Are you okay?
No, I probably am not okay, but I know that it is okay to feel that way; it is completely human. To be honest, even when I think I am okay, I probably am still in some way struggling within myself on a subconscious level.
I imagine there are a lot of you who are feeling like I am at the moment and that is totally okay. We are all facing a very hard time now coming into a second year of having Christmas in the Covid-19 pandemic. For some it will be the pandemic causing challenges, for others it will be unrelated anniversaries, experiences or trauma making it difficult, and for the rest of us it will be a combination of all of the above making it a really hard time of year.
In times of struggle we often have scripts/thoughts going through our minds that don’t necessarily help us but instead echo hurtful/unhelpful things we have been told in the past or even how we have been made to feel. These scripts/narratives we tell ourselves are powered by our subconscious mind, we all have different triggers that cause these to come back to the front of our minds. Some scripts I have had repeatedly come back to me over the years are ‘everyone has issues, get over yourself’ or ‘no one cares, just get on with it’. I know a lot of people will resonate with these scripts, and a lot will certainly have their variations of these as well.
It’s not always scripts that we battle with, it can also often be certain behaviours we notice ourselves doing. For example, over this Christmas period (or in fact any time) we may notice ourselves either clinging to someone, or the opposite, we may isolate and keep clear of everyone we know. There are many reasons we do these behaviours but a lot of it comes back to our ancestral basic human need for connection. When we cling to someone, either physically being around someone a lot or even constantly messaging them, it is often because we don’t want to be alone, we feel a need for acceptance and genuine connection. There is nothing wrong with this, it is completely natural to have this need, however, it is essential to find a healthy balance to prevent pushing people away and to also work out what we have been through that is bringing this need to the surface. Isolating is also a situation that requires balance, there are many people like myself who have had a lot of time to themselves so have a more natural tendency to want to be alone when working through emotions. It is important to remember we as humans have a natural need for connection, even if our anxiety means we can’t bear the thought of being in the same room as someone, sending a message or giving someone a call can really help us take a second to stop the overthinking going on in our minds. We need to ask ourselves, ‘is my behaviour healthy or is it a coping mechanism?’.
It can be really difficult to confront ourselves about the thoughts going on in our minds and questioning our behaviour but it really is amazing the amount of things we have picked up over the years that we don’t even realize until we do stop to ask these questions.
When we are children we pick up on a lot more than we realize; we not only pick up on language used, the people around us and their actions, and environments we are in, we also distinguish in our minds the feelings we associate with every single person, place, or object we come across. Although the feelings and emotions we experience may not seem significant to us as a child, our brain uses its neuroplasticity abilities to turn our experiences into the associations and understanding we have of our feelings. Our subconscious is not only responsible for regulating functions such as our body temperature, heartbeat, and breathing, it is also responsible for our reactions based on stored memories, experiences, and beliefs.
The cool thing about our brains is that we are able to override/reprogram the associations we have. We may not be able to completely forget trauma exists but when we have an awareness of it we are able to work through the emotions of the issue, minimize triggers we face in daily life where possible, and create new positive associations and experiences.
It’s important to remember triggers look different for every person and every situation. When we give ourselves space to process our feelings and emotions we are also able to move forward from calling certain objects/people/places triggers anymore, this is obviously not applicable in all scenarios however.
If you are struggling with a difficult time over this holiday period give yourself the best present you can by taking inventory of everything that makes you you. Instead of setting unrealistic new years’ resolutions that we struggle to stick with, ask yourself ‘who am I? and who do I want to be in relation to everything I am experiencing?’. Take your time to really think about who you want to be and what would bring genuine happiness into each day, set yourself realistic stepping stone goals to become that person.
"Finding joy in life leads you to understand why you are here, and what causes your life to be sustainable, meaningful, and purposeful. Your joy comes from what you feel passionate about, and your passion is your purpose."
- Jaime Bronstein