Navigating difficult emotions
I feel like crying! I have felt like crying a lot in the last few weeks. And then I don’t. I feel relatively normal other than this deep exhaustion that keeps creeping over me. I can be organised and get a few things done and then I feel as though I have no capacity for another thought. I feel I need so much sleep at the moment and even then I feel tired. I want to eat – I notice that desire to have the comfort of food in my mouth. Sometimes I sit at my desk and think of something that needs to be done and I get this feeling of panic rising up inside me. I take a deep breath and put off whatever it is I was thinking of.
I have been sitting at my desk a lot lately wondering exactly what it is I have been doing for the last few years. How was I working so hard when I am unclear what is necessary today. I have moments of fear that if I am not focused and driven, whatever it is that I was working towards won’t happen. Is this state impacting my future?
Given my work as a coach and wellbeing teacher I am regularly tempted to try and explain this to myself. My mum is dying. Over the last few years we have anticipated her death on numerous occasions, but this time everyone believes it will be soon (whatever that means). Our daughter is seriously unwell. My business partner and I worked our socks off during the pandemic. AND like most people, the last 18 months has seen a lot of change in our work and family dynamic so I came into the year pretty tired. These all feel like really valid reasons for feeling the way I do and if I need justification I have all the evidence I need.
The evidence however is almost irrelevant. I can at moments use it as a pacifier to remind myself I am neither weak nor mad, but it is much more helpful for me to just notice; in this moment I feel this and in this moment I feel something different.
The above aren’t the only things I have been feeling. I have also experienced deep joy and connection. I have laughed (quite a lot). I love the sunshine and the warmth of the sun on my skin. My husband and I have had a couple of glorious weekend breaks in our van. We are enjoying talking about upgrading it. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for very many things in my life. I still love my work when I am delivering it. I have swum in the sea and it makes me feel so alive! And then I want to cry.
All of this feels like a lot to hold and I can see that I am holding it. I am very grateful that I feel as resourced as one can be in moving through the challenges that life throws at us. These are just some of the things I am doing:
Being kind to myself
I am being kind to myself. I am not forcing anything. When I feel I don’t have the energy to do something I am not doing it. I am being honest with other people and saying sorry I can’t do that right now. I am asking for help when appropriate, but mostly just letting things go. I am forgiving myself for all the things I am not doing right now.
I am tuning in to what I feel I need
Whether that is a fruit smoothie, a long bath, a walk or to read my book. I have begun to master the art of lying in bed a bit on the weekends. When I have the energy I am feeding myself good food and when I don’t I forgive myself that too.
Letting the emotions come and go
I am letting my emotions come and go without meaning. What I mean by that is that if I want to cry I allow myself to cry. If I feel tired I acknowledge I feel tired. I am really honest with myself about how I am feeling. On occasion I have felt the need to share that. I am lucky to have people that I can tell the truth to, who don’t try to make things better or fix me.
It is helpful for me to check in with myself at different points throughout the day
‘How am I now? Mentally, emotionally, Physically?’ This allows me to see that how I am is changing all the time. It helps prevent me getting trapped in a story that I am sad, or grieving or exhausted. Instead I am a person feeling this range of emotions that are different to the range of emotions I was feeling a few weeks or months ago.
This check-in, seeing this flow of emotions helps me to not feel frightened or scared that I am stuck this way. It gives me permission to feel whatever I feel in the moment and then notice that this emotion is fleeting and passes to something else. It allows me to hold joy and pain in my hands at the same time. I can laugh and cry within a breath of one another.
My mindfulness is developed and practiced, but simply noticing ‘how am I right now?’ is helpful for all of us. Noticing I breathe. Focusing on my breath is a safe and helpful place to be at regular intervals.
Doing what I can do
I can only do what I can do. That doesn’t feel as much as I was doing a month ago and that is ok. There is no point worrying about what I can’t do. I will complete what I can and the rest will wait or someone else can do it.
I am taking one step at a time
Doing what feels like the next best thing to do. Sometimes I am doing nothing. If I don’t feel I have the capacity to work I am not even trying. I go for a walk, read my book or head to the beach.
We are talking about ‘Our Big Dream’ in our community this month. This feels way out of my reach right now. I know that I did have a purpose and a mission I was working towards. That feels all up in the air right now and if you asked me I don’t know what to say. I could possibly come up with some words, but the feeling and the passion aren’t there. So I am simply setting daily intentions. One small thing that I might like to do today.
These small intentions matter. They help me get out of bed in the morning. They give me a reason to get dressed. That is their main purpose. Sometimes I come to do them and then I get distracted by something else that seems more appealing and I do that instead. At other times I just let go and I am fine with not doing what I had intended. I am getting much better at letting go.
I still practice gratitude. This is both a lifeline and a complete joy to me. My husband and I have started doing it together. Talking a moment to acknowledge at least three things that we are grateful for in our day or in our life.
I have practiced this for years now and so gratitude arises frequently and naturally for me. At times like this it is even more important to me. As I write this I can see bees buzzing around plants in my garden. I am grateful for their work in pollination, the sound they make as they work and the sweet honey they produce.
Noticing the things I am grateful for reminds me there are so many things to be grateful for irrespective of what is happening. It lifts my heart and soul and prevents me from sinking.
Trusting, ‘This too shall pass’
I remind myself regularly ‘This too shall pass’. I see it in my mindfulness practice, noticing that my feelings are already different to earlier. But I also need to remember this on a higher level. I won’t always be working at this low level. I won’t always feel this tired or ineffective. And even if this lasts a while it is ok.
I don’t have to handle everything right now. Experience shows me that it is fine to have an off day and that I am often more productive the following day. I am trusting that it is ok to have an ‘off‘ few weeks, months or a year.
I trust I don’t have to handle everything. I trust that there will be something else after this. I trust I will be ok.
I feel very lucky to have the resources I have. Without a doubt the tools I have and the people I am surrounded by make a huge difference to how I am able to cope with my experiences at this moment in time. If anything I have said here resonates with you, if you feel like you could do with more tools or support please reach out. Fresh Air Fridays runs programmes that teach (among others) the tools that I have described here. Stuff happens in life, we don’t have to suffer and we don’t have to go it alone. If you need help please ask.