It's OK not to be OK.
Updated: Sep 20
“It’s not what you do when you get knocked down; it’s what you do when you get back up.”
When I put out a suggestion for blog topics, some of the people on Instagram would like me to write about, somebody asked about ‘emotional resilience’ and how does one go about maintaining it. I let that question sit with me for a while to think about how I could best answer it. Then true to form, life decided to send me down a path where that very question became a stark reality.
I should probably clear up from the get-go that this post isn’t some rally-around pity party or need for sympathy, quite the opposite, in fact, I want to use it to make some suggestions that may be of help to whoever needs it. After weeks of sitting with my emotions, and my (at times) unbearable sadness I felt compelled to finally put into words what I’m feeling and the mindful steps I’ve taken to try and minimize the blow as it were.
The very definition of resilience is ‘to be able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions’ I have a slight intolerance to speed when it comes to dealing with emotional recovery. Despite being a self-confessed impatient human being (anyone who has seen me at Christmas will attest to this), I know from experience that speeding through emotional trauma is not a healthy way to process it. Some situations, unfortunately, are ones that take time to work through so that we may achieve the best outcomes for our mental health.
I read something very interesting in ‘The 5 am Club’ (a book I’ve been reading on and off for a few months now) and came across this excerpt that leapt off the page, so much so I had to grab a highlighter and mark it for future reference ‘When we avoid feeling, we lose access to our most powerful selves and forget the truths of life: that each of us can accomplish astounding things, and produce astonishing works, and realize radiant health, and know true love, and live a magical life, and be helpful to many…..But most of us have so much fear, pain, anger, and sorrow built up over our real selves; we have no sense of the opportunities that sit right in front of us’. This for me rang particularly true when I think of all those times I’ve tried to avoid feeling something or to fast forward it. Having learnt this the hard way in the past many years ago, I know fine well it will find its way out eventually, someway, somehow.
When I find myself in the depths of emotional turmoil the likes that have the capability to be all-consuming and unforgiving as I have done for the last few weeks it is in these times that mindfulness comes forward to do its best to save the day. I’m not sure about you, the reader, but I find emotional turbulence to be hugely debilitating, and it has the knack of shutting down everything within me apart from essential functions. It is not a pleasant place to be by any stretch of the imagination and it is most definitely something that I still battle with.
Having not been through something like this for many years, I was grateful for the knowledge and growth that had come my way over time to enable me to recognize this mental prison I’d locked myself into. Ensuring that I achieved minor goals each day to remind me to exist, to be human and that I deserved to heal has been essential.
Mental health still carries around with it somewhat of a stigma, like some black cross painted on your front door (beware of the plague) yet what we need to remember is that most, if not all, will suffer some mental health issue in our lifetime. What we need to be clear about here is that just because someone struggles with their mental health at times does not mean they are imbalanced, likely to run around WH Smiths naked or thinking they’re Mary Berry just because they like to bake.
For me, being ultra-connected to my emotions which, for the most part, serves me well, it also has the distinct downside of falling into these pitfalls during emotional challenges. It is in times like these that even with the smallest ounce of energy, we acknowledge what we’re feeling, how we’re feeling and start to implement some self-care ASAP. While exercising self-care might not necessarily extinguish the pain, it can certainly put us on the road to recovery.
I want to take a moment here and go on the record to say that it is ok not to feel ok. There is no shame in admitting to yourself and to trusted friends, family members and the like to say “I am not ok, I need help”. The same goes for therapy; speaking to a therapist, for me, is like going to the gym for the mind. Again, we need to remove the stigma around therapy, and all that carries around with it. Therapy is a safe space for you to work out what you’re battling with and to do it with someone qualified to help you find your way. At the moment I’m seeing my Therapist once a week, and while it brings out emotion sometimes seemingly out of fresh air, I actively look forward to the sessions to clear out the mind and hopefully restore some of the balance. I’ve been seeing my Therapist on and off for the last 3 or so years and being able to forge that connection with someone is immeasurable. I urge you to do the same if you’re considering therapy. Don’t give up at the first hurdle if you find you don’t gel with the first person you meet, keep searching until you find one with which you do.
It’s common knowledge that we need to feel the pain in order for us to heal, or in other words, we need to go through it to come out of the other side. There is alas, no avoiding it, no shortcut or no blanking it out. But here’s where it gets interesting, if we can look for the lessons and not only pass through the pain but grow out of it we can, in turn, look for ways to be better because of it not in spite of it. Right now, I’m not entirely through the other side, I’ve had my shine taken away for the time being, and each day I’m working toward bringing it back. There’s no doubt these things change you, and while the pain may still be sitting there for a while longer, I will inevitably be grateful for all it has taught me.
I’ve put together a list of self-care suggestions. Some of them may not be for you, but give them a whirl anyway and see how you get on.
