What strange times we’re living in, it’s like the whole world has changed in a matter of weeks!
These last couple of weeks I’ve noticed that most of my clients have fallen into one of two camps. Either the working from home/home schooling and too much to do, which sits them in a camp of overwhelm. Or they are experiencing boredom and feeling low. Expressing the following: “my life has stopped, everything is on hold” “I have nothing to do”, “I have nowhere to go”.
Today I am going to address the overwhelm and anxious aspects of what my clients are experiencing. The juggling and struggling. Then in my next post I will explore the feelings of boredom and low mood. The feeling down in lock-down.
In our ‘normal’ everyday life (I hate the word normal, I usually don’t ever use it, but at the moment, everything feels so abnormal, I am allowing myself to say normal) anyway, in our normal everyday life, we have lots of demands that are placed upon our time, whoever we are.
It always feels as though there is so much pressure on our time, our days are usually structured around sleeping and eating, and lots of tasks that need completing by a certain time. We have emails, text and instant messaging, things like that, that demand our attention.
It still feels as though there are all these deadlines, and consequences if we don’t meet them. So, these consequences lead to internal pressures, even in normal times (there’s that word again!) there’s that voice in our head telling us what to do, how to do it and picking up on our smallest mistake and chiding ourselves for it. The voice says what we ‘should’ do, what we ‘must’ do, it keeps a running commentary about things we still 'have' to do.
If we are working from home, trying to adapt, and things go wrong like the laptop starts running slow, we’re on the home Wi-Fi instead of the work Wi-Fi, we’re expecting it to be just as fast. We are trying to replace the teacher, with their years of qualified experienced for our children or if we are trying desperately hard to keep the home running in an extremely difficult financial situation. These voices are now screaming at us! “I must get this done today”, “I must spend more time with the children”, “I need to get some shopping in, but I don’t know how to pay for it”. There are so many things that are putting demand on our time and our internal resources. So, we feel driven to achieve all the time, more so now. We are all getting that hit of dopamine when we do tick something off our to do list. Our to do list is a way of keeping track of our mind’s thoughts, or even physically ticking off on a piece of paper. (I’m quite old school, so the paper method works well for me)
Some people keep a list on their phones for tasks they need to do, and that’s just growing at the moment. It gives us that needed high when we do manage to tick off our to do list, it reinforces that behaviour, and it makes us more likely to do it again. So, its no wonder that we will continue to give ourselves tasks to do, especially as there are a lack of things to feel good about. So, if we get that thing ticked off our list, and we get that hit of dopamine, we will feel good, and we will go after that hit again, to feel good more and more!
While we’re in pursuit of that high, the stress that is caused by that, the constant thoughts, the constant striving to meet the goals - that causes the dopamine to reduce. Stress over time causes the dopamine to reduce, it makes us push harder to achieve the goals. We can then find ourselves on what feels like a hamster’s wheel, striving to get that dopamine hit. It can be the same process as a drug addiction, constantly seeking their next hit, their next feel good.
It can be important to have that strive, take NHS workers for example: they need to be striving so hard, they need that hit of dopamine every once and a while to keep them going through these hard times. In normal everyday life, we may have an exam coming up, and we need to remain focused with our revision. It may be what some people are still doing now or preparing just in case an exam will pop up in the Summer.
It’s good to have goals, but it’s when we go too far, and strive too hard that we start to narrow our focus and dig deep to get it done, that it can be at a cost. Sometimes we can make these goals unattainable, unrealistic and unachievable, leaving us without that dopamine high. When there is too much on our list, we can not focus, we cant concentrate fully to get things done, so we feel as thought we’re trying to do everything, but nothing feels like a ‘good enough’ job – and that is a phrase I am hearing a lot!
“I’m not good enough”, “I’m not a good enough mum”, “I’m not being a good enough teacher”. You’re not a teacher, you are not trained to be a teacher. There are so many people now feeling like they are just not good enough. We beat ourselves up don’t we? We all do, especially now under stress.
But we continue to strive, seeking that dopamine high, that boost that we need. Having delegated so many tasks to ourselves, we often don’t feel that victory, or that “well done me!” when it’s completed. We have many other tasks that we then turn our attention to.
Everything feels very magnified at the moment. I think it is where we are all confined to a much smaller space within our homes a lot more now. It’s become more obvious to us, we are struggling with focusing on work, the home and the children, everything feels blurred and unboundaried. It’s difficult to know what we ‘should’ be doing. Its also important to notice when the ‘should’ words comes into our heads. It’s usually from someone else, a conditional word that puts us under pressure. Its good to stop and ask yourself, “who says that?” “Who tells us we should do something?” The only person who tells us we should is ourselves.
In these times of added stress, from so many angles, we could do with learning how to relieve some of it and gain more control. If we can feel less stress, we are able to prioritise easier, use our time more effectively and put those boundaries back in place.
You can do this by separating your work time from your home time, this is what I do when I’m in a certain role, and this is where I do it. This will help you feel more boundaried and in control.
And when you feel like you energy is draining, here are 4 Powerful steps to help gain your energy back.
Or when you feel like everything seems so overwhelming you can try to calm the mind thru meditation. Here is some tips on how you can start a regular meditation practice.
I would also like to share a prayer that they may have heard before. I am not religious in anyway; I am more of a spiritualist. The words have been really useful for me personally and for my clients in the last couple of weeks:
“Lord give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot control,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I think it’s a really good reminder for yourselves over the coming weeks especially, because we can not control a lot of what is happening in the world at the moment. But what we can control is what’s happening in our own minds, bodies and homes.
I am going to share a few techniques that I find useful, also some of my clients. The first one is the stop technique.
The stop technique is useful when someone is putting a demand on you, or you feel that they are being demanding of your time, you can try the following:
· S – Stop, literally stop what you’re doing
· T – Take a nice deep belly breath – in for 4, out for 6. Become present, stop what you’re doing
· O – Observe what you’re doing. What are your thoughts saying?
· P – Proceed with awareness. When that voice pulls on your attention, stop and make a wise choice of what to do next.
Tune into your body.
Your body is a good barometer of letting you know what’s going on. Tune into your body, are you feeling any tension? Is your jaw tightening. Does your stomach feel unsettled? These are little things to notice. These physical sensations are letting you know what’s going on with your emotions.
Are these thoughts fact or opinion? So many of our thoughts are not what you think them to be. Do you really have to get that report written today in these current situations? It may be an opinion from an experience, but it may not be real right now
Think about how you can go easier on yourself right now. We may need to lighten up a little bit on our thoughts.
Are there jobs that really need to be done?
Can you break them down into smaller bits?
How about making a SMART goal?
· Make it specific
· Make it measurable
· Make it achievable
· Make it realistic
· Make it time limited
Question if your goals realistic and resourced, try not to overstretch yourself.
Coming back to this moment will prevent those what ifs of the future, we can focus on the present, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling. In this moment we don’t need to worry about the future, it hasn’t happened yet.
I have spoken and written about how to start a meditation practice. If you’re interested, please have a look on my website blogs and social media channels. Just to quickly recap – life is really difficult for most people right now. If we have too many balls to juggle, feeling bored or feeling quite low, there are some ways that you can take back some control.
I will focus on feeling low on the next blog post. If you do think the above techniques would be useful, but you would like some help putting them into practice, or if other things have come up for you while reading this blog, please visit my website:
On my website you can sign up to my newsletter, there is a downloadable booklet ‘coping with change in uncertain times’, which has lots of techniques and resources of how to cope with the current health crisis.
I wish you all well, stay well and take care.
With hope and healing