So, we are here, whatever being here means for each of us. We’ve made it through today, through the ups and downs of this pandemic, parenting puzzles, schooling experiments, losses, layoffs, health scares, and many other trials. But, as I touched on in my previous blog, it has likely taken a significant amount of energy, creativity, and potentially some less than optimal coping mechanisms to get through to mid-April of 2022. Some of these strategies might be a form of “Auto-Pilate” in avoidance, mindlessness, or ways to “take the edge off.”
We like to focus on a holistic wellness approach considering: Mind, Body, Spirit, and Community. This segment will touch on the mind in the realm of defenses. Defense is a coping strategy that the mind adapts to keep individuals from feelings that might be unpleasant. Unfortunately, when this becomes our automatic response to unpleasantness, we begin to shut out access to nearly all our internal experiences. This response can leave us feeling like the walking dead, as zombies throughout our daily lives, including the good stuff. This self-shutdown only amplifies the need to seek things that will help us FEEL. We do this with defenses like the exciting social media affirmation, watching the Rom-Com, the dark drama, or more. We need the highs and lows like the rising and falling of the tide. Without the natural rhythm, we will find ways to seek it out.
So, you are out of rhythm with the tides; What now?
Jump back in the water! (The emotional water, that is.) It might be simple to put in writing but not always as easy to do.
Where would one start?
A good place to begin is to notice things throughout the day. Pay attention to small things. Notice if the sunlight is beaming on your face as you step outside to take your little one to school or head to the office. Take time to smell the field when you pick up the kids at soccer practice. Hear the chitter-chatter chorus of the restaurant filled with people engaging and reconnecting again. This process is a practice called “mindfulness.”
“Mindfulness” is a term coined by the esteemed Harvard professor Ellen Langer, the first woman ever to be tenured in psychology at Harvard. She studied illusions of control, body/mind unity versus duality, decision-making processes, stress, and how to have greater longevity in aging. Another great researcher is Jon Kabat Zin, who developed a mindfulness-based stress reduction process that focuses on using our daily living as a meditative process.
By being aware of what we feel every day, we create tolerance and a way to surf the tides of the problems and stress of emotional pain, not by floating above the pain but by being in the waves with it.
Experiment with Awareness:
If you are at the edge of the pool and thinking about trying out a new strategy today, I have a beginner’s swim lesson in the ocean of awareness for you:
Try setting your timer for 3-4 different times today. When you hear or feel the buzzing go off, that is your reminder to be present. Notice you have a body and breathe into it deep in your belly. Notice things around you and take in the smells, the sights, the sounds, being aware of feeling your feet and wiggling your toes. Try making eye contact or smiling at someone.
If you feel like you want the deeper dive, also notice bodily sensations. What do you feel inside your skin? Is there tightness, pain, heat, cold, and what emotions might be floating in those sensations? These mindfulness cues can bring your internal WiFi of awareness back online and in alignment. Give it a try today.
And if you would like greater support in your journey, please reach out to us for additional guidance at Living Well Psychotherapy