Brene Brown says it best when she tells us that we can’t selectively numb. If you numb your difficult emotions you are also numbing your joy and gratitude. So often we don’t even realize that we are numbing. Those habits that help you ‘switch off’ from life’s pressures are often what’s numbing us.
When I became comfortably numb
When I was 26 I started living by myself for the first time, having always shared my abode with many people. I loved my home and painted it beautiful colours. But I felt extreme unease at being alone. I went out as much as I could, but I couldn’t go out every night. When I stayed in I turned on music and the tv to distract me. Solitude felt like loneliness and loneliness ached. Soon enough I started smoking joints in the evening, which I hadn’t been at all interested in before then. I’d roll up before the anguish set in. Inhale, ‘take the edge off’, and think ‘oh look even the adverts are interesting now’. It got the hook in me and became my avoidance technique of choice for a couple of years. It didn’t make me feel better. My mind felt groggy. I didn’t feel in control of my habit, it seemed to control me.
Ignoring something doesn’t change it; instead there is an increased sense of discomfort or pain.
Eventually I realized that the crutch that helped me to adjust to living alone, was actually preventing me from really enjoying my home and my life. So I threw the crutch away and faced the silence. The very thing that I was then avoiding – spending quiet alone time, connecting to my feelings and thinking deeply about my life – is actually something that now nourishes me immensely. Facing whatever you are avoiding can be a powerful up-leveler and can take you to places far greater than you can even imagine.
You’re numbing techniques might be so normal to you that you don’t even recognize them as an avoidance of anything. You know when you come home and pour yourself a big glass of wine – but you do that automatically most nights.
Or out of habit you pick up your phone to scroll through Facebook several times a day. Of course doing these things at times is no real harm – but our lives are meant to be ‘switched on’ and engaged so we are living a quality existence. It is always worth asking yourself if there are difficult emotion such as loneliness, or a dream for a bigger life that you don’t think is possible.
Maybe you’ve just been pushing too hard and are oscillating from stress to switch off. I’d recommend you check out my vlog Avoid burnout – flow with the low for guidance on getting back in balance.
Let’s address the smaller numbing habits. So what step can you take today to become more ‘switched on’ instead of ‘switched off’? Being engaged and present enhances the quality of any experience.
You could phone a friend instead of having a Whatsapp exchange? Real connection is invaluable.
Cook something from fresh ingredients instead of throwing something convenient in the oven.
Read or research something that inspires you?
Your shift might be limiting your social media time to particular slots in the day instead of them infiltrating every quiet moment.
What if you sense there is a bigger avoidance going on? The bigger the avoidance, the bigger the growth opportunity!! If want to proactively up-level is it time to work with a mentor to help facilitate meaningful change? What change would you love and what sort of mentor or teacher can help you get there?
I love to support people to move from self doubt to listening to their heart and what its calling them to do, feeling supported, confident and taking actions that inspire them. You can book a complimentary ‘discovery session’ with me here today to start the empowering journey. You’ll know after one session if it feels right for us to work together more.
Life is meant to be enjoyed. If you have slipped in to ‘comfortably numb’ then one decision and one action can switch you on and turn it all around. Enjoy!
It’s Mental Health Awareness week so a perfect time to start or deepen your Mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is a way to connect to serenity and a feeling of peacefulness, which is much needed in our fast paced stressful society. A Mindfulness practice is even more valuable for those suffering from mental health issues – big or small.
The Mindfulness practice of taking slow deep conscious breaths and keeping your focus on your breath coming in and going out, may seem very simplistic yet this trains you to release anxieties and step away from stressful thoughts. You are ‘rewiring your brain’ so as to notice your thoughts and then to refocus your attention on your breath instead of those thoughts. By ‘rewiring your brain’ I mean that you are over riding your default pattern (e.g. of letting your thoughts rule your mood) to create new neuropathways in your brain and consequently new patterns.
With regular practice of a Mindfulness meditation you create a habit of connecting to calmness instead of engaging in those thoughts that spiral into feelings of anxiety or depression.
Slow deep breaths are also an effective way to physically release stress in the body and bring your nervous system back into balance.
In addition a range of mood enhancing chemicals can be produced when you meditate such as serotonin (‘the happy neurotransmitter’) and endorphins (resulting in the ‘feel good effect’). So yes, you can feel a bit blissed out after a meditation!
