It’s been rather quiet over here at Where I Write in recent weeks. If you read my post titled: ‘Grief: What a panic attack feels like’ it will be obvious that I’ve not been well. I’m still not and it will take some time to get better.
This is the thing with a mental health problem – you often don’t see it coming. So knowing how to even start to turn things around can be a challenge.
When you’re deep in anxiety or depression you often can’t believe that things will ever improve. But that’s what you must tell yourself, first and foremost.
“Tomorrow will be better.”
Our knee-jerk, intellectual response to this thought is: but what if it’s not?
Ultimately, what difference does it make if it isn’t better? Having the hopeful and positive outlook will help you with TODAY and the anxiety of today. It’s certainly helping me.
I set objectives for 2016 and it was encouraging to see many of them were achieved in part, some fully.
This year my objectives have a completely different tone.
For me, this year is a year for self-reflection.
For prayer and meditation.
For doing less, striving less.
For facing up to my problems and the causes of them that run deep.
For discerning the habitual thought-patterns that steal joy and perpetuate fear.
For investing in important relationships and connecting in meaningful and personal ways.
For embracing and finding purpose in my main job in this season, and one of the most important roles I will ever have; that of a mother.
All summed up by this phrase, which is my main objective for 2017:
To live a fuller, emptier life.
Yes, that sounds like it doesn’t make sense. A writer, Ann Voskamp, has written a book called ‘One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are’ and it is about noticing the many good things that you constantly encounter every day. It is a choice to live like that and can involve removing things that can distract us from it.
“How do I give up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for spilling joy? Self-focus for God-communion.” Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
Voskamp uses this phrase, ‘fuller, emptier life’ and it is provoking if you take the time to reflect on its meaning. She invites us all to write down the things we are grateful for, the gifts we encounter in our day-to-day lives. Rather than focusing on the gaps, on the lack, on the losses and disappointments. And also, rather than keeping striving for more… of something or other.
The soft skin of a child’s hand
Perfectly cooked roast potatoes
The stranger who told me he liked my Dr Marten boots
Laughing at our family quote book
My son preferring to cuddle me instead of eat his dinner
A moment to rest and contemplate
The dog being glued to my son’s side
This is my big antidote to anxiety:
Letting go of some things and putting aside distractions can feel like a terrifying thing to do. Because what if our hurts, grief, fear, self-doubts all spring up to the surface when we no longer have the distractions to keep them at bay?
Well, to live a fuller life means to deal with all that baggage at some point or other, so feel it you may. But choosing to reflect on and notice the good that frequents your daily life can stop the pain from overwhelming you, can change your perspective, and can help you heal.
So, what does this look like for me? Here’s one thing I have changed to aid a more grateful life and perhaps I’ll address others in other posts to come.
- I am hardly using social media
I suppose the first thing I should clarify is that everything has its pros and cons and I’m not at all anti-social media. It’s life now and is essential for businesses, community groups and charities to promote and connect. For me personally, at this time in my life, it is needs to take a back seat and here’s why:
One of the problems with social media, is that you don’t just get judged by others based on your life choices, which you have posted online after making said choice. You can find that you actually MAKE choices with other people’s opinion in mind. So completely internally, your life is easily dictated by other people’s opinions.
What do they want to see? What will make me seem most appealing/smart/qualified/useful/creative/like a good parent?
Suddenly your internal monologues are in the format of Instagram posts and almost everything you do is under the scrutiny of your band of followers before you even do it as you preempt what might be best to do in order to create that perfect post. As a blogger, your life may be your business and so it can be hard to draw a line as it’s all personal.
Social media breeds dissatisfaction. It’s now a scientific fact after some research was recently published regarding the correlation between levels of misery and time spent on Facebook. I expect many were not surprised to read that.
No wonder our generation will experience levels of anxiety that will define us.
The thing is, social media is great for connecting… but it’s not meaningful connection. It can never replace face-to-face interaction. Sometimes it’s all we have in certain situations, so thank God for that. But other times, we don’t make plans with friends because we are too busy on our phones looking at their lives from a distance. A whole week can go by and we haven’t seen many close connections in real life. We haven’t sent many personal texts or made a phone call. But we are under the illusion that we have connected because we’ve seen someone’s filtered Instagram posts.
Since making this change I have found myself going for a dog walk and just enjoying it as my time, my experience, a moment in life to savour. The sounds, the sights, the interactions. As opposed to being a moment to document and post online. Sometimes it feels lonely, but learning to just ‘be’ in the moment and with myself is giving me greater peace.
I have felt the benefit of it mentally and emotionally and I have to say after experiencing this ‘fast’, it’s just not how I want to spend my time anymore. Wordpress sharing my posts to social media on my behalf is basically all that will go on my pages for now. I’m sure it won’t be forever, though I don’t intend to go back to scrolling through newsfeed’s for chunks of my days and posting really regularly. No matter what any social media strategy tells me I ought to do.
Once it’s all in its rightful place I expect I’ll use it more, but how I want to: not at weekends and minimally.
A final thought…
It’s easy to live with the illusion that you know yourself. I’m learning that I am often deceived about who I think I am, how I feel, and what I need.
What can you self-reflect on this year? Is social media addictive to you? Why do you think that is?
I’ll leave you with this quote from Brené Brown, vulnerability researcher and story-teller.