There’s lots to worry about right now and if we aren’t careful those worries will swallow us up. The run on toilet paper got me thinking about humans’ thinking process. I have toilet paper. Not a stockpile, the leftovers from my last purchase several weeks ago. But now, I WANT toilet paper. I feel the fear settling in, “Oh my gosh there’s no toilet paper! Will we run out?” and I want more toilet paper. I want to be sure I don’t end up without it. If I let this scarcity/panic side of my brain take over I will become animalistic in my search for toilet paper. I really don’t want to sink to that level. I have paid far too much money for therapy to literally flush it down the toilet. So what do we do? For starters, recognize your thoughts and walk yourself through the following thought and emotion processing technique:
- What are you thinking?
- What are the accompanying emotions?
- Identify your thoughts that are based in reality and those that are based on a created story.
- Throw out anything that isn’t beyond-a-shadow-of-reasonable-doubt true.
- Now what do you feel? Acknowledge the emotion for a few minutes.
- Take a few deep breath cycles, look at nature, and let the emotion go or just know it’s there but not let it capture all of your attention.
- Regarding the situation, where do you have control that is healthy, legal and wise?
- Do what you can.
- Get in some good, healthy, legal and wise self-care.
For my toilet paper scenario, here’s what I did (and am doing as it tends to crop up now and then…this isn’t a once and done practice, it’s a rinse and repeat practice):
- I’m thinking I don’t have enough toilet paper because there’s none on the store shelves and everyone is talking about a toilet paper shortage.
- I feel anxiety about not having enough toilet paper and confusion about why this is happening…where did all the toilet paper go?
- The true and real thoughts are: There’s no toilet paper at the stores I have been to or online. Even the horrible but eco-friendly Who Gives A Crap toilet paper is gone. (I bought a case of that awhile ago. I’m so sorry. I really want to be good to the environment but that is the worst toilet paper ever!). The made up, not true, future-tripping, created story thoughts are: I’m going to run out of toilet paper. I don’t really know this will happen. It could happen but hasn’t and likely won’t for a few weeks. If it does happen we can figure something out.
- I don’t need to focus on the coulds because they aren’t in the present and it’s not going to help me at all to focus on this particular could. I’m throwing those thoughts away – figuratively of course!
- Now I feel a little nervous about toilet paper but not panicky.
- I’m breathing in “It’s going to be ok” and breathing out “Let it go” (the toilet-paper-fear that is)!
- My healthy, legal and wise control is to use our toilet paper responsibly, let go of the toilet paper panic, don’t get caught in the herd mentality, stay aware of my thoughts and keep shushing the crazy-making toilet paper voice.
- I’m doing it right now, #7 that is.
- I’m going for my daily walk as soon as I finish this post.
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Deep down we all want to be seen. We want to know we matter, that who we are at our core, all messy and wonderful, is accepted. Do you have that experience at home, with family, with friends, at work, anywhere? For some, your answer is, “No where and with no one”. You keep who you are at the deepest levels hidden. It feels safer that way. But it has a price. It’s isolating and it’s limiting your capacity to do, to be, to excel.
I know something about both sides of this. I know what it is to hold my cards very close, not to let you see the real me. I also know the freeing experience of being seen, truly seen, at-the-core-of-who-I-am seen and it is a powerful place to be. I invite you to join me there. To surround yourself with people who see you, know you, and love you in the midst of the beauty and the mess. They also let you see them in their beauty and mess.
It’s in being seen and loved that we heal. The pain of our past is tenderly bandaged and we begin to move beyond the limits the injuries created. We find connection in our relationships and new found exhilaration in our work. We find our stride and bring to this planet more light and love and creativity. Our world desperately needs this…you desperately need this. Come join me and find it!
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The stock marketing is taking a dive and COVID-19 is spreading. It’s easy to get caught in the panic. Panic has never made anything better. It doesn’t feel good internally, it doesn’t help us think clearly, and it doesn’t have the power to change anything. When you find your thoughts ruminating on one topic that sends you into anxiety, it’s important to take control.
There’s another approach when bad things are happening and that’s to ignore them completely. I like to think of this as sticking your head in the sand and pretending everything’s fine. You are completely disconnecting from reality and it’s not a healthy response either.
We have panic on one end and ignoring on the other. The best place to be is somewhere in the middle. You are aware of what’s happening but not owned by it. You prepare as you can without going overboard. Don’t spend all day watching the news or reading everything you can get your hands on. Check on things now and then, but spend most of your day doing what you used to do like work, study, be with friends and family, read something enjoyable, go for a walk, prepare and eat meals, clean, shower, sleep. In general, take care of yourself and don’t get swept up in the panic.
