Global Overload

Global Overload

Are you feeling out of sorts?

Does the word “tired” not quite capture the state you’ve been in for too long?

Are you finding that your old-reliable strategies aren’t working to boost your functioning?

In April, I wrote a post about rest.  It was a recounting of strategies we had actually used to give ourselves the opportunity to recharge and be renewed.  While we enjoyed some immediate benefits from those efforts, we quickly found ourselves depleted once again but not in the usual way.  We are well familiar with all the symptoms and signs of burnout: anxiety, headaches, poor sleep, cynicism, etc.  Those are not our experience.  Instead, it has been this indescribable mental exhaustion that persists despite all of our diligence around sleep hygiene, gentle nutrition, movement and sabbath.  We are committed to walking the talk, so we have been leaning into the strategies we teach our clients.  While we are grateful to be doing fairly well overall, we fully recognized that we are not functioning optimally…we are regularly dipping into our reserves and at some point, would find our “account” overdrawn.

Does this sound familiar?  Do you feel like you’re doing OK considering, but wonder how much longer you can coast on your reserves? 

We have been discussing this for quite a few weeks because we see this happening with our clients and friends as well.  When we stop and think, the reality is that the past two and a half years have been one sucker punch after another: raging fires, global protests, pandemic, climate change disasters, race-based traumas, political depravity, migration crises, supply chain failures, global war, inflation and the mass murder of children in our own country.  Those are just the low lights…so much more is happening every.single.day.  It is RELENTLESS and therein lies the problem.

The brain’s number one job is survival and a main component of that is scanning for and responding to threat.  Our brains have been in perpetual response mode since March of 2020.  Every single person in our world has daily faced some level of threat – whether from health concerns, financial instability, race-based stressors, or potential violence.  Not only that, but many of us are living with a high level of uncertainty regarding the future which can feel threatening in and of itself.  For those of us who own our own businesses, the usual marketing strategies are no longer effective, learning the details of social media content is a full time job, shortages and inflation make it impossible to plan and execute both in the short term and certainly in the long term.  All of this requires the brain to activate and maintain response systems that were never meant to stay online long term, yet here we are…still having to pump out cortisol and stay vigilant over 700 days later, each day awakening to a fresh reminder of just how unstable our world has become.

This is not sustainable.

Feeling unsafe or “untethered” as I call it taps into so many soul triggers.  Depending on our life stories, we struggle with the lack of control, lack of connection, and crumbling foundations we have previously rested upon.  We may find ourselves having to re-establish our safe base: that person, place or thing we rely on to ground us.  We are having to develop more intensive strategies for soothing our inner child, giving voice to our adolescent selves, and silencing our critical voice.  How do we build up a loving adult self who faces life with wisdom, courage and confidence when the world is metaphorically on fire around us? 

Personally, we have had to lean in to our spirituality in unprecedented ways!  Faith, hope and love take on earthier, more intense and tangible meanings when they are the only steadfast factors left.  One thing that has struck us in our scripture study is the extended period of time that civilizations would endure turmoil.  Over and over in the Old Testament, we see invaders or evil kings wreaking havoc for years and years – it wasn’t unusual for trials to go on for 40 years!  In modern times, we are trained to expect things to resolve in a few weeks, if not days.  Psychologically, we haven’t had to build the mental and spiritual muscles it takes to find internal stability in the midst of prolonged chaos.  That is where we have decided to focus our efforts.  While it may not be comforting to read stories of long-term tribulations in the bible or any history book, I do take comfort in the fact that humanity has overcome so much and God has sustained and redeemed far worse than we are seeing today.

There is one significant difference for modern times however, that we must take into account.  It was summarized well by Nadia Bolz-Weber last year:

It is this insight that informs our next step in the process of establishing internal stability: disconnecting from the global chaos and focusing solely on our village.  Beginning on June 1st, Justin and I will be working to remove ourselves from the fray for a season.  We are not sure how long is needed.  We are not sure what the disconnect looks like exactly.  What we do know is that it begins with logging out of phone apps and minimizing time on electronics.  What that looks like to our audience is quiet on our platforms: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, blog, etc. Thankfully, we’ve built up a LOT of content in the past two years so there’s plenty there for you to check out and benefit from.

