This weeks post comes from my experience gained during my work on project me. My creating space in my life for me I have regained control and found peace, and I hope that you can as well.
We all live crazy busy lives, especially as mothers. Have you ever felt like you were “drowning” in work? So overwhelmed with responsibility that you were “suffocating”?
As a working mother of three young children and pets my days are “full”. There have been times when I have come home from a long day at work exhausted and head pounding, to wish a good night to my parents (who help watch my kids when I am working) and have all hell break loose. The twins start screaming because one is hungry and the other needs a clean diaper, my son starts running through the house throwing things, the dogs start barking and scratching wanting to go out, and my house looks like a small tornado may or may not have swept through the living room.
I literally feel the weight of the situation come crashing down on me and I want to just lock myself in the bathroom to get away from it all and find a moment’s peace.
As is turns out, that “space” I was craving was even closer than I thought. You see, there is a reason I have put quotations around the words “drowning”, “suffocating” and “full”. These are not literal, they are metaphors, words we use to describe our situations. While they may not seem important, they are. How we see the world, including our reaction to it, begins with our thoughts. When you think of your life in these terms, over time you actually start to physically feel that way. Your mind is the most powerful thing you have, but only if you are mindful can you use it to your advantage.
Studies on post traumatic stress disorder show two things:
1. Given a choice, our primitive brain will naturally select for the negative. It’s a survival mechanism.
2. When in crisis, the part of our brain that conceptualizes time and space goes off-line. In other words, our brain increases the urgency of the problem by making us think the crisis will never end.
I am not ashamed to admit that I have occasionally suffered from what I can only describe as “panic attacks”. I say describe because they do not feel like an attack of panic. They are a huge burst of negative emotion (sadness, depression, anger, panic) than explodes around me, leaving a cloud so thick I can no longer see or hear the outside world, I am trapped, debilitated by all of these horrible thoughts that rush through my mind. I feel my heart sink, my stomach lurch and dizziness sets in from the huge barrage of thoughts swirling through my mind at lightning speed.
When I was younger I took antidepressants to help keep me “afloat”. The help calm the storm, which was good for a while. Then I just started to feel numb. While I wasn’t sad or depressed I couldn’t really be happy or take joy in life either. There have also been points in my life where I have turned to alcohol or cigarettes to help me get through tough times. But these are only temporary fixes at best, and they open up whole other worlds of problems.
Recently, I have found something that helps me deal with stressful, overwhelming situations and it’s so simple you will probably laugh. I create space.
If the old me were reading this right now (I’d probably be speed reading) and I’d think, this chick doesn’t know me at all! My life is full of stuff. Me time? You have got to be kidding. I am superwoman, I don’t need “me time” my life is “me time” plus I have no time for “me time” etc. etc.
If you are reading closely you will see that isn’t what I mean at all. It’s not about creating physical space in your life (because sometimes you just can’t do that). It’s about creating mental space. Space in your brain. It doesn’t cost anything, takes but a moment of time, and anyone can do it.
As I feel my control over a situation slip away and the panic and frustration set in (which indicates a storm is brewing) I stop for a moment. I imagine myself standing in an empty room. I can see the cloud of emotions surrounding me, closing in and I simply push it away. I create a space around me. Space to think, space to live, space to breathe. And you know what happens? As soon as I create this space around me, my body responds.
Almost immediately I feel myself taking a deep calming breath because my body feels like it has the “space” to breath again. There is a lot of rejuvenating power in the simple act of breathing. It is not only what gives us life, it gives us focus. It reminds me that I am human, I am alive, and while I have no control over the world around me, I have control over myself.
My mind’s eye looks around the room I was standing in to see it’s now empty and clear, the cloud is gone, and I physically stand taller even though it was a metaphorical weight that was lifted off my shoulders.
All of this happens in the span of just a few seconds. I then tune back in to the literal chaos surrounding me, but now I feel rejuvenated, centered and calm. I can feel my feet physically planted firmly on the ground, and I feel happy because I realize that I once again have control over the situation, because I have control over me.
I change the diaper, get them some snacks, I grab my son and give him a hug before turning on some TV for him to watch while I take the dogs out to the washroom and then tidy up some of the biggest dangers in the room. As I sit down on the couch I realize that I have successfully “survived” the situation that had me hitting the panic button just fifteen minutes ago.
So the next time you start like you are overburdened, stressed out, anxious, or overwhelmed, try creating a space for yourself because you are worth it. Breath and relax and be amazed by the power of you.
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