Permission to Engage with Yourself
Updated: Apr 3, 2020
One thing we know is there's no shortage of info.
Nowadays, the amount of it at our fingertips can be mindboggling. It's easy to get overwhelmed and overloaded--even mentally flattened by all that's coming at us.
Outside my home and even in my home, there's always a chance for overstimulation. I am on watch daily, carefully juggling the fine line between being fun chill mom and personal coach to humans who are still learning about self-awareness.
And all the moms said, "Hey-yo!"
In all the zillion ways we can connect, it can be tempting to over-connect, or connect wrongly. Sometimes we don't even realize it until it's too late. Late being, our mind has gone to unhealthy places.
Take your pick: The news, 10 reasons you should do life like ____, the posts that made you resent your kitchen--again (speaking from experience here), or that show you "thought" might be okay, only to feel like you needed to wash your eyes and soul for weeks after.
Maybe it's the constant flow of complaining on the social media feeds that make your stomach hurt, yet you feel as if you have to save the day with your thought or idea every time because you have struggled with self-worth, and are worried if you don't contribute, the world will go to hell in a handbasket--and it will be all your fault.
*Takes a breath* Also, speaking from experience.
Or maybe you quietly scroll in fear, and stay quiet (also have done this) but keep all the fear inside, locked away. (Hmmm, wonder where all that fear went....?)
Maybe you are excited to connect with friends, church peeps, or whatever, but forgot it's also not wrong to not connect sometimes.
Hear me out.
We sleep next to our phones, take them to the potty with us (admit it), and feel our butt cheek getting hot because apparently a mini-computer wasn't meant to stay cool in a protective rubber outfit inside of our outfit while we deep clean.
I have a challenge for anyone reading this if you have been overwhelmed (even pre-quarantine) with life, but can't seem to stop the spinning thoughts from taking over your minutes.
I want to encourage you to make time to disengage for a period of time each day. We can get so caught up in being seen, heard, productive, informed, smart, responsible, disciplined, chilled--whatever, that we find it a struggle to sit with only our thoughts.
Those with small kids are probably eye-rolling right now but you get me right?
What if we pursued a quiet time like we pursued milk and bread?
...even if it meant getting up hours earlier, or being okay with letting the baby sleep on our chests while we stare at the ceiling.
The quiet (even stillness without necessarily having quiet) is powerful.
We can steady ourselves in these moments.
We can regain what might have felt lost only moments before by merely taking some time for true self-care. The inner kind. Where we choose to do nothing but be mindful about our minds; mental habits--thought life.
I realize for many of us, the times we are in prove challenging. But no matter what we know or don't know, I want you to remember how important it is to stop and breathe apart from depending on others or outlets to inform or direct you.
Check on yourself.
Check on your mind.
Check on your heart.
Where are you?
Many people are frustrated they can not do the typical meet-ups, church, etc but one thing I have realized (a good thing) that can come from staying put more, is the freedom to get to know who we are apart from all the things we thought made our world spin, have meaning, or value.
We can begin to ask ourselves hard questions like, "How is my actual, personal relationship with my creator--like, if no one else was around?"
We can begin to ask ourselves things like, "What do I truly value in life and why?" or "Have I settled for a life of mediocrity or of jumping on bandwagons out of peer pressure?"
Peer pressure is a thing to be reckoned with, no matter what system or institution because we are are all human. It's a thing, and we get to check in on ourselves. We get to ask, "What are my motives for living the way I do?" or "What comes out of me when resistance touches my life?"
Having walked through years of hardship I can tell you firsthand how vital it is to think about what we think about.
To ask the hard questions.
To take time to sift through what's really going on inside of us. And yes, to eventually ask someone we trust to begin working through the parts we can't make sense of. And sometimes for some of us, it's reversed, We don't know what questions to ask, so we seek the help first.
Either way, because I've had practice, I am now better at...
1) Making time to disengage so I can truly engage.
2) Reaching out to a trusted person when I need help beyond myself, family, and prayer time.
3) Catching the mental crap when it starts to swirl in my head again.
The best advice I can personally give (see disclaimer at the end of this post) is to not wait until your neck-deep in overwhelm or fear before you take action.
A funk is something that typically has had time to build into this ugly thing, and then we sit in it, not meaning to, but feeling like a slave to its magnetic pull.
The longer we sit in it, the less we can see it--yet it's captured our minds and holds us hostage with a tighter grip the longer we remain.
The longer we sit in it, the harder it "feels" like it's possible to break free, but it can be done.
Permission to Engage with Yourself
Today I want you to know, it's healthy to make time to disengage with the world, voices, teachings--even people you've looked up to--to sit with yourself and realize what you are thinking, feeling, even believing about situations in your life.
This is not to say you should confide in yourself about matters--getting help and counsel is needed. This part about engaging with yourself doesn't take the place of that.
Disengaging for a period of time daily is the ground you lay to get in a healthy mental place, or back to it, if you've been stressed (at home, work, the commute, the teleconference...).
Getting alone with your thoughts, even while doing the dishes, for example, without listening to a podcast when you could, can be a useful and fruitful time of reflection and introspection.
I've frequently found when I trade efficiency for stillness, I end up being more productive and efficient afterward anyway, and that the time wasn't really "lost."
It takes time and stillness to work through things going on inside of us, but if we don't make time for mental house cleaning, how will we know what's there?
I have walked through some really dark days, being drug ball-and-chain style by the smog. For a long time, I thought I was destined to struggle without hope and had almost come to a place where I was "planning" for the dark days so much that I forgot how beautiful the light really was.
