When we encounter setbacks physically, mentally or emotionally it’s sort of like a building that gets cracks in it. We can take a few knocks and totally handle it, but eventually, with too many cracks, the building takes a tumble. The foundation beneath the building, however, remains. 

Whether it’s an unexpected job loss or job cut, business/personal financial collapse, death of a loved one, injury, personal relationship hardship, environmental uncertainty when natural disaster strikes, a pandemic (!), and some of us for no apparent reason at all, we feel the cracks.

I remind myself that it can be in the very cracks where there is space for the light to shine through; when a building falls, a better one can emerge. After many years of contemplation, what I’ve now come to believe is this …Our body and mind can break down but with greater awareness, it is a door to access our shatterproof core, our foundation.

This is all fine on a good day but let’s be real here, we don’t always have good days. 

I have recently been told that I have an unhealed stress fracture in my foot after 4 months because I’ve ‘done’ too much. I’m in a boot and on crutches for the next 3 weeks minimum and can’t weight bear at all. As a wife, mother of 3 sons and yoga teacher that makes it a little challenging to say the least, but is it insurmountable? Loads of people have far worse. Well, this one liner isn’t helping today.

It sure doesn’t seem like I have been exerting too much to be experiencing this downward turn but the universe gives us signs (and signs again) for us to evolve. So perhaps I have. Maybe my body is breaking down in front of me. 

I reminisce about my lifetime achievements (not) of broken bones and even a broken spine thrown in there at 22. Always ‘doing’ too much. I wouldn’t change any of it for what I have become, but each time the physical and mental recovery has been excruciating. In and out of various body braces has been a repeated chapter of mine for years –  one step forward two steps back. Only optimistic side to this is that at least it’s how I found yoga 25 years ago. 

Couple days ago, my husband said of the foot break ‘Deb, at least your foot is broken, not your mind and if there’s anyone that can get through this, you can’. This may be true. Last year this time, I was in hospital having Electric Shock Therapy (ECT) after being at the pointy end of debilitating anxiety and depression. 

Ok so broken bones and broken mind. This is not looking good. Until I remember my shatterproof center.

On a good day, I realise it’s all in my perspective and part of life. Today I feel the foot (and now my shoulder from the crutches) but also recall all of my yoga and meditation (among other) teachings. I try to  lean into the discomfort, use my own healing touch and breathe into where it hurts. I’m breathing, walking on crutches but still walking, I’ve got family around me who are helping and that is actually easier in the COVID-19 restrictions. 

On a bad day, like when I got the recent news, I’m not seeing myself through this, especially since movement and physical exercise is at the cornerstone of my wellbeing. Here I am again, breaking down. It seems like everyone can move around me but here’s me having to depend on others, no way! (picture tantrum of a 2 year old and insert me, a 46 year old throwing my crutches across the room and my 10 year old needing to calm me down). 

Part of me despises comforting looks from others. I feel people giving me ‘pity’ when I see them. Weakness. This is an old pattern. With a different perspective, I am under no illusion – it’s entirely how I am taking and viewing the look or comment, not how people are giving it. It’s no doubt compassion from them which is one of the most important things I advocate and teach about. I just have a hard time bestowing it upon myself. Again, the universe.   

If I compare last year and wind forward to this year, with simply a broken foot, I’m in a damn good place. The rub is that I still have bad days and have difficulty accepting compassion from others and self-compassion.

I have come to realise that life is full of ‘shit bits’ (as my best friends and I of 40+ years have coined) and this is ok and perfectly normal. 

We all can benefit from practicing self-compassion to all of our parts, the hurting shit bit parts, the healed parts, and the slowly but surely healing parts, and for whatever comes our way. 

Here are a few tips that might be of value:

  1. Lean into discomfort (for a short time), remember to exhale (long) and see if wisdom ‘or Knowing’ emerges  (thank you Brené and Glennon)
  2. Give ourselves compassion no matter what (then we can notice when others give it to us)
  3. Still ‘show up’ and focus on what we can do (I can still swim!) 
  4. Allow waves of feeling sorry for ourselves but just don’t invite the self-pity to stay
  5. Distract at times especially when intensely darker times surface 
  6. Realise when we are going down the rabbit hole and do whatever it takes to hop out of it (part of that is seeking support) 
  7. Explore something new we haven’t done when we can’t do the things we want to do
  8. Get out in nature even for a few minutes even in the rain, wind and cold weather (it’s great for shifting perspective)
  9. Reach out to someone you love or someone who does not deplete you of energy
  10. Don’t give up

I lengthen my exhale as I breath out the discomfort of aches and pains in my body and mind today, and I feel a little more at ease. Whether we feel like we are breaking down physically, mentally or emotionally, we can remind ourselves we are all actually shatterproof at heart.

Written by Dr Deb Roberts, PhD  


  • Dr Deb Roberts has a PhD in public health. She is a writer, speaker, yoga teacher and mental health advocate. American born, she lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, three sons and golden retrievers Sparky and Indi. You can read more of her writing on her blog.