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 the audio blog; Finally stop work from zapping your energy
If work is draining your energy there are a number of things that you can build awareness around, that once changed will start energising you.
It’s important to recognise if you recharge your batteries by engaging with people or by quiet time alone?
I am neither definitively an extrovert nor an introvert. So, when my energy is low I ask myself if the company of others, or being quietly focused and reflective, sounds most appealing. Following my instincts, basically listening to what I want and following that with a corresponding action always helps to raise my energy levels. I recommend you test the waters for yourself. Ask yourself what would feel good then either make an effort to talk to someone or create some time where you won’t be disturbed.
Ok so we don’t always have the choice at work– sometimes the situation dictates what is required such as needing to be outgoing to give a presentation. However, if you are pushing yourself to be continuously outgoing or being continuously insular, and it is against your true nature then you are heading for burnout or demotivation.
Who are you spending your time with?
Pay particular attention to how different people are affecting you. Limit time with ‘Debbie Downers’ and ‘Moaning Mikes’ – also known as energy vampires. If you engage in negative gossip it will bring your mood down, putting you in a negative headspace and thus diminish your energy. Seek out people at work whose company you find uplifting. Make a habit of regular interactions with them, even if it’s just a 20-second exchange at the water machine.
Are you trying to do everything at once?
How much multitasking are you doing? Studies show that it takes more energy (and is less productive) to keep switching from task to task. So it’s best to focus on single tasks for longer periods of time. Create the habit of completing one thing before moving onto another, including checking your emails.
What’s your body saying?
Look at your posture – are you sitting upright with a straight back or are your shoulders hunched, and your body slouched over your desk? An upright and aligned body posture enables energy and chi flow more easily in your body, plus it is easier for you to feel more centered and grounded.
Have you developed a sugar overload or caffeine habit, especially on the busy days? Don’t fool yourself; you know that leads to a crash at some stage. There are a huge variety of tasty healthy bars out there now – I tend to stock up on a brand of bars called ‘nakd’ and variety of nuts so I’ve got tasty go-to snacks that won’t lead to an ‘afternoon slump’.
Finally, gentleness and self care are very subtle yet powerful ways to both stop you getting too exhausted and to slowly bring your energy up. This can include being kinder in how you talk to yourself, taking some more mini breaks – even taking a minute to look out the window at an expansive sky or a 5-minute walk outside, taking some slow deep conscious breaths and nourishing yourself with some good food. Explore such simple things that feel good and nourish body and soul. Discover how energising that is.
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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!