Last week I happened to comment on an interesting post that Erin, a fellow instagrammer/foodie, had made nearly a year ago now. The post stood out for me as I was genuinely interested to read how she had managed to successfully stop taking anti-depression medication for anxiety which, having gotten to know Erin a little through the I Quit Sugar Program and with my background and experience working within mental health, I couldn’t help but reflect upon and respond to as follows…
“…it just shows that graceful swan image, stunning pictures, articulate & kind comments you make, gliding along beautifully can be accompanied by frantic paddling beneath still waters sometimes…”
Erin not only responded with her own humorous comment but then went on to write a blog around it! I did chuckle to myself when I read the way she describes the way she sometimes feels as more like “puppy doggy-paddling” rather than the “graceful swan” I had imagined but I couldn’t help but feel immense respect for how articulate she was about her situation… describing the feelings, emotions and how she was dealing with things. I encourage you all to go read her post but if you’ve not the time… here’s my short interpretation.
Erin describes a situation where others see her as a ‘Super-mum’ due to the amount of things she does – working, studying, being a mum, home-cook, IQS helper and blogger… but… whilst she genuinely appreciates the sentiment, it makes her balk and she makes it quite clear that in no way does she consider herself a “Super-mum”! She then goes on to make the point that actually, she knows she is doing WAY too much and wants to do less but simply finds it hard to give anything up…which at times can lead to her being overwhelmed and stressed. Simply trying to find some balance is tough though… as when she starts to consider how she could do less, she starts to feel guilty that she can’t do more… leading to her feeling anxious. Erin goes on to further describe other internal battles she faces with introverted tendencies and feelings of guilt whenever see needs time away from people.
I have to say that I empathize and can relate FULLY to the inner battles Erin has faced!
It was good to read that Erin was dealing with her battles (after reading an article sent by a friend about ‘life stages’). She is now focused on doing less, pulling herself back from those activities which previously she would naturally and consistently have “taken the lead” but which she has started to feel resentful about. Her conclusion being that – by taking on less responsibility, she can find more time and prioritize her energies on activities she chooses. The final point Erin makes in her blog – which really hit home for me – was that her greatest challenge of all was in trying to “simplify her mind”. Ironically after reading this, I couldn’t get it out of my mind! For me, this statement was indeed thought provoking as – both personally and professionally – I have had to and still do deal with this myself… as we can all get caught up in a “vicious cycle” where our mind, emotions and behaviours get stuck in a loop. So I can entirely identify with this statement by Erin.
It’s from this point on I think I should leave Erin in peace and begin to share my own, similar experiences with the situation that she bravely shared in her blog and in particular, try and explain how I have personally learned to deal with that phrase of “simplify my mind”…
Like Erin, at times my mind gets into its own “vicious cycle”… and it’s only through reflecting on these situations at the time – breaking down what is happening into smaller, more manageable pieces – it makes it easier for me to identify connections and figure out how certain things are affecting me. I reflect on my thoughts, my feelings, my physical reactions and my behaviours then consider how each in turn may then affect the other. I often find for example that the way I’m thinking about a problem affects how I feel physically and emotionally and this then influences what I do about it. This is when the “vicious cycle” can take over… by which I mean; the way I react to one situation creates new more distressing situations as my feelings of distress/anxiety increase, which then in turn leads me to jump to conclusions or misinterpret things… creating a real sense of spiraling out of control!
This is where I give myself a “timeout!” as I’ve learnt to recognize the spiraling! Initially I used to write in a journal but now it’s become more of an automatic process and I only need to do it when I’m very distressed which I’m pleased to say hasn’t been the case for some time now.
To try and help illustrate this progression through this “vicious cycle” I’ve provided some example entries from my journal below which – I hope – will bring a bit more clarity to how things can (and do) get progressively worse… The situation itself in this is not that relevant – in fact this initial thought could have been anything, anywhere, at anytime. The main thing I’m trying to share here is how I’ve learnt and now apply a process to reflect, break down and understand what’s happening in such situations…
In a nutshell, this “vicious cycle” led me to believe that I was useless and unable to cope yet at the same time pushes me on further and harder… driven by a sense of guilt that I should and need to get everything done… resulting in me becoming more and more tired.
So how I have I learnt to deal with this I here you ask? Well, having broken down the situation into these manageable pieces through reflection, I focus on what – for me – is the weakest link in the cycle… my behaviour. I can pretty much change how I react and what I can do straight away (unless in my clumsiness I’ve lost a limb!)…whereas I could lose days if I tried to start to battle with my thoughts – me being as stubborn as I am… and God help anyone who happens to say a well-meaning “Snap out of it”…because, as we well know, if we could change our emotions quickly, the way we feel, we would right?! So in simple terms, I now change what I do which, from experience, I know will make me feel better! For example, I will now ask for help, or not take on so much responsibility by delegating… I let go, step back and accept that it’s actually OK to give yourself a break sometimes!
Believe me… this is still a work in progress and it’s still not perfect, far from it! I still have some horrendously bad days where I just can’t or don’t take any of my own advice, despite being fully aware that I’m in a “vicious cycle”… but hey on the plus side, it’s a lot less often now!
In conclusion what I hope I’ve done by initially exploring Erin’s need to “simplify (her) mind” and by sharing the thinking and process I’m using to try and do this, it may go some way to help others in similar circumstances to understand how to and also see that it can be achieved…
… and finally, from one blog(er) to another Erin… I think you’re doing bloody marvelously!