Move your mind, Move your body, Move your soul.
As seen in Wake-Up World!
I have been reading (and writing) all sorts of articles and blogs on loneliness, social isolation and mental health issues that are cropping to the surface with the virus that is keeping people at home.
Gall-up released poll results this week indicating that Americans are worried about their mental health. There have been articles in the Times, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune. We need to be worried about our teens. Mental health crises are looming. Even introverts are lonely!
And a thought occurred to me today – are we creating this future reality? And if we are creating it, can we create something different instead?
Now, don’t get me wrong. Mental health is a huge issue that has long plagued our society. I believe we need to invest in the mental health of ourselves, our children, our neighbors. But are we potentially making things worse (and increasing anxiety) by telling people we should be worried? Is this a future mental health crisis we can avert? Are we already in crisis? What do we do now regarding the mental health of our nation?
I believe we are all energy – our bodies, thoughts, words and emotions. And because we are energy, we can change things. We can create. We can create for positive or negative, depending on how you look at any one thing. We have created all sorts of things, from racism and abuse of power to beauty and loving communities. The words we speak, our art, our typed words also shape reality. Many have created vision boards and dreamt of futures that ultimately happened. We can create our future.
People are noticing “silver linings” experienced in the lockdown reality we face today. Families are spending time together. The natural world is healing. For many, the pace has slowed. If we notice these silver linings, do they increase? Will they shape the story we tell of this time to future generations? When our perception changes our life changes.
I have experienced this in my work and in my relationships. I have quit jobs whose “problems” followed me to the next job. I have completely altered the course of my marriage by changing my beliefs about my husband. We see what we believe. We find evidence to support our “rightness” all the time. Even our internet search engine algorithms are built around this confirmation bias. Tell me what I already know so that I can be right and good. And when you peek beyond the curtain and look for a new perspective? Sometimes you can change your mind and literally change your life.
When I change my perspective, everything else shifts. I am not saying to only focus on the positive; there is a lot out there that I disagree with. I still face challenges in my work and in my relationships. But I am also challenging myself (and you?) to notice more of what you want in your life. Want more abundance? Write down all the ways in which you experience abundance today. Flowers, dimes on the sidewalk, extra time. All of it. When you notice it, it becomes what you see.
In the face of a looming mental health crisis, we can change the script. Rather than fearing the anxiety, the sadness, the onslaught of “need”, let’s shift our energy to how we can improve our mental health.
In our society, we do everything we can to avoid pain and suffering. Does this avoidance improve your emotional state? We are constantly distracting ourselves from hard feelings. In everyday life (pre-COVID), we binge watch Netflix, scroll social media “feeds”, maybe go shopping or drink wine or eat – we want to “Escape to Paradise Island” or we work for the weekend. I deserve that wine after a hard day. I shop online when I can’t sleep.
Do we sometimes go to these distractions because we are bored or uncomfortable or sad?
“People only watch romantic comedies with people as a way to avoid saying what they don’t want to say. It’s like they don’t have to live a romantic life as long as they watch it with their partner,” my roommate from 20 years ago once said to me. He had a point.
“I don’t want to feel sad,” my 16 year-old said to me yesterday as he cried at breakfast. He is questioning the meaning of life these days. And he’s afraid that maybe there is none. Instead of telling him to shake it off or shower or that “of course there is a point”, I invited him to sit with the sadness. To honor it.
“What tipped it off?”
“This show I watched.” He proceeded to tell me about a show that was depicting the simplicity of life. Sounded pretty harmless to me. But one of the actors was battling cancer at the time of the show, and he died after making it. That is what brought the tears.
“No one knows his name,” he said. “Did his life even matter at all?”
I took a deep breath before I responded: “He has made such an impact on you. He matters to you. And this can change your life. If you let it.”
My son made the choice to meet what came up. He met the tears and sadness even though he wasn’t sure why he was sad. He didn’t distract himself or push himself to the next “better” emotion. He also didn’t have to rush off to school or practice. He had the space to sit.
When we distract ourselves from the hard stuff, it doesn’t make the hard stuff go away. It may stay hidden for a while or packed up with the other pains that you haven’t wanted to deal with. Eventually, it may feel like it’s too much to handle – the drawers are too full – and you don’t’ want to open them less they flood you. Or emotions come up at strange times and you wonder “where did that come from?”
When we avoid, we create a junky future. And we dishonor ourselves in the process. We disconnect from the hard parts.
Perhaps if we started meeting ourselves, during this time when we are literally stuck with ourselves, is part of the answer. Meeting yourself with compassion. Honoring what is coming up for you. Knowing that it’s all ok and it won’t swallow you up. Allowing yourself to feel is a way to re-connect with yourself.
You can survive hard things. This is an opportunity to allow life in rather than brace for it. Lean in. If we put aside our favorite distractions – or started noticing when we disconnect – and pledge to meet what comes up. Perhaps then we would flip the script on the looming mental health crisis.
