If anybody was to ask me how I was doing I would generally say that I was okay. I’m not happy 100% of the time, and I don’t expect to be. But for the majority of the time, I’m ok. Often I’m better than ok.
The only real struggle for me at the moment is finding balance in my life between making the most of my time, and not piling on the pressure to get things done to extent where I miss the point of enjoying things as they become a tick box exercise.
I’ve got a couple of approaches to this that I’ll go into in more detail in later posts, but for the most part I’m making progress in it.
But there’s one thing that gets me.
If I ever feel like I’ve gone a bit backwards, or haven’t moved forwards, I seem to very quickly fall into a surprisingly dark place. It happens if I feel like I’ve either got too much on my plate, and I can’t juggle it, or the exact opposite where I can’t think of anything to do.
Almost instantly, I go from a very reasonable thought process such as ‘I should probably make some plans this weekend so I don’t get bored’ to a completely unreasonable thought pattern which usually resembles something along the lines of ‘I’m not enjoying work, I’m not enjoying being out of work, it’s all pointless and there’s no point fighting it.’
Where that comes from I do not know. I don’t even believe it, I know I can improve the balance in my life, I’ve even made progress with it.
I’d also like to point out that I am by no means suicidal, I don’t even feel depressed. It’s a strange reaction.
I find it annoying, because even at the time I can recognise that it’s unreasonable, it’s also quite alarming.
Recently, I have been able to use the fact I know it’s unreasonable to process the emotional side of it and then get back on track pretty quickly. Something I’m grateful I’ve not lost the ability to do – but boy do I feel stupid after.
Its frustrating to find myself repeating the same pattern over and over, but I take positives from the fact that I seem to be getting quicker at getting back on track the more I continue this technique.
It’s quite a simple one, but has taken me years to be able to execute.
For anybody who’s interested (and a point of reference for myself) the steps I take are:
- First, you need to be able to recognise that you feel something undesirable. This might seem really obvious, but for some people depression can make it tough to identify how you feel. You just feel numb, and don’t know where to go from there. Developing this self-awareness takes time, but even if you don’t quite know exactly what you feel you can still continue with these steps as long as you recognise you don’t feel quite right.
- Ask yourself if it is reasonable. This again can become tough if you feel your judgement is clouded. Depression can make us forget that sometimes feelings of sadness, fear, etc are reasonable responses to life’s events. On the other hand, having a complete breakdown because you’re 10 minutes late in traffic (I’ve been there) is probably not a reasonable response to what would cause at most mild anxiety for most people.
- Stop thinking. If you have I fact identified you are responding unreasonably, the next step is the toughest to execute. You need to immediately stop thinking about it. Do not analyse it, do not try to fix it, do not repeat it over and over in your mind. This is absolutely vital, because your next step involves processing your physical reaction. Anxiety in particular can cause an onslaught of nasty physical symptoms. Most of these revolve around an increase in adrenaline. Now adrenaline, once created, has nowhere to go and cannot filter out of the body very easily without a physical reaction. Some people cry, some shake, some get angry, some people are even physically sick, it depends on the individual but one of the easiest ways to combat the effects of adrenaline is to get moving, a good way to do this is to go for a quick walk.
- Once you have addressed any physical needs, it’s time to get yourself into a space of acceptance. You need to recognise that for what ever reason, you overreacted, you’ve calmed down and there’s nothing you can do now except move on from it. If you spend the rest of the day annoyed at yourself, or still feeling a little shaken or whatever it is you may still be holding on to, it’s going to fester and ruin the rest of your day. Don’t allow it the power to do that.
- Finally, once you are in a space of acceptance you will be able to reflect on this and learn from it. For this stage, you might not want to do this right away. Particularly if you are in an environment where your presence is required, such as at work or social event. Wait until a time you can think clearly and without distraction and try to start to understand what caused your reaction. This understanding will in time help you to address these unreasonable thought processes and replace them with much more reasonable and pleasant ways of thinking.
Whilst not a step something I feel I need to add is that throughout this you require a great deal of something I have very little of – patience. Particularly with yourself. Like I said this has taken me years to develop and I am still trying to master it.