When life is stressful, effortful and demanding energy, it’s important to look for ways to conserve energy and find some sense of ease. Here are two ways to stop fighting life and one way to build energy in life.
In Part 1 of this series I broke the news to you that holidays are stressful (you're welcome!) and I took you through some ways to lengthen your emotional fuse by take care of your physical self. So now that you're treating any illness, eating balanced, working out regularly, sleeping well, and avoiding cigarettes and coffee (right!?! we're all skill ninjas on that front, right!?!? good!). So this time I'm gonna give some more skills to make you more psychologically resilient. These aren't one and done, quick fix, cure all's. But, if done regularly, they can help you ride out the emotional shit storms that come around.
- Build mastery. It's hard to feel confident and grounded when everything in your day feels incomplete or stressful or too challenging. Do at least one thing a day that makes you feel confident and competent. For me, it's making my bed or playing a game of "words with friends" or checking off an errand on a to-do list.
- Practice gratitude. Studies have repeatedly proven the psychological benefits of gratitude on mood and cognition. You can write it down or say it out loud, but don't just keep it in your head. I like writing down 5-10 gratitude every morning but doing a less structured and more spontaneous practice works too.
- Breathe deeply. Breathing calms the nervous system and promotes ability to think clearly and process events and emotions. Often we go about our day on auto pilot, not breathing well. Breathing deeply roots you in the present moment. You know you're breathing deeply if you can hear the air come in and out of your nose and if you can feel your belly rise and fall with each inhalation and exhalation.
- Laugh. You don't have to, but you can. And if you can, why not!?! Laughing doesn't mean everything's ok. It simply means you're embracing the lite and fun and silly parts of life too. So watch that funny show, listen to your favorite comedian, call your funny friend, watch ridiculous YouTube videos of babies cracking up at cats falling down...Whatever it is that helps you get your laugh on, go for it!
And, if you need more help, please contact us. We'd love to support you and your family.
News flash: The holidays are stressful! Duh! You're gonna need as long an emotional fuse as you can get to manage family, friends, work, shopping, and all the emotions that this time of year can dig up. Here's part one of two, on how to build your emotional resiliency. These suggestions are based on Marsha Linehan's DIalectical Behavior Therapy skills. This set addresses ways to keep your outer warrior (your body) strong so it can protect and serve your inner warrior (your heart and mind).
- Treat physical illness. This is not a time to just suck it up, walk it off, and pretend you're superhuman. If you are physically run down, you are more susceptible to being emotionally run down. So take those vitamins, get lots of water and rest, see the doctor sooner than later.
- Eat moderately and healthfully. If you're on a strict diet or if you're over-indulging on the regular, you will be more likely to have big, overwhelming emotions. No need to feel sluggish and bloated or deprived and hangry on top of other holiday stressors.
- Avoid/limit mood altering substances. Unlike the air traffic controller in "Airplane", the holidays are the EXACT right time to quit sniffing glue! Haha. But seriously, while nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, marijuana may help in the moment, they can keep you from appropriately managing your emotions, give you a false sense of your energy, and leave you more frazzled and less grounded in the long run.
- Get moving. Moderate physical exercise can be a way to distract, unwind, breathe deeply, and release stress. Bonus points if you move in nature, move mindfully, and practice gratitude for your body while you're getting a workout in.
- Get enough sleep. There's a million things to do and not enough time to do it. Trust me, I get it. And, to be able to participate as fully and meaningfully in the activities and not burn out early, sleep is important. Try to get in a routine, focus on sleep hygiene, and prioritize sleep.
You won't/ can't be perfect at all this. That's not even the point. The point is: when possible, be as thoughtful as you can be about protecting (and lengthening, when possible) that emotional fuse.
For this installment of "Interview with an Artist", I interviewed Greg White, a good friend and a writer with a pretty impressive resume, including being nominated for an Emmy!
By seeing his often absurd work on Comedy Central, MTV, and Netflix's Puss In Boots, you may not guess that Greg is so wise, thoughtful, and grounded. Greg's approach to writing is steady practice of "just showing up", which I think can be applied to most areas of life. He spoke of managing creative pressures, building structure for writing, and he even shares some insight into finding fulfillment and not attaching to identity. Enjoy!
- You're an artist. What kind of art do you do?
- I am a writer. Specifically, I write for television and film in Los Angeles. I've written for Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, Disney among others, and developed shows with MTV, FX, and Conaco. I was nominated for an Emmy and lost while wearing a rented tuxedo.
- It's not uncommon for creative types to struggle with mental health issues. What do you see as the interplay between mental health and creativity?