You might be able to sift back through some sad poems here or on Medium--it's one way I process pain. Much of years' worth of writing has been lost due to changing my blog host, but my point is that I am not here to vent or tell you what to do because I know some secret.
While everyone's journey is different, I hope by sharing my own experience of becoming free from toxic, repetitive thinking and assumptions rooted in lies that hijacked my present experiences--which made up my life--that even one person might be inspired with hope.
We can learn to live freer, with practice.
We've been going through a book called, Switch On Your Brain Everyday by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist with a Masters and PhD in Communication Pathology and a BSc Logopaedics, specializing in cognitive and metacognitive neuropsychology.
When I say going through, I mean we're taking these pages once per day like a prescribed medicine. Sometimes, we reread the designated "day" if it needs to further sink in.
I would say, if you can, please grab the book. You can buy the e-version as well if paperback shipment or the library is shut down right now. It's worth it.
The book description is as follows:
"According to researchers, the vast majority--a whopping 75-98 percent--of the illnesses that plague us today are a direct result of our thought life. What we think about truly affects us both physically and emotionally. In fact, fear alone triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses in our bodies, activating more than thirty different hormones! Today our culture is undergoing an epidemic of toxic thoughts that, left unchecked, create ideal conditions for illnesses.
In Switch On Your Brain, Dr. Caroline Leaf gave readers a prescription for better health and wholeness through correct thinking patterns. Now she helps readers live out their happier, healthier, more enjoyable lives every day with this devotional companion to her bestselling book. Readers will find here encouragement and strategies to reap the benefits of a detoxed thought life--every day!"
With practice, I've learned to get my thought life under control, which means I'm learning to master my emotions. Yes, mid-thirties, this is my oasis of gratitude.
How can choose to step away from the whirlwind of information, whether real or made-up--to engage with ourselves--benefit? It grounds us, as I will write about more.
Here are a few steps to get back to the present.
1) When we feel heavy, in despair, or keep rethinking a scenario over and over again, we can interrupt it.
2) We can interrupt the fear/toxic thought(s) by physically doing something completely different than what we are currently doing.
Example: You are sitting at your desk, trying to write, but you can't stop worrying about _____. You will give yourself permission to not write, right now. You will move to a different area, away from your "work station" so guilt can't play a role in this, and you will do something new like stretching to some fun music for a set amount of time. You might get a snack and sit outside and try to see how many birds you can spot in X amount of time. You might go organize a space for a set amount of time.
3) If the chosen actions do not help the heaviness to go away and worry sets in because hey--you were supposed to be working--get a notebook and journal out what you are feeling, the thoughts running through your mind, and what you would like to see happen. This might sound lofty, but it will plant hope in the dark.
Getting the toxic out when it has been trapped for very long, sometimes takes longer than we'd like it to. Sometimes, it's over and over again, that we find ourselves needing to hash it out on paper before we can believe there is hope. This is because we've built memories around the thoughts. We have a history with them; they've been a part of us for so long that if we've been drowning, the thought of not drowning, is hard to fathom.
The Long Road is Still A Road
It's taken numerous visits with my therapist, making time for art like I would take medicine, designated quiet, meditative time in the early morning, and keeping a simple workout routine for me to get where I am today.
I am not perfect by any means, but after years of living with anxiety and depression, mostly in secret, I am happy and thankful for how far God has come with me. He has never left my side, and people like my therapist and family support system have helped me to recognize progress for what it is, despite revisits to old topics that sometimes feel "not quite finished yet."
It takes strong people, able to not judge, listening ears, and creative ideas to get help and healing. On the journey of learning it's not only okay--but needed--to sit with ourselves and really get to the root of things, I've learned I probably will be tempted to revisit old issues in my mind, but like someone wise recently told me, I get to choose what I believe about it.
We get to choose.
We create in our mind which translates to words, which creates before us, a road that we will then walk.
Our Inner Life Feeds the Outer One
By making time for daily check-ins with ourselves, apart from all the messages offered us on a second-by-second basis, we are performing preventative maintenance on God's temple.
We are God's temple, comprised of body, mind, and spirit. We affect our surroundings as much as we might believe they affect us. In fact, we can have an impact on our surroundings--whether good or bad--but that message is for another day!
We can't always get out, and nowadays being quarantined, many of us are utilizing telehealth services, food delivery--maybe pick up depending on where you live--or other resources that hopefully make life feel manageable, and benefit to your quality of life.
Now more than ever, we need to realize the importance and power of good mental and (inner) heart health.
A daily journaling habit, writing music, and creating some form of art, has helped me stay on a good path. I used to downplay my need for these things, or even assume if I saved it for a later time I would be okay, but I now know because of my personality and the daily struggles my family faces, that it is beyond beneficial for me to make time for these activities.
I find if I go too long without doing them, thoughts bottle up and compress, and I don't even realize it. This is because I am a naturally reserved person, but even around my family whom I open up to, I found I keep a lot of struggles inside so as not to be a burden.
Maybe you or someone you know is like this.
I am not a professional, so if you or the person you know needs professional help, this blog post does not replace that help and I don't claim that it does.
This is merely me sharing part of my story, and I hope it can benefit you or that someone in some way.
Please reach out to a professional if you or your friend needs a bigger help-hug. People really do care. They really do want to listen and help you live the best life you can.
This content is a copyrighted work of Meghan Weyerbacher Writes, LLC.
M. E. Weyerbacher is an entrepreneur and artist living on a seventh-day kinda' oxygen while sharing thorn-in-the-flesh struggles via story + song.