“How are you today?” I asked my son this morning.
“Pretty good, actually. I’m still kind of sad, but I’m also learning more about the actor. I’m going to tell people about him.”
“Nice. You are doing it.”
“Doing it?” He asked.
The phrase "We are the ones we have been waiting for" springs into my mind on an almost daily basis.
For many years, whether it was related to my job or my relationships, it seemed that I was often looking for someone to tell me what to do, to tell me what I'm good at, to tell me what job to take, what man to want, what emotion to feel. I was looking for someone to save me.
Before the virus (which now feels like it's own timeframe like Before Christ or Before Internet), my spiritual community got all shaken up with allegations of sexual abuse rising to the surface about Yogi Bhajan, the founder of Kundalini Yoga. I had been practicing for 3 years and had found a women's community dedicated to the practice. When the allegations surfaced, I was really crushed. I went down rabbit holes, reading and kvetching about the situation. I struggled in my mind with letting go of the practice that had helped me so much.
And then a wise friend reminded me to practice discernment. That word - discernment - it turned on the light for me. It was no longer about reading. It was no longer about thinking. It was no longer about what others were doing or about what my teacher was saying. No one could tell me what to do. Only I could decide. Only I can discern what matters to me, what is my truth. My discernment happens right in my heart.
Four weeks into being "isolated", I watch all of the narratives playing out in my FaceBook feed. People are curious about what is happening. What is truth. Lot's of fear. Lot's of privilege. Lot's of us versus them. Even now. We are clinging to our stories of what this is about and pretending that those stories make us different. They don't.
What I see across the stories is the thread of wanting to be saved. Wanting the government to crack down on people who aren't staying at home. Wanting a vaccine. Wanting the economy to rebound. Wanting to jump timelines to awaken our collective consciousness. There are lots of rabbit holes.
So I'm dropping into my heart and I hope you might consider doing the same.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.
Because although we are all seeking normalcy, things are not normal. Who knows if they will ever be like they were again. As this author so eloquently states - there is some normal that we don't want to go back to right? I mean, so much of what was "normal" was really effing insane! I mean. Total Bullshit.
So what do you want to invite into your life? Where do you want to place your energy?
Now. I recognize my privilege in this. I am not starving right now. I have food in my pantry. I have a roof over my head. I am physically well. It is with those basic needs in place that I have the privilege to even ponder where I want to put my energy.
And so as a part of that realization, I am also donating money to the local food bank. I have put letters into mailboxes of neighbors, letting them know that I am here if they need me. I have purchased gift certificates for services I may (or may not) receive later. These are small things, but they count. IF you have the ability to support your community, now is the time. Because isn't that actually what you want to create? Communities of caring people. People who help each other.
A few years ago, I was eating and exercising in a "disordered way." I was so completely cut off from my body. I was living from the neck up. And I found a way to control the seemingly uncontrollable life I was living. Perfectionism is a nice way to say it.
I wrote down everything I ate and drank for almost 3 years. I also wrote down every bit of activity that I achieved. I ran 5 marathons in that time period. I ran so much that I hurt my physical body and my soul. I literally measured and counted not just calories, but how many carrots was I eating? How many almonds?
I am seeing a lot of memes out there about women's fears around eating too much right now. The Quarantine-15. I have also seen what I perceive as peoples' struggles with excessive exercising and/or images of them looking so thin and almost gray. It hits me because I was that. I remember talking with a woman who said she was "afraid" to stop her double-sessions (of working out) because she had just reached the weight she felt was reasonable.
"Is the snack pantry talking to you?" Those were actual words that came out of a yoga/fitness instructors mouth during an online session I took on Friday. I found myself starting to say mean things to me. To ME!! How dare I?!?!?! I have found myself considering writing it all down again. Running even if I don't feel like running. It's just a little push. Just to get me back on track.
Now, maybe that stuff works for you and you are not feeling at-attention right now. If so, cool. But for me? It's a big ole red flag.
Thankfully, I see it as such. I am falling back on the strategies that have worked for me in the past. A regular check-in on how I am feeling physically and emotionally. A sweat sesh that feels right in my body. Ending when I'm done. Asking myself what my body needs right now. Eating nourishing food. Also eating oreos. Reaching out to a trusted friend.
Now, things are different this time around.
I am working at home. I am surrounded by my nuclear family. So many great things about this reality. AND ALSO, I am an introvert surrounded by my nuclear family. As in, all the time. So I have had to update some of my strategies.
When I really need alone time (and I do), I have a fake candle going next to me. It's the signal to my people that I am in my zone. No offense but leave me alone. I have also thrown away the scale. Literally in the bin. Nobody misses it anyway.
I have never actually admitted publicly that I had an eating disorder. I am not saying it for pity. And perhaps I am using this platform because I don't think anyone reads it anyway. But if you are reading it. And if any of this resonates with you, reach out. Fall back on your strategies. Fall back on your support crew. I am here.
You gotta feel it to heal it.