Go for a walk – trust me; this is a great one – get out get some air. For the last few weeks, I’ve gotten out most mornings for a walk, even if it’s just to Starbucks and back.
Exercise – this ties in with going for a walk, but if you can manage some exercise at the gym too then even better. A healthy body helps cultivate a strong mind. Be sure to allow yourself to rest also!
Be kind and patient with yourself – as I’ve already mentioned, trying to fast-forward these sorts of things never ends well. Treat yourself as if you would a friend going through the same thing. Give yourself the time and space to heal and above all, take your time.
Ask for help – I’ve already talked about therapy or confiding in friends/family, but please don’t forget there are many services out there to offer help. Please don’t suffer in silence. Remember, it’s ok not to be ok, and you’re allowed to ask for help.
Surround yourself with love / Keep in touch with those who matter – for me, this is my daily check-in with my best friend. Without fail, she calls, texts, FaceTimes and visits. She has sat with me patiently as I’ve poured the pain out of my heart. I cannot stress the importance of social connection.
Eat well – in times of pain we often reach for the Ben and Jerry’s or the nearest Big Mac, and while I solidly believe a little bit of what you fancy is ok if you’re eating well moreover eating healthily, this has a rebound effect on your mental wellbeing. As a side note, take the time to cook for yourself, personally I love cooking a tasty meal for me because the reward is all mine and I don’t have to share!
Meditate – while not everyone’s cup of tea, meditation certainly has it’s a place. It is a superb opportunity to focus on your breathing, calm the mind and hopefully stave off any anxiety. There are plenty of apps out there if you need any guidance. I enjoy the peace and calm it brings. We’re so conditioned these days to be on the move and always busy that purposefully taking some time just for you is a reward in itself. The ultimate in self-kindness.
Change your routine – if you’re doing the same thing day in day out (that’s not related to your career) then why not try and change it up a little bit? Take yourself out for that coffee, walk to the supermarket, put some lively tunes on while you’re doing chores. Whatever it takes, make a break from the norm. It’s amazing how alive this can make you feel.
Make peace with your emotion – you’re allowed to cry and yes, guys, that goes for you too. Allow yourself to sit with your feelings, and if that means balling your eyes out, then go for it. It can release some of the pressure out of the pot. Emotion is normal as is feeling. Be kind to yourself and allow it to flow.
Do things that make you feel good – as long as they’re legal then go for it. Remind yourself you’re alive. If that means baking yourself a cake, taking yourself to the spa or going out dancing with friends. Then do it. You’re not denying that you’re still on your journey, but everyone needs a break once in a while.
Keep a journal – I cannot stress the benefits of this enough! ‘Freeflow’ journaling is my favourite. A simple notepad and a pen then let rip. Write anything and everything that comes into your mind. I find it a great way to empty the mind of all the fuzz and try to make sense of it all. I also find it an excellent opportunity for self-therapy. Remember, no one will read it, and no one will judge you. I prefer the excellent old-fashioned handwritten version; it gives me a break from the devices for a while.
Limit social media – hopping from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter and beyond, for me, isn’t healthy at all. At a time when you’re focusing on strengthening your mental health, trawling through ‘the gram’ and looking at all the perceived good portions of other people’s lives is not conducive to proper spiritual healing. Remember, what you see on social media is only a portion of someone’s life; you only see a very brief snapshot of the good times. Use your time more productively… like looking after number one.
Look for the lessons – I know I’ve covered this already, but keep your eyes and ears open for the experiences. They’re out there. I find journaling helps me identify these at times.
Remember, you deserve happiness! –And love for that matter. My Therapist said to me the other day “David, you just love, love” and how right she is. We all deserve it. Love is a healer; love is a protector and love is a friend.
Well, that’s all folks. I hope you find something useful out of this. I’ll be back soon, once I’ve recharged the batteries and discovered my shine once more.
Original Post by David Allison published on August 27th 2019 - https://themindfulnessguy.co.uk/2019/08/27/its-ok/
I want to take a moment here and go on the record to say that it is ok not to feel ok. There is no shame in admitting to yourself and to trusted friends, family members and the like to say “I am not ok, I need help”. The same goes for therapy; speaking to a therapist, for me, is like going to the gym for the mind. Again, we need to remove the stigma around therapy, and all that carries around with it. Therapy is a safe space for you to work out what you’re battling with and to do it with someone qualified to help you find your way. At the moment I’m seeing my therapist once a week, and while it brings out emotion sometimes seemingly out of fresh air, I actively look forward to the sessions to clear out the mind and hopefully restore some of the balance. I’ve been seeing my Therapist on and off for the last 3 or so years and being able to forge that connection with someone is immeasurable. I urge you to do the same if you’re considering therapy. Don’t give up at the first hurdle if you find you don’t gel with the first person you meet, keep searching until you find one with which you do.