Mental health

Learning how to push the pause button

We live in a fast paced world where instant gratification is king. Self centered, ego driven and demanding people seem to be all over the place. There is a major lack of empathy and compassion in today’s cruel world and our culture is paying the price. I for one truly worry about the next generation and the harm on our human connection. Technology has influenced our society in many positive ways yet it’s the negative impact that terrifies me. We hardly speak on the phone any longer with each other. When was the last time you received a hand written letter? Most people walk down the street staring into a screen. The worst example is being out at a social gathering and nobody is talking to each other because everybody is preoccupied with their cell. Don’t even get me started on family dinners with my teens!

We are moving away from an important part of life. Learning how to develop and maintain close personal relationships is under attack and ironically enough, we humans invented it! Out of convenience the precious time spent interacting with each other has become fewer and far between. I feel so many of us have learned to separate ourselves from emotions for time’s sake. Ending relationships by text shouldn’t become acceptable because feelings are messy. If I read an email that I disagree with or am hurt by, I can quickly react and write one back before really thinking through the consequences before hitting that send button. It’s that knee jerk reactionary response to so much in life when it comes to our interactions that is causing undue stress and pain.

There is a big difference between these two actions. Responding to something or reacting to it are choices that can have large and damaging repercussions. I have explored this idea in my own life for the last few years. I made it a priority in all my interactions but most importantly with myself and how I treated me. Of course it will never be perfect but it’s become one of my works in progress. By learning to push that invisible pause button, imagine how much different outcomes in a wide range of situations could be! You get a mean text and instead of reacting to it, you thoughtfully respond. Not two seconds later either, you consciously decide to allow for some space between your thoughts, feelings and actions (whether or not to respond or react). Too many of us purely react to everything in life. We look at everything as though the entire world is against us and we must always be on the defense. Is that mindset allowing for space? How well does that serve us not only as a society but in our individual lives? These are some of the questions I ask myself.

When I encounter a difficult person or situation in life it’s easy to react to them and doesn’t require much thought, looking at it soley from the emotional side. If I can shift my thinking, push the pause button and allow for some space (even 15 seconds) imagine what my response can be?! Putting these ideas into actual practice helps them become more automatic. I have a tendency to act impulsively so this was a challenge for me at first. When I shifted my thinking to decide what was more instinctive to my nature, a loving response or a hateful reaction that’s what made all the difference.

In the end it’s all about staying true to onesef. I must decide to respond or react by what I value in myself. I refuse to take on what others want to impress upon me based on their own scewed perceptions. We are so caught up in the judgements of others that our minds start agreeing with them! Mostly I choose to respond to life in a kind and gentle way. Yes, when I’m met with anger and hatred it would be easy to react with more of the same but ultimately that doesn’t make me feel really good. I end up with regrets, nobody wins and especially learns anything from that kind of interaction.

More of us need to push that pause button. Respond with empathy and react with loving compassion. These are the human qualities that are virtually disappearing from too many around us. I hope you can find your pause button and allow for some space. The next generation is watching. This is a poem inspired by the concept of space.

Anxiety, Depression, Grief and loss, Mental health

Gathering hope, one more try

I have overcome many obstacles in my life that I thought at the time would break me. Ten years ago, while I was still married, I lost my house in the housing crash of 2008. Even today I still struggle putting that experience into words that accurately portray how that felt. In the three years following that catastrophic event I endured a few more deep losses, the horrible death of my beloved cat, having to give away my dogs followed by my divorce that ultimately broke my relationship with my boys. Shouldering the blame for it all, now I realize just how naive I was to the pain and sadness I was truly feeling. I had to make some tough decisions in order to survive. The financial ruin is still something I haven’t fully recovered from. In true C-PTSD fashion, it has taken me years to heal from grief. At the time I wasn’t hopeful God had opened a window in response to the many doors that had been slammed in my face.

Today however, it is these experiences that have reshaped me. I had to construct an overhaul of my thinking in order to get out of bed everyday. The heavy seriousness of such stark change was absolutely suffocating at times. I attempted to stuff and swallow it all by drinking to excess, over exercising and restricting my food intake. I have a terrible knack for kicking my own butt and punishing myself when things go wrong in my life. My resistance to accept what was going on around me proved completely futile. Something had to change and the only thing I had control over was myself and my responses to the lemons I was receiving. I learned how to make lemonade by redirecting my thoughts and gathering hope where I could find it.

Throughout all the heartache, my faith in humanity was tested. I have some wonderful lifelong friends that put their arms of support around me and guided me back into the light. I’m someone that prides myself on being there for others and I don’t ask for help often. During these years my priorities shifted when I made the decision to wave the white flag of surrender. Swallowing that pride was one of the hardest and most fruitful choices I made.

There are many misconceived notions about what it means to be strong versus weak. We all go through dark times and our ego’s will lie to us by telling us, “I have got this.” I was forced to realize that I most definitely didn’t “have it” and I needed help. My friends uplifted,  guided and at times carried me through a time I was sure would destroy me completely.

People tell me often how strong I am. Most days I am proud of where I have come from and what I have achieved. Understanding what is truly important, what I need instead of what I want. My route to these realizations was a hard lesson to learn.

In the United States, we live in an over consumption culture fueled by the myth of the more you have the happier you are. In reality, I have learned this is false. Bigger, better, faster, more of everything is a sure fire way to disappointment because the emptiness we try to fill with those things provides a false sense of security. The depressing reality of materialism causes one to feel secluded, lowers human interaction and socialization. We must work more and spend less time with family and friends in order to maintain what we think we “need”. I believe this driving cycle is a self fulfilling  prophecy. We gain real happiness from our connection with others which is not something that can be bought.

Today, I don’t have many possessions and I live more of a minimalist lifestyle. The things I have lost can never break me because I choose to invest in relationships with the ones I love. I now understand that if I hadn’t experienced loss, I wouldn’t have gained hope and faith. It is the people around me that continue to support me, proving to me that as long as I keep trying and never give up the sky’s the limit. My dreams can become reality and I definitely have more than one try left in me.

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