- Something I see a lot in other writers is anxiety. Our career is a very uncertain one, with the potential for big swings in success, and/or long gaps between jobs. The people who can acknowledge that there are things beyond your control, and that all that matters is controlling what you can (i.e., the quality of your work day to day) are the ones who have the best attitudes in their lives and careers. I personally like this element of my job in that it reminds me daily that nothing is certain, and making good friends with the unknown is only going to serve me well in life. As for the role of mental health in creativity, perhaps manic states fuel some artists, but I prefer to be very slow and steady in my work. 1 or 2 hours a day of writing is often all I allow myself.
- You can't possibly feel creative all the time. What do you do to foster creativity and practice your craft even when you're not feeling it? Any tricks you've picked up to help you get out of your own way?
- I will refer to Chuck Close, who once said, "Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up." I think if you are a person with a creative career, you must develop a systems approach to productivity. Identify the goal, break it down into small chunks, and chip away at it day to day. In other words, amateurs have the benefit of waiting for the muse, but professionals do not. Certainly, finding the joy in your work is key. I don't start writing something unless I know why I love it, even if it's something not of my own creation (as in freelance scenarios). You find your way in somehow, and for me it is finding the one funny thing that I want to play around with. In the absence of that, why do it anyway?
- If you could suggest one thing for my readers to do to help them live their best life, what would that be?
- Filling my life and work with a larger meaning and purpose has been crucial to my happiness. I see my life and everything in it as one big process of discovery, and by approaching everything with this attitude, I seem to thrive. And for the love of God, get outside and move your body. Hike, run, stroll, walk the dog, get your hands dirty, pick up a heavy object, sprint up a hill. We are not meant to live in our heads. They are way too cramped. Further, do not identify yourself by any one thing. I love writing, but I do not identify myself by way of my professional endeavors. I love running, but do not identify myself by my race success. Be comfortable being about many things.
I come by it honestly. My Dad was a well-intentioned workaholic and my Mom both loses and finds herself in helping others. I’m good at staying busy. It’s brought some amazing adventures, a sense of confidence and independence, and varied nerdy interests and intellectual pursuits.
But what happens when life slows down and gives you more time than you know how to fill? If you’re me, you panic! The panic goes in waves (the waves calm when the smallest bit of distraction helps me avoid the darkness that my fear tells me is looming in the distance, waiting to pounce if I slow down enough for it to catch me). I didn’t think I actively avoided being still, but at the same time I certainly wasn’t comfortable in it and had created patterns and habits that kept me from finding an uncomfortable amount of it. But those patterns of staying busy had been changed and weren’t available and I got scared.
Oh, and to further normalize aversion to stillness, I’m a therapist! I’m supposed to like this shit! I’m into mindfulness and stillness and emotions and all that uncomfy stuff. Wasn’t I supposed to start a prolonged state of levitating bliss when I got my MFT license!?!
So I did what any enlightened person does…I judged myself, I denied my feelings, and I found new ways to get busy again. Until I hit a brick wall and got buried under feelings of depression and anxiety. Until I started crying at small, seemingly random things. Until I struggled to get out of bed. Until I was with my favorite people doing my favorite things and still felt numb because disconnecting from painful emotions had disconnected me from the more fun ones as well.
Begrudgingly, I took my own dumb advice and leaned into the stillness. I got really intentional about keeping up my yoga practice, meditating, listening to music, journaling, letting myself lay in bed and cry if I felt like it. I got intentional about being curious about my thoughts and feelings and simply observing and labeling what I saw. At that time, what I found, was loneliness. In hindsight, all my previous busy-ness that had been an effort to avoid feeling lonely had kept me from connecting to others, mostly because I hadn’t been connecting to myself. Without truly seeing my emotions and loneliness, I had not been effective in helping myself feel better because you can’t fix a problem you refuse to identify. Once I got in touch with my loneliness I was able to take action to connect to friends and family, connect more meaningfully to activities, and, most importantly, connect to myself.
This stuff isn’t magic. I still had times (and currently have time…let’s be real, this stuff is part of life and still happens) when I missed people or was bored. And those times hurt, but I find myself practicing being more open to acknowledging that hurt rather than running from it. I firmly believe that being separated from others is painful, but being separated from yourself is suffering.
I encourage you to join me in this practice of daily slowing down enough to see yourself. It’s a scary idea and takes a lot of bravery. And it’s worth it. You’re worth it.
If you’re struggling with overwhelming emotions, we’re here to help. Get in touch via our website www.coloradocft.com, email, or phone 818.919.2253