If you are like most people, you struggle to feel happy and carefree most of your life. You yearn for this feeling you remember from childhood, but don’t know how to get back.
Below are 5 “keys” to recovering your inner sense of well-being, and coping with the emotional rollercoasters of life.
1. Live who you are. You would think this is “oh-duh” but apparently not. Most people do not know who they truly are, much less live who they are. So you are not alone, if you have forgotten your real self. This key is called “prevention” by conventional therapists. It is what you have to do on a regular basis to prevent yourself from sinking into an emotional whirlpool. This is about letting your inner child out, and doing more “self-love”. If you have trouble doing this, consider a plant. A plant needs a certain amount of water and sunlight, and a particular kind of soil in order to thrive. Self-love is allowing yourself your “conditions to thrive”. It is self-care and self-nurture on a regular basis. When you “flower”, you naturally bring more beauty and love into world. You need to live who you are, at least most of the time, in order to get your happy face back on. This is your number one responsibility in your life. It is no one else’s job to do this for you. For example, maybe you secretly want to be a dancer, but are forcing yourself to be in a “serious” bank teller job. This just might kill you, if you don’t make sure somehow to get lots of dancing in your life.
2. Use your healthy coping tools. This key is called “intervention” in regular therapy circles. We all need a few healthy coping or “intervention” strategies in our toolkit, for life WILL throw at least a few major stressful life events our way. When it does, we need to know what we can do to cope. And no, alcohol and drugs don’t count. Know what works for you that is also healthy. For example, you make sure you get in a power walk or some form of exercise at the end of a stressful day at work to allow the energy of stress to move through, and not stay in, your body.
3. Practice scaling your emotions. Scaling your emotions is a way to measure how light or heavy they are. On a scale of “0 to 10”, with 0 equals no anger or stress, and 10 equals maybe rage or panic attack, know what your “2-5” especially is. Whether irritability, frustration, annoyance, mildly worried or afraid. And know how those variations of emotion feel in your body, when they are in the 2 to 5 range, BEFORE you get to higher numbers on your scale. Begin using your coping tools then. Don’t wait.
4. Know your emotion constellations. In the night sky, a constellation is a group of stars that go together. Each of your emotions is like its own constellation. Within “anger” or any other emotion constellation will come certain thoughts, scents, visual cues, sounds, tastes, bodily sensations, physical environments, and even secondary emotions. Know what these are for you, so that you can be very conscious of your emotional landscapes. Know what your calm constellation is, for that will give your hints about how to bring your body into a state of calm. Those will remind you of many healthy coping tools you can use to prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you like to imagine being at the beach, with the sounds of seagulls, the scent of salty air, the taste of coconut on your lips, and the feel of your toes sinking into the warm, wet waves. Perhaps aromatherapy helps you at work, with the scent of lavender on your desk.
5. Re-direct your body into the feeling you choose in that moment. Your body has a hard time being in calm and stress at the same time. If you are breathing slowly and deeply, you can’t breathe in that shallow fast way you do when you’re anxious, at the same time. Your body will calm because you are directing it to do so by breathing the way you do naturally when you are calm. If you are thinking thoughts that are consistent with feeling safe, in control or even upbeat, then your body will steer in that direction, which is why constructive self-talk, that you really believe, usually works every time!
Now that you have the keys to getting back the sense of well-being in your life, use them! And remember, the most important key is to “be you!”
Recently a client of mine asked to share her journal entries, with me and you, so that others could benefit from knowing what it is like to gain new insights, and begin to act on them.
In this case she was struggling to love herself, for she was really good at intense and unconstructive self-talk, and at beating herself up for every little thing she judged herself for doing wrong. We were trying to help her move into more automatic constructive, rather than unconstructive, self-talk. One of the things we had worked on was helping her distinguish between discernment and judging.
I don’t care who we are, coping with periods of transition IS difficult. Stuck, paralyzed, frustrated, irritable, fearful…these are the emotions that can haunt us during the season of change. We fear the unknown, what we don’t know how to do or what it might be once we do it, the possibility that we might regret leaving the familiar behind. When we are young, the future seems open, unwritten; and sometimes the vastness of this territory terrifies us into indecision. What if we make the “wrong” choice”? What if we “fail”? As we approach middle age, sometimes we are horrified by the decisions we didn’t make, as well as the decisions we did. We may have made choices that kept us safe, but bored, unchallenged and unfulfilled.
Even when we have lived a life that has felt very satisfying, we can arrive at our fifties and feel we want a change, something new. Perhaps we’ve always been on a growth streak, which never seems to end. And we get to yet another time of transition, and we feel inspired to move, but are simultaneously overwhelmed by having to yet again learn something different. We’re tired, wonder if we have the energy for one more change, and in our pause to think, notice our melancholy. If we shift faster rather than slower, we can avoid depression. But maybe we don’t because our fatigue, lack of motivation and stuckness have consumed us. As we near the end of life, we can fear sickness and death. Our bodies don’t quite function as we would like them to, but we feel stuck with our habits of eating poorly, sitting around the house, not moving, not learning, not doing much at all. So how do we cope?
A new client came into my office recently, complaining of bipolar depression and other related emotional and physical symptoms she said had troubled her for over a decade. I asked what she had already done to try to heal her relentless fatigue, brain fog, inability to focus on her work, failing memory (hich she said had previously been photographic and now a struggle), the mounting anxiety and resultant depression.
She described over ten years’ worth of visiting various doctors, being diagnosed with depression by some and bipolar by others. Wiping away tears, she listed the multiple medications she had been prescribed, and explained how none had seemed to bring back her once vibrant sense of self. Her thirties were almost past. No longer on medication, she was now ready to try the more holistic and integrative approach to healing. Her marriage was effected, other relationships were strained, and her career as an executive was in jeopardy. As she stopped speaking, her eyes looked deeply into mine, as if I were her last hope.
I began to further assess her nutrition, inquiring as to how much sunlight and/or vitamin D3 she was receiving, how many healthy foods and/or supplements she was taking.
It sounded like she was eating, quite frankly, better than the average American. We talked about the role of various vitamins and minerals in treating depression, anxiety and bipolar. She listened as I went on and on about the importance of supplementing with liquid D3 in combination with calcium, and the role of D3 in making the body’s biochemicals; the significance of omega 3s, B6 and B12 particularly for the nervous system, brain fog, memory and concentration; and the benefits of at least a whole food multivitamin. Clearly motivated to heal, she appeared focused as we discussed the hazards of sugar, the need for healthy plant proteins like beans and legumes, and the role of cinnamon in balancing blood sugar. Glancing over the handouts I had given her (one on anxiety, another on depression, a third on improved sleep), she agreed to have her doctor test her for deficiencies and insufficiencies, and to approve dosages and combinations.