This post is for those of us who are feeling the strain of a year filled with lots of demands and thoughts have started to creep in that we just don't have the capacity to manage any more.
Epictetus (a first century Greek-born slave of Rome who became a great philosopher and teacher) is said to have shared this wisdom:
"It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it".
Have you noticed more and more...
a growing gap between your capacity AND the demands of the situation (you have noticed thoughts like, 'I don't want this to be happening to me!’, 'I can't do it all', 'I just can't handle any more', 'When will I get a break!?'),
you have little to no time to actively soothe and recharge your energy,
you are winding down after work in unhelpful ways (e.g. drinking excessive alcohol or using recreational drugs; over-eating or eating junk food or not eating enough; you are glued to your screen / device), and/or
your home life is impacted (from sleep to your social life to engagement in your usual enjoyable activities).
For a lot of us, we get stuck for far too long in drive mode (doing, doing, doing) or threat mode (managing threats, stressors or surviving), without having adequate rest. The body is designed to sustain periods of intense activity, which are balanced with periods of rest, recovery and soothing (the soothe mode). Soothing is not the same as "escaping", "avoiding" or "zoning out"; soothing is about actively slowing down and caring about yourself.
So where are you at? Are you managing stress or do you ping-pong between:
1. Avoidance (blocking) - ignoring unpleasant feelings; restlessness, inability to ‘stop’, anxiety, or 2. Overwhelm (drowning) - feeling overwhelmed by unpleasant feelings, exhaustion, physical inactivity, depression, withdrawal.
If you are blocking, you will be entirely outcome-focused and are no longer planning, monitoring, being in the here and now, and looking after all of your needs. Without rest, you may flip into overwhelm, and if that continues, you are at risk of burning out.
Take a deep breath right now, in this moment... five seconds in, five slow seconds out...
It's time to get curious and reset your mindset!
Here's something to think about: Are you defining success in life as productivity?
If you are only outcome-focused, then you may get stuck ticking things off, and in doing, doing, doing. What if you think of success in life also in terms of connection with others, how mindful (present) you are, and how much you are living by your values (what matters most to you and the kind of person you want to be)?
Oh and here's a little more inspiration from Maya Angelou, acclaimed American poet, storyteller, and activist:
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
As the new year begins...take time for yourself to celebrate what's going well for you, to get curious about your stuck points, connect with what matters to you (including to people around you), and to plan a new way forward. Have a fully connected one!
Connectfully offers coaching sessions to support you to find your path and navigate it well. Please connect if this sounds interesting to you.
Content Sources / Inspirations:
Vidyamala Burch, Breakworks – Online Teachings / I heard Ms Burch's talk with Dr Elise Bialylew during Mindful in May 2020 (https://www.mindfulinmay.org/ and it was mind-changing!)
Dr Russ Harris – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Training and Online Teachings (https://www.actmindfully.com.au/)
Collaborative and Practice Solutions - Training by Lives in the Balance (with thanks to the wisdom of Dr Ross Greene Ph.D., Clinical Child Psychologist and Founding Director; and Cynthia Graton, Consultante et Superviseure CPS & Director of Quality Control; https://www.livesinthebalance.org/)
Paul Gilbert, Ph.D. via The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM online) - 3 Circles Model of Emotion (Threat System, Drive System, Soothing System)
Collaborative Recovery Model - Training (with thanks to the amazing team at the Illawarra Institute of Mental Health, University of Wollongong, and The Salvation Army)
A google search on "who said: it's not what happens to you but how you react".