As psychotherapists, it is our responsibility to lead the way when it comes to mental, emotional and spiritual health so we are committed to doing the work of building the muscles needed to face the current task.  This gives us more to offer in our sessions with clients and as we figure out how to reconnect, we will share what we have learned.  It is our hope that this post sparks your own thoughts about reasonable expectations for yourself and what steps you need to take to thrive in this marathon we didn’t sign up for.  Give yourself grace and compassion – wherever you are emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually.  We were not built for all of this so extreme measures will be required to move through it well.

Stay tuned…

 

 

Rest times seven

Isn’t rest simply sitting still or sleeping?

Have you found yourself sleeping or being still a lot but feeling more exhausted than ever?

Maybe the rest you’re getting isn’t the kind of rest you need!

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am fascinated with the biblical significance of numbers. It is well known by many in the Christian faith that the number seven represents completeness and perfection. Couple that factor with our recent focus on the body/soul/spirit depletion rampant in our society right now and it makes sense why the IG post shown here grabbed my attention!

The timing was perfect as we had decided, only days prior, to take some time off and I was in the midst of trying to plan that week away to be most replenishing. From the other side of that week off, I want to share how I used this information in hopes that practical examples help you apply this insight to your own life…

Step One: Make the decision to stop.  No matter what kind of rest we will discuss – all of it requires that we stop what we are doing.  As a small business owner, that is particularly difficult because we do not have a guaranteed salary.  If we aren’t seeing clients, we are not earning income.  With recent financial punches fresh in our memories, it didn’t seem possible to step away for a week but we knew that if we failed to walk our talk, not only would we pay a price far greater than money but our clients would be negatively affected as well.  We’re not advocating reckless abandon.  We simply know that we must count every cost: health, sanity, relational and functional – not just financial.

Step Two: Planning.  What I am about to share did not happen automatically.  I was already working on the details of our time off but when I saw this post, I ran with it to help ensure that our time would generate maximum benefit.

Physical – I chose several restorative yoga moves shown to address exhaustion and began with a 20 minute Savasana on the eve of our first day off.  I slept in that next day and made it my goal to stay in bed as much as possible all day.  I had already planned out my nutrition for the day so it was easy for me to get my meals and go back to lying down.  I ended the night with a full yoga practice and for the rest of the week, I ended each day with an extended restorative pose before getting into bed on time.

Mental – I logged out of all my social media accounts so that I could give my brain a break from all that is wrong with the world.  I committed one day to completing work tasks that had been plaguing me undone for weeks.  I picked up books I haven’t had time to read – giving me a chance to enjoy learning new concepts for my work as well as diving into fiction I love.  Throughout the week, I tuned into the playlists I already have.  During my nightly restorative pose, I used a beautiful bilateral worship music album.  Bilateral techniques are used to help heal our brains that have been wounded by the stresses and trauma of life.

Emotional – If you’ve followed us for any length of time, you know that we talk about grieving a lot.  It is a vital component of our response to the challenges and changes of life, but is a process we are not typically taught how to move through.  We made a commitment during this week off to utilize the same strategies that we teach our clients – focusing on the losses of the past two years.  Since Justin and I spent this time together, we were able to process our experiences with each other.  Another option is to schedule time with a friend, therapist or mentor who holds space well for your thoughts and feelings.

Social – The goal here is balance.  If you spend a majority of your time alone, then rest would entail spending more time around life-giving others.  As therapists, we spend the majority of our time interacting with others so we chose to spend our time alone.  Even as a couple, we spent a good bit of our week off in separate areas of the house.

Creative – I regularly keep an art journal so creativity and play is already an important part of my life.  I had grand plans for painting one of the many blank canvases I have piled up but I ended up just coloring in pages with my watercolor brush pens.  It was about play, not creative productivity.

