TW/CW: Mention of suicide, anxiety, depression.
A long time ago (like 40 years or so), I first heard the concept that people who choose suicide don’t usually actually want to die – in fact, they want more life, more for their lives – they want to be more alive! It may have been a line from the movie Ordinary People. At any rate, that concept always struck me as true. I think it could also apply to other mental/emotional health issues, such as anxiety and depression. When we feel these things, isn’t it just possible that we are out of balance with ourselves, with what we want – and even need – more of (or possibly less of) in our lives in order to have our lives feel fulfilling and to feel peace within our own selves?
Now, I’m not a mental health professional – and I do realize that sometimes it is brain chemistry or other issues that are causing problems. However, I am trained in energy healing and in observing the energetic flows and impacts of various influences on our bodies, minds, and emotions. For example, I can feel areas in the body where chi (energy) is blocked. I can feel places in a home where the energy is blocked. Clutter is not without energetic consequences to your body, mind, and emotions! Holding ourselves back from our passions blocks energy. Trauma often gets locked in the body tissues, impacting our bodies, minds, emotions, and lives in countless ways that we may not even be aware of. Internal conflict about difficult decisions can paralyze us mentally and emotionally, causing us to feel tired, hopeless, and/or depressed. The list of emotional states that can impact our mental health and general vitality is extensive.
So, what do we do if we find ourselves feeling trapped in our own minds, stuck in our lives, too tired and overwhelmed to move forward? Well, first of all, being evaluated by a doctor or mental health professional to rule out physical causes is a good idea. Beyond that, though, what can we do to help ourselves shake off the doldrums and the lethargy that have us unable to move in directions that get us closer to the lives which we want to be living? We need to reach for MORE.
Motivating. We all need to find or create positive things in our lives (relationships, places, experiences, music, dance, foods, play, etc.) that make us want to get out of bed in the morning, that make us want to keep breathing, that fill us up inside. What motivates you? Make a list of everything you can think of, big or small, that makes you feel motivated. In business, trainers often ask for your why? For many people, their why includes things like taking care of their family, their children particularly. But in addition to that, I’m asking you to just consider your Self for a moment. What motivates you? What brings you aliveness? What brings you joy? What makes you laugh? What gives you reasons to continue on? What are the things that drive and motivate you? What are the things that bring you pleasure along the way?
Maybe your list includes writing (or finishing) a novel. You are motivated and want to get that done. But maybe that’s too ambitious for you today or you feel stalled on that at the moment. Personally, I don’t find it helpful to keep pushing. If I’m forcing myself, then I’m not going to count that as something for which I feel motivated or something which is motivating me. You don’t have to force yourself to do anything that you truly feel motivated to do! I believe that it’s healthy to wait for the motivation (or muses) to come back. Until then, to get through the day – or even to start the day – I may need to go with something smaller. I can’t count the days that a delicious breakfast has been my motivation to get out of bed. Giving myself a tranquil morning of pleasure can be the impetus I need to get moving in other, more productive directions (not that productivity is always a mandate either, but that’s a whole other subject).
Sometimes, we are rushing off to work and we need to be creative about the ways in which we can provide ourselves the sort of motivations that get us through our days. For many of us, our commute is a nightmare. How can you make it pleasurable for yourself? Whether listening to your favorite music or podcasts, taking a more scenic route (if that’s available), or stopping on the way for your favorite bagel or coffee or other treat, what can you do to allow yourself to feel excited as you go through your day? At work, do you have co-workers with whom you enjoy talking, laughing, collaborating? What are the moments that make you feel grateful to be alive (in addition to whatever you are accomplishing)? Wherever you go and whatever you are doing, you need to find what is motivating for you. And perhaps some things in life are just what you must endure – even then, what motivates you to get through that? What can you hang onto until you can reach better times ahead?
Orienting. It’s easy to feel disoriented in life – especially during a pandemic or other major and even minor life crises. Everything is changing all of the time – and although we hear that all of the time, we often don’t grasp the emotional impact that has on us. Our jobs change. Our living situations change. Our relationships shift and change over time. The people that we thought would always be with us – the relationships around which we have created our identities – may fall away. People die, divorces happen, friendships struggle and sometimes end – and there we are, often feeling like we don’t even know who we are anymore. Especially when someone dies, life feels surreal for a long time. When important relationships shift or end, we can feel set adrift. Who are we without that person in our lives – or that relationship defining who we are? When children grow up and stop being the center of our lives and focus, then what? There are so many times and ways in which we feel at a loss to move forward.
When we don’t know how to move forward, maybe we need to just give ourselves a break – and a heaping dose of grace – and allow ourselves time to be still. We actually continue to be here – to exist – as improbable as that may seem. Our breath is still moving in and out of our lungs. The clouds are still floating across the sky, the wind still blowing through the trees. Let us find the things that can orient us, ground us, connect us into this life.
