As the days mush into weeks, I've found myself riding major waves of emotion, as I'm sure is common place. On my good days, I check-in with friends, feed myself fresh, delicious foods, and complete tasks with ease. There are other days where it feels like my heart is breaking in a million pieces, being stomped on and rubbed through the dirty mud, and trapped by fear of the unknown.
This pandemic has highlighted the thin line we all walk.... health/sickness 🦠 fine/not fine 🤪 compassionate/selfish 🥰 belief/distrust 🙈 lightness/gloom and doom ✨ Personally, I’ve been hopscotching a few of these lines, which has left me feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and at times helpless. 🙃 The difference is that I’ve been here before, and I know what to do when my anxiety wakes me up, and starts to manifest physically. I write. I draw. I cry. I sing. I move. I share. I ride the spiral of feelings down, and back up. Life keeps coming, we can either buckle up or get run over...and sometimes all at the same time. We are literally in the middle of some of my worst fears, and yet I am still somewhat ok-ish, on most days, at least some of the time.
And I have to stop, and ask “How are YOU doing?”
No seriously, how are you doing??
Many of us are used to feeling BIG feelings, and throughout our lives have acquired tools to help us move through them, but there’s another large portion of the population that is being forced to sit with their demons for the first time, and not by choice. As a society, we like to distract, or numb, ourselves through excessive workouts, social engagements, bar hopping; and suddenly, many of our favorite playthings have disappeared. Whether you find yourself in an essential job and showing up in unsafe conditions, working from home in close quarters with your roomies (of all ages), or completely out of work, we all are faced with a new normal, and have rapidly had to adapt.
In talking with a few of my people, I’ve realized that those of us who have previously traveled into the dark night of our souls are better prepared to deal with abstract realties. Now either that last sentence resonated with you, or maybe you are even more confused with what point I’m trying to make. :) More plainly spoken, those of us who have experienced the darkness of mental health or devotion to a spiritual path, etc., have forged a special skillset in times of world-wide chaos. And it’s not because we are better than you, it’s because we have suffered that we know this path so well. By pulling ourselves out of the muck, time and time again, we have become stronger, and more adaptable when things shift quickly.
I’ve spoken bluntly about my journey with mental health, and I will continue to do so as I am moved to create words around them. I share my stories, because I can. I write my thoughts down, because I can. As a service to those who are currently struggling, I’ve written up some of my favorite practices to move through, without bypassing, these BIG feelings.
Take a walk, like a wild animal. I'm not suggesting that you run around making animal noises, although that would probably feel like a good time too! I'm suggesting that you walk slower, and with your eyes soft, like an animal scanning the horizon. This can be done inside or outside, in a straight line or in a circle. As you walk, take your time to feel each step on the earth, bonus points for walking barefoot. Let your eyes move slowly, like honey, over your surroundings. Let your eyes be bathed in the visual stimuli, and pause on any objects of interest. Write down any thoughts or insights, no matter how trite.
Give your demon/story a name, and refer to it as a real person, separate from yourself. "Ugh, Becky woke me up again last night at 3am. She reminded me of that thing I said I would do, but got busy and forgot, again." Becky is usually pretty irrational and judge-y, so it helps to name her. Once named, I can find compassion for her, as she also is doing the best she can. When we judge our own judginess, it creates a cycle. "Aw...isn't Becky cute when she reminds me?" Break the cycle.
Write a letter of gratitude to that person/thing/situation that is causing you pain. Start with “Thank for this opportunity to grow. Thank you for teaching me….” Let it flow, keep the tone of gratitude for the painful thing.
Free form journaling - set a timer (5-15 minutes) and keep your pen to paper. Use your best doctor’s script and keep it flowing. When your run out of thoughts, but not time, write that part down too. Keep the pen moving the entire time, no cheating!
Never underestimate the power of a dance party. Pro tip: create a playlist with all your favorite tunes to groove to, so it’s ready at all times when you need to bust a move. Super pro tip: Don’t just put the songs that make you feel happy, include the songs that made you feel the beauty of humanity and songs that remind of you of the realness of life.
Don't be afraid to feel your feelings during this time, whatever you are feeling is 100% valid, and totally allowed to change. There are no "bad" feelings, only those that unsure of how to be safely expressed. Check the resource below to help pinpoint the exact emotion, I've found it super useful in learning to speak a more emotional language. (Full credit to Dr. Gloria Wilcox, 1982).
So again, I pause “How are YOU doing?”
No seriously, how are you doing??