Have you heard the phrase “Running around like a chicken with its head cut off”? When I was young I had friends who lived on a farm. One time when I was there they butchered a chicken for dinner. They chopped its head off and it ran around for awhile without any direction what so ever. It’s a visual of panic. We’re running around in a frenzy but the rational part of our brain is not engaged. We are controlled purely by the emotional part.
Put your head back on. It’s really hard and sometimes impossible to do on your own when you reach full panic mode. It’s best not to let yourself get there. Start practicing now. When it comes to things that are not completely within your power to stop, find out what you can do that is healthy, legal and wise. Take time periodically throughout your day to breathe deeply a few times. With each exhale feel the tension in your muscles loosen. This will allow more oxygen to get to your brain so you can think more clearly and stay away from panic
Sometimes we must unravel so we can be properly knit back together, the way we were meant to be. Prior to going through therapy, I was generally an easy going person, at least on the outside. As a child I learned to appear “perfect” so others would like me. It wasn’t a sustainable approach and by my late 30’s I completely imploded, shattering the perfect image I unconsciously worked my whole life to maintain. When I embarked on my healing journey, I noticed I wasn’t so agreeable anymore. If someone offended me, I would speak up in a blundering hurtful way. I didn’t know how to have a productive, healthy voice. I was practicing skills I had not used before. In my “perfect” state I brushed away offenses, “No problem, I ‘m fine.” But I wasn’t. I was just shoving all that hurt deep inside for the sake of being liked. Practicing speaking up was hard at first, then it got easier and more productive.
Now, I’m noticing a new development. I don’t always desire to say anything. It takes more to offend me. I’m noticing that times when I used to be easily hurt I am now not so bothered. I’m not shoving the hurt away, it’s just not there. I have an increased capacity to stop and understand this other person is not likely trying to hurt me. That perhaps their sharp edges are unhealthy ways of protecting their tender parts and they don’t know another way yet to deal with that.
I am certainly not saying this like, “Oh, look at me! I’ve got it all together.” Oh heck no! Anyone close to me knows all to well that I still have work to do. I am not tooting my own horn but rather the horn of the power of dealing with your inner garbage. I’m noticing as I go through this healing journey a sense of becoming who I was meant to be. The me I thought I was supposed to be was a very messy and hurtful product. 39 years worth of knitting together was unravelled to begin anew. 15 years later I am still seeing the benefits of the journey. I have a long way to go. I am not fixed, just well into the process. I am so grateful we can change. I am grateful we can unravel and be reknit into the creation we were meant to be. Healing is possible. Wounds from the past do not have to dictate who we are forever.
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Sometimes we forget that people are simply in need of being seen right where they are. When we meet a very tangible need, it can pave the way for a person to move forward. This is true for my daughter, Anna. She is still in Durham, NC almost four months since her lung transplant. Unfortunately she got an infection that put her in the hospital for five weeks from December 8 until January 12. She left the hospital weak and discouraged. What she has needed since then is listening and space to grieve the life she does not have. This has helped her gain motivation from within to get stronger emotionally and physically.
In Kenya, it means cleaning the wounds of a woman after an assault. The following is from a friend who is meeting the needs of the forgotten and outcast:
“We had the first aide kit out early this morning.
One of our Addiction Assistance members had been badly beaten.
Her tears mingled with ours as we cleaned her wounds…
She had returned to the bar looking for a man who would exchange sex for food for her children. They were hungry. She was beaten in the process.
Today she will start learning to roll paper beads so she can provide food with dignity!
All of our beadwork is providing a safe stepping stone out of addiction for people! As one heals and finds a job, we can invite another to join us!
If you’d like to help in a very practical way, please check out our Etsy shop!!”
Who is in your path today who needs a very basic need met? Perhaps it is a listening ear or the reminder they are seen and loved.
We rush through our days, flitting from event to event but often forget to stop and savor the moments. Life becomes a blur. We lose our purpose (or never stopped long enough to even ponder what it might be). Maybe right now, in this moment, you can stop. Stop reading and just be still. Notice your breath, what it feels like to breathe. Notice what’s around you, the sounds, smells, sights, air. Feel your body. What’s it like to be in your own skin? Notice tension or pain. Let your shoulders relax. Unclench your jaw. Breathe. You can do this throughout your day. Take time to be still and simply notice (without judgment) what’s happening the moment.