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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), else wait for more details coming soon.
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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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