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When it all gets too much

Most of the time I think I manage quite well. I am able to practice what I preach, so I take time out for mindfulness, I journal, I use affirmations, I question my thoughts which could lead me into negative thinking and adopt an attitude of curiosity rather than following them down the rabbit hole. But sometimes life gets too much. It kind of creeps up and before I know it I am struck with inertia. I stop doing the things I know will help and I choose to wallow.

I use the word choose but it so often doesn't feel like a choice. It happens before I actively think about it and I only realise I've stepped away from my positive mindset and habits when I notice I'm feeling down. Is there a trigger that causes me to step away? Is there a point I could make a different choice? How could I identify what the point of no return is?

I don't expect I am alone in this cyclical in and out of positive behaviour. Sometimes I think the energy required to remain upbeat and continuing an attitude of self compassion or self kindness can wane. This can be in response to any kind of external stimuli and currently there is so much uncertainty around every aspect of life during a pandemic that it is not surprising that new or old habits curated to benefit mental wellbeing drop off the list. Of course, it is at those times I most need to be engaged with wellbeing practices, but I also need to be gentle on myself.

When things get too much I begin to recognise that I am not truly listening to myself. That maybe what I need to do more of is pay attention to the fact I have some negative thought patterns or even just an absence of internal chatter. It is very normal to have an internal dialogue. "Some of us are very aware of our internal dialogue, as a constant presence in the brain, or even an ongoing conversation. Others are much less so, and may find it harder to tune in." ( I think when things get too much for me I tune out of my internal voice rather than tuning in.

The best thing I can do at these times is become aware of is the types of thoughts I am having.

  • Where my internal dialogue goes if I let it wander. as this would give me a good idea of what may be troubling me;

  • Whether my current thoughts are positive or negative;

  • Whether my thoughts concern past, present, or future; and

  • Whether my thinking is towards (motivated by moving towards a goal) or away from (motivated by getting away from something negative).

Only if I am aware of my inner dialogue can I take steps to think positively. I am great at helping others to notice their inner thoughts, to make changes to challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones but even armed with all my wisdom and insight, when things build up and get on top of me a bit, I can drop the ball. Tuning out of my inner chatter was one of the ways I learnt to manage my mental wellbeing but as I continue to grow it is time for me to see why this isn't always the best way at looking after myself. Tuning out the inner voice is not like choosing not to listen to external messages of negativity as the thought is still alive in my subconscious, even if I choose not to listen. The path to continue healing and treating myself with love, respect, and kindness is to listen to my innermost thoughts. Yet not to follow them. To recognise that I am not my thoughts and be curious about where they have come from. What part of myself is seeking attention and what does it actually need?

Putting things into words can also sometimes be beyond us. But identifying where we are feeling something and imagining what it would look like if we could put it on paper can enable us to start to be curious about something. With this we can also use a practice called EFT (also known as tapping) to start to clear the negativity from our minds without ever having to understand a root cause or even language to describe it. If you haven't heard of EFT before or you have but you are sceptical then I will be posting more about this marvellous technique in the next few days.

Why am I posting about my personal struggles? Because I think it's important that we all recognise we are only human. That we all have good days and bad days and that even if I spend my time helping other people see a path ahead to improve their mental wellbeing I am not infallible. I come from a place not of perfection or superiority with all the answers; I come to you from a place of true understanding of challenges and obstacles and experiences. I can walk the walk, but the path is not always smooth and I sometimes lose my footing and find myself walking along the dusty edge. I want you to know that I can hear you, and that I see you. I know the things I teach are not always easy to hear or follow; but I do know that however many times we lose our footing there is always a way back to the path.

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