Do you ever feel like you are walking in circles: coming back to the same scenarios, same challenges, over and over again? I spent so many years really struggling with this. I found myself frequently wondering why I continued to battle with self-acceptance, my weight, binge eating, and not pursuing much of what I really wanted to do with my life.
Is there something you want to change in your life and it feels like time?
I cycled for years, wondering what lessons were to be gained and why I couldn’t figure out what seemed to have such a simple solution. Slowly, I began to build new pathways, take little steps to gradually change -one thing at a time. I stopped losing my temper on people and started breathing slowly and holding my tongue, allowing my thoughts of frustration to come out from time to time in more tactful and calm/productive ways. After being called out about how defensive I am (that was a painful, and important pill to swallow from one boss), I started to reflect in the moments when I wanted to jump up defensively, and began to notice how and when my ego threatened to prevent a learning opportunity. I started to prepare healthy and small snacks when I knew I was coming up on a stressful season in which I knew I was prone to binge on unhealthy foods. And when the moments arose that I felt the anxiety bringing on urges to return to old habits I wanted to break, I literally just sat for a minute or a few, took slow, deep breaths, at times closed my eyes, and refused to let myself run away- I told myself: “You can do this, keep going.”
What makes you want to run away?
I took more and smaller steps to accomplish daunting tasks. I focused on congratulating myself A LOT for working through those hard moments. I still do at times. I found new rewards to feed my brain, my soul, and I focused on the joy of learning a new coping mechanism, becoming ever more of the person I wanted to be. My focus shifted more from the momentary cravings to who and what I want to be is.
What is the life you WANT to live? How does it look, feel, handle real challenges?
I recently spent time with a friend going through a hard time. We talked about how we handle pain, family cycles or patterns and her worry about the long term effects of turning to what I would describe as escapism. Today I was reminded of our conversation as I listened to Rachel Brathen, a.k.a. Yoga Girl’s latest podcast The Guilt of a New Mom in which she opened up about a struggle and experiences of turning to escapism (food, shopping, alcohol, even yoga) in moments of extreme stress. What made the podcast so valuable to me was her follow up realization that only when we allow ourselves to actually experience rather than run from our pain can we heal (it’s a beautiful confession and lesson I recommend listening to if you are a parent or have a tendency toward escapism).
What can your cycles teach you?
As one who tends to embrace each moment, I often feel like life is so wonderful. At moments of intense challenge, it can seem almost overwhelming and unending- no matter the length or brevity. I don’t know that I will ever fully understand all the pain anyone suffers, but I feel the healing and comfort we gain through sharing what we survive, overcome, and our lessons along the way. So I just want to add my voice to that of Rachel Brathen’s: when you are hurting, especially when you are really hurting, I hope you will allow the moment to pass without running from it. You don’t need to push it aside or take it on with an agenda. The pain may or may not ever fully go away, but those seemingly overwhelming moments shorten and their frequency decreases as you stop running and instead listen to the lessons in them. You begin to free yourself from cycles of pain trying to teach you the same lesson over again.
How can you respond to discomfort a little differently today?