortex: within this area there are two sections. One section which refers all experiences back to you e.g. your perspective and experiences; and, another section which is involved in feeling empathy.
  • Fear Centre = Amygdala: linked with our fight or flight response. This primitive part of the brain can create the physical feelings of anxiety.

The effect

Meditation has been shown to increase connections between the assessment centre and fear centres, increasing our ability to critically assess a situation when we experience threat or pain. It also increases grey matter in the areas of the brain linked with empathy, allowing us to be better able to see things from another perspective and demonstrate more compassion.

On top of these amazing increases in grey matter, meditation has also been shown to decrease the connection between the Me Centre and Fear Centre.

As a result we are less likely to always view physical sensations of stress/anxiety through the lens that the problem is with us. This is now where the critical thinking kicks in, allowing us to assess if we are the problem or if it is external. This gives us the ability to assess rather than just succumb to sensations of anxiety that arise in the body. This is why meditation has shown to reduce levels of anxiety. In order to experience these incredible benefits we need to treat the brain like muscles in a gym. By having a regular practice we strengthen these new neural pathways. Although it is possible for the brain to revert back to its old ways, even maintaining a short regular practice everyday can keep these new neural pathways nice and strong.