What are the things that orient you? What can you do to feel happy to be alive regardless of if anyone else is around? For some people that may be yoga or hiking or simply sitting by a creek. For some people that may be baking or gardening or meditation. For some people that may be painting or drawing or riding a bike or motorcycle. Those activities that fill you – those non-activities that allow you to breathe – they all help orient you to life. They all help you feel connected to life even when a lot of things don’t make sense and you could easily get lost in your mind in grief or despair or other painful and confusing emotions. Not that we want to avoid those emotions – on the contrary, we must feel to heal – however, even as we do our work of feeling and healing, we must also find ways to stay connected to the threads of what helps us feel oriented to ongoing life.
Recharging. Sadly, our society doesn’t value relaxing and recharging as much as those necessary components of our lives deserve. Our constant push for productivity, both at work and even in play, has created a society where a lot of people have no idea of how to just be, much less how to recharge. Many people tend to feel guilty when they are just sitting around doing nothing – they’ve forgotten how to simply be (if they ever even knew that state of being). Do you remember lying in the grass as a kid, watching clouds float by? Did you even ever get to experience that? Or playing kick the can or freeze tag or 4-square or some other made-up game with the neighborhood kids?
It seems like nowadays, there’s always pressure to have even leisure be organized. Games are turned into competitions or organized sports. Everything in exercise is measured rather than enjoyed for the fun of it. People are chastised for sitting around reading for fun and pleasure, or for other “unproductive” things. Even though most people spend a significant amount of time watching TV, we are made to feel guilty about that – and oftentimes, people just check out, not even really paying attention as we scroll through our social media feeds while paying only marginal attention to what’s happening on the bigger screen. I’m not saying that any of that is “bad” per se, but that it isn’t necessarily recharging. Do these ways in which we spend our leisure time actually fill us back up? Do they give us energy? Rejuvenate us? Fulfill us? Make our lives better or more enjoyable? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. I’m just asking you to take a look at what recharges you … and also, what drains you.
Sometimes we may feel like just checking out with some mindless TV. Sometimes we feel like a silly movie that makes us laugh. Sometimes we’re up for a deeper movie that makes us think. For many people, spending time outside in nature is restorative. For others, being outside at any time may feel stressful. While it is certainly advantageous to try a variety of things, I don’t think it is of benefit to ever force yourself to do something that you really don’t enjoy. The things that recharge you will appeal to you, not stress you out. Recharging isn’t about adding things to your “to do” list – on the contrary, it is about giving yourself the time and space that you need to fill your own energy batteries – physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual – in the ways that resonate with you. That may be naps. That may be long walks in nature or wherever you have access to safe paths. That may be laughing with children. That may be sitting by a lake and watching the water move. That may be pulling oracle cards and/or meditating. What fuels you? What recharges you? Pay attention to how your energy feels and you will learn what you need.
Energizing. Beyond recharging your human batteries which may be running low from work or emotional stress or life stress or the countless demands on your time and attention, what are the things that truly energize you? I’ll tell you how to spot those things. They are the things that excite you. Pay attention and you’ll notice them. Write them down. Make a list. Keep that list handy. Do those things as often as you can.
Here’s how to recognize them. Pay attention to the energy level in your body. It’s kind of easy to spot the things that drain you. Ever get invited to do something and suddenly everything in you just wants to take a nap? Conversely, ever been literally lying down on the couch with no energy to even move, then you get invited to do something and suddenly you are up and ready to go with all of the energy in the world? That latter thing? Yeah, write that down. That is something that energizes you. That is something that you need to fill your life with as much as possible. When I say “as much as possible,” I don’t mean all of the time. You still need to pay attention to your physical limits and energy levels. Your human body still needs down time, rest and recharge time. But do notice what makes you want to jump up and get going!
So much of the time, we dull our enthusiasm. We get in our own way. We stop ourselves from doing the things we want to do, from saying the things we want to say, from having the relationships we want to have. We tell ourselves before we even try that we can’t have that. We convince ourselves not to try, then we sit on our own energy and desires – and wonder why we feel tired and depressed. We trap ourselves in lives that don’t feel meaningful or happy or fulfilling to us because we become too afraid to reach for something more – or because we’re out of touch with what is our MORE. We wait for permission from someone else to take a chance or to be invited to do something we want to do. What if we stopped waiting? What if we started recognizing what is our MORE – and started choosing to create our lives going forward with those things in mind?
Let me leave you with one final thought about MORE. Being human isn’t easy – it never has been, it never will be. Give yourself a break. Give yourself lots of love and grace. Let yourself make mistakes and do things imperfectly. Let yourself speak what is true for you in the moment, even if it feels awkward and you don’t know how it will turn out. Be willing, to the extent you can, to take chances, to be authentic, to allow yourself to LIVE! And when you need to hide, hide. When you are ready to come back out and try again, let yourself. Support yourself in whatever ways you learn that you need. Do what you need to do to claim your MORE. If you ever need professional help, reach out for that. There is no shame whatsoever in seeking out mental/emotional health treatment! The truth is that most people would benefit from that – wise people are willing and open to get the help they need. Whatever helps you to carry on, to make it to the next day, even to keep breathing in this moment – just allow yourself to have that MORE which sustains you.
Like I said, I’m not a mental health professional, but if you would like some coaching in regard to finding your MORE or in helping to identify energetic blocks and releasing them, I am available. You can find me here. My best wishes to you for your happiest, most fulfilling life!