Have you ever been afraid of stopping because you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to get back up?
Yeah, me too. It’s called distraction, anxiety, fear, avoidance, whatever it is that you are scared to face if you just stop…To stop means to rest, and when we rest we are flooded with the thoughts and responsibilities that we put on the back burner. And once we recognize the thoughts and responsibilities we avoid, we then know we have to either do something about them or let it eat up space in our brains. The busyness allows us to excuse the need to make changes. And conversely, because we are constantly on the go, there is a fear that we may enjoy the stopping and are unsure how to pick back up again once we allow ourselves to come down from all the chaos. We fear enjoying the breather, because what happens when we have to pick back up again and be who everyone expects us to? It can feel terrifying to allow ourselves to be relaxed and happy when we think it is temporary.
COVID has exacerbated this process as it has forced us to stop, which I think is part of the reason we are seeing an increase in people’s deterioration of mental health, and/or breakthroughs and realizations. COVID has forced us to pause parts of our lives and face the reality of why we kept running on empty for so long…
We have to start seeing our reality for what it is. There is no magic wand that will make what is not working start miraculously working. When we constantly run, we think we are outrunning our reality when we are really just avoiding and prolonging the inevitable. The inevitable may be coming to terms with fears of being alone, or starting over, not yet finding our purpose, knowing we need to stand up for ourselves, or not being happy with our current situation. The inevitable may also be needing to leave a job or a relationship, telling someone no, hurting someone’s feelings, making a decision that impacts others…The list goes on and on.
Recognize and appreciate hopelessness. I know this sounds silly, but once we are honest with ourselves and realize something is hopeless, we start to make changes because we know we have to. We can start becoming the person we know we are and strive to be…Once we release what is hopeless, we can put our focus on what is important now. Do not miss out on current potential because you’re avoiding change and holding onto what is hopeless.
Find balance. This is hard to do. People like to talk about self care as some fluffy term for drinking wine and taking baths. In reality, self care is discipline and coming to terms with your own sh*t. It is creating a work/life balance, and putting your needs first sometimes. It is having honest conversations with yourself, spending time alone with your thoughts, and then dealing with whatever it is you find.
You have to enjoy your life and the fluffy things, but you also need to hold yourself accountable, set boundaries, and take care of your body. Do not underestimate the power of proper exercise, diet, water intake, and sleep.
One exercise I recommend is “what is on your plate”. Draw a big circle and inside of it write down everything that is currently on your plate. On the outside of the plate, write down all of the things you want on your plate that you do not make time for. Then try to figure out how to rearrange it all…What are things you can take off your plate whether letting them go or delegating to someone else? What can you replace those things with that you want on your plate, such as more alone time, going to the gym, picking up a hobby, or focusing on an important relationship you’ve neglected? Just see what little things you can start to incorporate while simultaneously removing some of those hopeless responsibilities or random tasks that someone else can take on.
There are a lot of answers held within our bodies. Aches and pains and constant problem areas are usually telling us to pay attention to our somatic symptoms, as our emotional state directly correlates with our bodies. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, and body aches/pains and sensations are all connected; they all have influence over each other. The self care piece of this is to take time to do a body scan, discover and pay attention to problem areas, and then work through them. For example, lately I have had several headaches and stomach cramps. I know this is directly related to feeling frustrated and stressed, as I have come to realize that I clench my jaw when I am overwhelmed with things that frustrate me and cause me to feel stuck. Clenching my jaw gives me a headache which is my indicator that I am overwhelmed and distracted with intrusive thoughts. These thoughts give me stomach cramps because they make me anxious.
Moral of the story; do not ignore your body and simply accept the aches/pains, because it is truly trying to tell you something. Also, pay attention to when your body feels relieved and relaxed, and incorporate more of what causes those positive sensations into your life.
Communication with someone you trust is key. There is nothing more revitalizing than staying connected to others. Tell people how you feel, and use your support system when you need it. When we run on empty, typically the relationships we want the most suffer because we prioritize work and life stressors over them, thus becoming additionally stressed because we know we are neglecting those people. Do not let yourself lose those that mean the most to you because you prioritize the things that overwhelm you. Even if all you have time for that day is a phone call while driving to/from the gym or for five minutes before bed, find time for the people who make you feel good.
Also be sure you are choosing positive connections for communication. If we reach out to someone who is typically negative or toxic, this will not help uplift us when we are overwhelmed. Find people who are a positive impact on you, hold you accountable, are trustworthy, and support your life.
Silence is eye opening. I have said it before and I will say it again, add more silence to your life! We use noise as a filler to further distract ourselves when running on empty. Drive to/from work in silence, turn off the tv when you aren’t watching it, don’t listen to music when you shower…add in small bits of silence every day. This is when we can start to come to terms with what is draining us, what we are avoiding, what we are missing out on, and what it is we want for our lives. This is also where we get to know ourselves, and ensure we are checking in to put our happiness and goals at the forefront of our decisions. And doesn’t that sound nice?
“Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom…The power to chose, to respond, to change.”