Oh hey! How are you?
Good? Great? Ok? Grand?
How am I?
Not bad thanks.
Have a good day!
Does that conversation sound familiar to you? You probably have a similar exchange every time you go to the supermarket, bump into someone you know on the street or greet your colleagues in the morning.
The last couple of days I’ve felt lonely, isolated, fed up and bored. Here in New Zealand we are currently in lockdown due to an outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19. Lockdown – urgh! – even the word brings up images of a prison cell, being punished, restricted and having freedom and control taken away. Those feelings tigger memories from my past, when I was a young, solo Mum, living in a big city, with not many friends or family around me. I felt disconnected, lonely, isolated and invisible. My mind recognises these emotions because it remembers them from the past. The strategy I used back then when I felt lonely, isolated and invisible, was to eat, to meet my need for connection, comfort and warmth. We all have needs that we need to have met to feel good. If those needs aren’t satisfied, we feel bad and employ strategies to satisfy those needs.
My mind, with the best of intentions, reminded me of a strategy I used to employ to deal with these painful emotions. Eat, and eat, and eat, a lot of food, in a short space of time until you can’t fit any more in. When I ate, I could literally stuff down those emotions rather than facing them because that’s too hard, why would I do that! Thank you mind! Now, that strategy doesn’t serve me well, it’s not good for my physical or mental health. Logically I know that. The mind is very persuasive and persistent. It attempted to finagle me into thinking that by employing that past strategy, I would feel warm, comforted, safe and relaxed. I know that may be true in the moment, much like someone who has an addiction to drugs, the moment you take that drug it feels amazing, you shut out the thoughts, feelings and emotions that are too difficult to face. Then what happens afterwards? You feel guilty, ashamed and most likely suffering physically too.
Rather than employing that past strategy, I remembered I had other strategies in my toolkit that I could use.
Firstly, instead of saying “good” when my husband asked how my day was, I told him how I was really feeling (he’s an essential worker so is out everyday). I said, “I’m feeling lonely, trapped and fed up.” He didn’t need to offer any advice or words of wisdom. I just needed to say it out loud and acknowledge that I wasn’t “good” or “grand” or “not bad thanks”.
Secondly, by sitting quietly and closing my eyes, I invited the emotions to come forward and show themselves. I felt it rise through my body, starting in the pit of my stomach, like a bolt of electricity, through to the top of my head. Then what happened? It went away!! It took seconds! Afterwards, I felt free, excited that I could so quickly be free of the emotion that, in the past, had caused me so much pain. Ha!
Thirdly, I recognise that my mind is also attempting to meet a need. By gently asking it what it needs and allowing those words to pop up in my mind, I can use my imagination to “send in” the feelings my mind needs to feel satisfied. Using my senses to imagine what I see, hear, feel, taste and smell when those needs are met.
Today, while I’m still not thrilled about lockdown and would much prefer being able to get out to see people and do the things I want to do, I know I have helpful strategies to help me when my mind wants to employ a less helpful, past strategy. Also, by being gentle with my mind and recognizing that it too is attempting to meet a need, I can meet the emotions with kindness, curiosity and love.
How are you? Rather than responding automatically with “good, grand or not bad thanks”, take a moment to think about how you are really feeling. By giving yourself permission to express how you are feeling, you give other people permission to reciprocate. For example, I was in the supermarket and, as usual, the lady who was ringing through my groceries asked how I was. Instead of responding with “good, grand or not bad thanks”, I said, “Actually I’m a bit fed up with all this lockdown stuff. How are you?” She said, “Well, I’m finding wearing this mask really stressful, it’s difficult to breathe sometimes.”. So ensued a conversation where we shared how we were really feeling. By giving myself permission share how I was really feeling, I also gave her permission to share with me how she was really feeling. In that exchange, I felt connected, heard, and warm. I don’t know how she felt but I hope she felt the same.
I’m giving you permission now to share how you are really feeling today. What needs do you need to satisfy today? How are you going to get them met in a way that’s healthy and positive for you? Not sure? Give me a call 😊