As a regular meditator, over time you’ll start to notice changes in your everyday behavior – maybe feeling relaxed when you’re in a traffic jam instead of being angry that these things ‘always happen to you’! Noticing these changes in yourself is very rewarding and uplifting. Allow time for these changes to start happening – Mindfulness is also about being kind and non-judgmental in our practice. The more you do a Mindfulness practice, the stronger that neurpathway becomes, and the more engrain the pattern becomes of connecting to peacefulness instead of get caught up in anxious thoughts.
So right now … take a slow deep breath in, filling your abdomen with air and slowly exhaling, emptying your abdomen of air. And then another, keeping your full conscious attention on your breath as you do so. Continue this for a few minutes and enjoy your increased feeling of calm in body and mind.
Has stress ever felt suffocating, has the ‘black dog’ (as Churchill called depression) ever got hold of you or have you had some dark nights of the soul?
This week’s Mental Health Awareness week in the UK is a powerful movement to end the stigma regarding mental health and the notion that suffering from stress or depression are something to be ashamed of.
Both stress and depression have impacted my life in different ways, and I suspect in some form they have touched all of our lives. My Mum suffered from depression, and as a family, we didn’t know how to talk about that or deal with that in a very positive way. I never discussed Mums depression with my friends, preferring to keep it private. My teenage memory is of feeling helpless and sad for Mums obvious turmoil, and a slight judgmental anger, wishing she would just ‘deal with it’. In adulthood, my judgment was dissolved by my compassion – and this was a pivotal change that enabled me to be more supportive and kind. I wonder what conversations could have been had when I was growing up to make that shift earlier. A quote that helped me make the shift was
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
This quote softens me into more loving-kindness for others, and for myself. Try it out. Does that quote change how you perceive some people? Or even help you to be less harsh on yourself?
While I don’t suffer from depression, life has had its challenges and I have had innumerable angst-ridden ‘dark nights of the soul’. One such time was when I was dealing with immense pressure at work. This had been going on for many months. I meditated, eat well, had occasional acupuncture, talked to mentors and took many other actions to try to keep myself ‘in balance’, to get me through it. But the pressure and demands on me kept increasing. All the signs were telling me that this situation was not good for body, mind or soul. Yet what kept me trapped in that situation for so long was the thought that ‘I should be able to deal with this’ and that I was ‘weak’ if I didn’t stick with it. Does that sound familiar? Have you ever spoken to yourself like that?
It’s kind of crazy to think of stepping away from something detrimental to one’s wellbeing as a sign of ‘weakness’.
This I feel is a societal stigma and thankfully a reframe is slowly happening. It took a huge amount of courage and self-love to finally say ‘this is too much pressure and I won’t keep doing this’. My situation improved immeasurable from there, although I did feel residues of shame for a while. I kept reminding myself that to endure oppressively high levels of stress is not a badge of honour or statement of my worthiness.
The distressing feelings that kept resurfacing over those months were, in fact, a neon flashing red light that the situation needed to change. If such signs are ignored and if someone continues to push themselves to a place of imbalance for a prolonged period there is a risk of serious health impacts further down the road. Besides, it’s an unhappy place to keep yourself in. Mental health matters.
I believe we can all do our part to end stigmas about stress and depression, by firstly being honest with ourselves about any judgments we have of ourselves or another who is suffering. Then have a new healthier more loving conversations on these topics. A kind thought and a kind word can go a long way to providing the support and understanding that we all need.
Listen to or download audio blog: 3 essential elements to connect you to your Zen
A busy office is a frenetic environment. There is often a deluge of requests and tasks of varying complexity, coupled with a sense of urgency. There aren’t enough people to do the job and everything is needed 5 minutes ago. Sound familiar? Such conditions are hardly conducive to calm clear focus. Instead, our parasympathetic nervous system is frequently stimulated putting us into the ‘stress response’. Our blood pressure rises, our breath is shallow, our body is tense, we react quickly but we are also on edge. In this reactive state, we are not in our power center. A holistic solution to becoming your calm and productive ‘Zen’ self in the office should incorporate addressing your mental, physical and creative self. Let’s look at how you deal with situations when in a stressed state and what a Zen alternative could look like.
Consider your ‘firefighting’ self. It reacts to whatever comes your way, often yo-yoing you from task to task. You start work on a document, then respond to an incoming email, then switch focus again as you realize you need to prep for that meeting in 5 minutes. Then another email comes in, and you can’t stop yourself from having a quick peek to ensure it’s nothing urgent.