Spiritual – We chose to spend a couple of days at St Leo Abbey which turned out to be the best decision of our time off.  Staying in their guest house places you in an atmosphere of quiet reflection.  We took the option of joining a couple of their prayer services where the Benedictine monks sing the psalms as prayers and ate meals with the brothers who live there.  This is where we leaned in to our grief work, making it a painful but deeply healing time.  Being away from home allowed us to truly focus internally and connect with God in ways we struggle to do in the every day.  The Abbey also has beautiful grounds on which to wander and commune with nature.

Sensory –  It is amazing how logging off all the “apps” automatically creates quiet.  I log out of everything on my phone because it is such an ingrained habit to tap on icons.  When I take this automatic action, I am faced with login prompts which immediately remind me, “I’m not doing this right now”.  Each time this happened, it was a reminder to simply sit in quiet and ask myself what I was looking for.  What do I need in this moment?  We also spent a quiet day in what I call our “happy place” – Bok Tower Gardens.  We have a membership which makes it an easy decision to go.  This membership also gives us free or significantly discounted access to gardens and museums around the country.

Did this week solve all of our problems and give us endless energy?  No.  The world, with all it’s ills, was there all along but we return to our work with mental, emotional and physical energy restored.  Our warning lights had come on and now we are able to get back on the road without alarm bells ringing.  We will take what we’ve learned about rest, forward into better management of ourselves as well as into our work with clients.

Hopefully, these thoughts give you ideas for identifying the type of rest you actually need and ways in which you can access it.  You don’t have to take a week – start small…even five minutes dedicated to a specific type of rest is a gift your body, soul and spirit will benefit from!

Soul Seasons

As the weather finally changes here in central Florida, I have been reveling in the cooler temperatures.  Saturday night brought our first backyard fire of the season.  We’ve opened the windows and turned off the AC for days now.  Every morning, I sit on the back patio to drink my coffee.  As this change in weather has brought about changes in behavior, I am reminded of a book I read last year that I am still pondering all these months later.

Mark’s premise is so simple yet revolutionary at the same time: Just as our natural world has seasons which inspire/require different activities – so do our lives have varying seasons.  While I’ve been well aware of that reality, the part I never really thought about is the corresponding fact – those varying seasons require different activities and we can be intentional about making those adjustments. Yes, I’ve adapted my activities as seasons have changed in my life, but that was always a reactionary process, not a proactive one.  The idea that I could regularly assess my season and plan my activities accordingly was a novel one.

So according to Mark’s description, I am currently in a Fall season.  I have watched many aspects of my life wither away and die.  Yet, even in the midst of the “leaves falling”, there is beauty.  It has also been a time of final harvest, as I am reaping what I have sown in seasons past – for good and bad.  My activities at this point in time should be focused on “fall things”: reaping, storing, feasting and thanking.  Thus, I ponder what that looks like exactly for me.  I collect the harvest of my previous efforts – that means as blessings come to me (usually through the relationships I’ve invested in), I receive them instead of deflecting or minimizing.  Likewise, the consequences that unfold from the choices I made in previous seasons…I accept those as well instead of avoiding and excusing.  I store up the sense of closeness I have to God right now because I know that dark nights of the soul will come and I will need to remember this time.  I store up the blessings poured out for leaner times.  I store up the lessons learned from the consequences of my choices so that I can choose more wisely in the future.  I celebrate with gusto – all that God has done and been for me, taking time to count the tiniest of blessings.

Maybe you recognize the Fall season in your life too but perhaps your harvest is not at all pleasant.  Perhaps there simply is none or the fruit is bitter.  Mark addresses this as well with a few questions we can ask ourselves to get to the bottom of what is happening:

  • Who am I?  Am I living a life authentic to who God created me to be?
  • What is my purpose?  Am I living out my destiny?
  • What is my passion?  What makes me unique?  Am I living that out?

In the end, Fall is a time of assessment – reflecting on our planting and crop work to understand what worked well and what needs to be adjusted so that when Spring comes, we are ready with a plan that yields even better fruit than the cycle before.  Take some time to consider what season your life is in right now.  Get the book if you could use some help with that, especially with the business of focusing on the right tasks for your season.  Remember, counseling can be a wonderful tool for assistance in this process!