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!
I’m an analytical type and by nature a night owl, hence my brain can be very active at night. I often get a second wind as the evening progresses – and had developed the habit of starting things after dinner that had my mind buzzing with ideas and enthusiasm. The result was difficulty ‘switching off’ when I went to bed leading to difficulty sleeping. I resist believing that ‘this is just the way I am and have always been’, as I know it is possible to change neuropathways and create new habits. With this in mind, I have been looking for ways to transit from zoom to zen in the late evening. Here are the two things I focus on and why:
1. The Switch
I live and work in a bustling city, the underground is rammed and my life is busy. When I get home in the evening I know it feels really good to change pace. Sometimes I reset by just sitting in golden silence for a few minutes, which can be enough for me to switch into quieter ‘home mode’. Most effectively though to help me unwind and to quiet my mind is to do slow deep conscious breathes or a simple meditation practice. A few minutes of deep breathing will calm your nervous system, help you produce melatonin, and it will focus you in the present moment – the later is important for the over thinker whose mind is racing around all over the shop. I suggest using a guided meditation, as this will keep you more focused. The more you practice it the easier it will be to slow your mind down. (You could try my free audio ‘Leave work worries behind’ on my site https://joyoftheflow.com which includes a short guided practice to relax your body & mind).
Also in the hour before bed, I start to slow down my activities. I turn off my screens, I’ll do the dishes, get ready for bed etc at a slower more conscious pace. It sounds odd but as a naturally fast paced person, when I do things slowly and consciously it seems to create more space and elongate time.
2. What I DON’T do at night
It’s simple but makes a difference – leading up to bedtime I don’t look at screens (phone, laptop, TV). That habit of looking things up on my iPhone in bed (yes ‘in’ bed) had really snuck in there! Recently I’ve made a personal commitment to myself to not look at screens for a minimum of 30 mins before bed (and obviously not in bed either). The ideal is not to look at LED screens for 1-2 hours before bed, but I wanted to make a commitment that felt achievable every day.
The reasons to make this change are two-fold.
Firstly, LED screens and the data we are receiving are very stimulating for the mind. Even watching TV which we traditionally think of as ‘switching off’, or a relaxing activity is, in fact, a continued influx of visuals and information.
Secondly, when the sun goes down the pineal gland starts to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep. However looking at screens before bed fools that part of the brain into thinking it is still light and not melatonin making time, hence not sleep time.
I’d love you to reply and share what you are doing to switch off your busy mind at night.
If you find that you’re problems sleeping are due to ongoing anxiety or stress, then the program I am launching next month may be just what you need. This will reduce your anxiety and help you develop tools to connect to calm. If you’d like to discuss please get in touch (email@example.com), else wait for more details coming soon.
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