Now let’s look at how your Zen-self deals with all the demands coming your way. Your Zen-self knows your top priorities for the day, knows ahead of time what meetings you need to prep for and keeps focused on single tasks for much longer periods of time. Yes, that does mean not checking every email as it comes it when you are working on something else.
Your anxiety-driven-self see’s problems and obstacles. Your amazing analytical skills are focused on seeing all that is wrong. You fret about finding a solution or time to get things done, which actually uses up a lot of mental energy and time.
Your Zen-self is aware of the issues but the primary focus is on the solution. You know there is a positive way forward.
Your stressed-self is so identified with your mental activity that you have no awareness of how you are physically, or when your breathing is shallow, when your body is tense or when you are energetically off balance.
Your Zen-self regularly takes slow conscious deep breaths. Your Zen-self knows what a powerful tool your breath is to keep you grounded, calm, clear and focused. Your Zen-self knows that you need to get up from the desk regularly to move your body, to not be stuck in your head. Your Zen-self relishes those mindful moments of connecting to your senses – of tasting your food, of hearing laughter, of feeling the warmth of the sun on your face.
Your serious-self does not see the purpose or relevance of personal creativity or play in the workplace and does not have the time anyway.
Your Zen-self goes on lunchtime photo walks, seeing what is around with fresh eyes and playing with your own artistic abilities. Your Zen-self is inspired by how joyful the Dalai Lama is. Your Zen-self is playful with colleagues.
Your Zen-self loves to see the beautiful expansive sky.
Your Zen-self knows that inspiration and solutions flow more easily when you take time to step away from it all, even for a few minutes, and nourish your soul.
Your Zen-self is inside you now, waiting for you to connect.
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To download FREE audio ‘Leave work worries behind’ click here
Listen to or download audio blog: 5 secrets to banish work anxiety on Sunday evenings
Do work thoughts start to invade your mind on Sunday evening, leaving you a little anxious for the remainder of your weekend?
Do you start switching into work mode after your Sunday dinner, perhaps checking and responding to work emails? Has Sunday evening become an extension of your working week?
The weekend is your free time. It’s time to have fun, to replenish and to explore life! Here are my top secrets to banishing work anxiety on Sunday evenings, so the whole weekend is yours to enjoy:
1. Start on Friday. Before you leave work on Friday map out your to-do list for Monday. Be clear on your top 3 high-priority tasks for the day. This need only take a few minutes but it makes the difference between starting Monday on the back foot or front foot. Once you know you have organized your work on Friday, you know you will start Monday with a clear focus instead of stepping into Monday morning mayhem.
2. Don’t look at work emails on Sunday (or over the weekend at all for that matter). Give yourself permission to have a full weekend of personal time. If it’s a ‘must’ to check your emails on Sunday then dedicate a defined slot to review what has come in and whether it impacts your priority to-do list for Monday. Resist looking at work emails after that. Can you turn off your work email on your phone so you won’t see new emails without actively going in to look at them? If not then consider switching your phone to airplane mode on Sunday evening.
3. Get my free audio download ‘leave work worries behind’ from this website – you can click on the link at the bottom of this blog. Do the guided exercise to relax and release tension, followed by the visualization exercise. You might choose to visualize how you want to feel at the end of your working day on Monday. Imagine having a great day at work and how you might feel at the end of the day. Positive expectations put you in the right mindset for a good day.
4. Swap your old Sunday night habit of switching into work mode, for a new calming and nurturing Sunday night ritual. Psychologically this change means you will look forward to Sunday evenings instead of dreading them. In the hour or so before you go to bed, start winding down. Have a bath with candles or try some gentle bedtime yoga. ‘Yoga with Adriene’ on YouTube is a great free resource. She has a 7-minute or a 20-minute bedtime yoga session. Explore other ways to peacefully replenish, so your Sunday night ritual is one you want to do each week.
5. A simple gratitude exercise is very powerful. Ask yourself what three things you have most enjoyed over the weekend? Consider what experiences have you had, and who you have shared your time with over the weekend. It is also a wonderful practice to recall three small simple things you have enjoyed over the weekend such as hearing a birdsong, seeing the sun break through the clouds, the smell of your coffee, or that delicious slice of cake. Recollecting and feeling grateful for your weekend really does enhance your feeling of having had a fulfilling weekend, and that’s a much more satisfying way to end your weekend than worrying about work!