Mental Wellness Challenge – 2021, January 15
Wild… it’s the middle of January already… even though there’s been some periods for me lately that seem to be a little draggy… overall – time is flashing by… I suppose that’s a part of getting a bit older…
Last week my challenge was:
- Laugh out loud! Read something humorous, watch a funny video or listen to a funny story… something – but do something to laugh out loud.
- Take your shoes and socks off and feel the floor with your feet. I’d say to do this outside in the grass if it wasn’t snow covered outside. Feel your connection to the floor. Really think about what you feel with your toes.
- Tell 3 people in your life, your experience that they are important pieces of it!
I did a good job of my challenge last week. I tried to make a point of finding something to laugh “out loud” about each day. That’s a piece of my experience that I really enjoy… a super good belly laugh. It makes me feel great.
I was successful at getting in touch with my surroundings too. Getting my toes into the carpet, or on the tile floor… there’s more to this than just walking around with bare feet… Thinking about the feeling of the carpet or tile or even the cold concrete outside (yup, did that too) on my feet got me out of my head space, even for just a minute… I suppose I could say that the tactile experience is/was a form of being mindful – being aware of the physical space that I am in. This is one of several little gifts I give myself to help me be present in my world.
I have a bunch of people in my life that are super important pieces of my experience. I made certain that I set aside some time to make certain that I communicated my gratitude to those folks. Funny thing this – in many of the instances – I didn’t have to say the words – “You are an important part of my life.” My expressions of caring, friendship, love and genuine concern for those folks was my way of letting them know they are important folks in my life. Very much like the folks that read my little blog. My blog is an expression of my appreciation of the folks that take the time to read what I share – AND – its kind of my way of recognizing my healing and value in the world too.
So – in plain terms – To those of you that take the time out of your day to read my blog, thank you. I appreciate you!
This week I’d like to share about some of the supports that I use in my experience that help to get me along my way. I was struggling with coming up with what it was I wanted to share about and – while putting on my knee brace this morning – tada – there it was… supports…
Supports – looking after myself – the things I do to help me along when I need it… The salves I apply to the cuts, scrapes, burns and bruises that I experience along the way that help me “ouch” less and recover or heal more quickly.
I got a really gnarly burn on a finger this week – from a cup in a microwave – blisters kind of burn… Hurt like crazy even though I got it under cold water straight away. Over the space of the rest of the day my body started the recovery process… I literally ended up with blisters on blisters on blisters… Yup – OUCH… Now – I’ve had burns before and I knew that when those blisters opened up – it was going to sting like crazy… so – I covered them up with a bandage. When I got out bed the next day – well, ya – the blisters had broken open, but the skin was still covering that pinky pink, tender tissue beneath… So – I kept the thing covered – cuz – well ya, I am a bit of a baby and I don’t like the sting… along the way that next day or so – I lost the bandage and then – well I lost that protective layer of dead skin… just kinda tore off/fell off… Yup – it stung alright…
So – I’m a few days out from the initial burn and the wound is still pretty much open… so – how do I support my body in healing the wound… I keep the burn clean, apply some anti-bacterial salve, and do my best to not irritate it… I suppose – pretty standard stuff. Still stings when I get it wet – or mess with it, but it doesn’t sting as intensely as it first did…
What kinds of things do I do when I get “mental health burn/cut/scrape”?
As an example of a “mental health scrape”.
Very much like I don’t tolerate the sting of an open blister very well, I don’t do instances of rejection very well. I know that this is part of my ADHD (Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria) and my experiences as a young child and youth. So – when someone says something to me that is contrary – or perhaps they provide corrective criticism – I don’t manage it very well. (It’s a fact of nature that negative feedback corrects errors in a system and positive feedback can lead to unstable systems. While that’s a truth for naturally occurring systems – it doesn’t account for the emotions piece that humans experience.) Its far better now that I understand “ME” better, but is still stings like crazy.
An example. I do my best into teaching a lesson… not just a lesson, but a whole class session. At the end of the class session – all of my students are successful and carry on with their next level of training. (At the college I teach at – the students are asked to complete an instructor evaluation at the conclusion of their training.) Several weeks, if not months, after the class is finished and moved on – I get the results of the evaluation… and… well – lets say there’s one or two of the students in the class that didn’t have the same positive experience as the their classmates. Lets say they make comments that while they learned lots, they found the instructor moody, or unpredictable, or any of number of any other less than positive comments.
DEVISTATION. UTTER DEVISTATION.
It wouldn’t have mattered if there were 5000 other comments that were positive – those one or two negative comments hit me in the guts… (Just writing this – I can feel the emotions rolling up… and yes – this has happened and will continue to happen – I teach people after all…). These comments take the wind right out of me. EVERY TIME.
My reactions to this “scrape” are NOT proportional to the overall relevance of the feedback in my overall experience. I basically go right to – “Maybe I should quit!”, “I’m useless as an instructor.”, and so many other pieces. Never mind the other comments that have been made where students write that I helped them learn, that they are grateful that they had me as their instructor…
This for me – this scrape is that initial sting of the burn – like the initial sting of my finger on the cup from the microwave. Now – I’ve had a couple of first aid courses and I know that I had to get my finger under cold water to stop further damage… I know that! I am just now learning that it’s 100% important that I get my reactions to the negative comments “under cold water” too. That I need to cool my reaction off… but its not as easy or straight forward for me as sticking my emotions under that tap.
(Wow – this is really charged for me…)
Sincerely, I know I fume. I know I go round and round with this in my head. I have zero recourse for these comments – I have zero way to make any counter comments – and because the instructor evaluations are anonymous, I don’t even have the ability to address the concerns raised by the student – with the student… My supervisors have read the comments before I have… THE PEOPLE WHOM I RESPECT AND LOOK TO FOR GUIDANCE HAVE SEEN THESE COMMENTS AND I HAVE BASICALLY NOTHING I CAN SAY.
I usually need to take some time to let the sting subside. But now – how do I manage the emotional ouch? How do I heal from this? Just like the physical burn – my emotional scrape needs to be tended to. I KNOW STRAIGHT UP – that if I don’t tend to this, that its going to “get infected” and then I am going to have bigger problems.
- Time, I give myself some time to get a little distance between the initial ouch and me. If I don’t get myself settled down – I know I am prone to “Jumping to action…” (READ THIS AS “FLYING OFF THE HANDLE”)
- I breath. I know for certain that when I am upset by something like this that I get really tense, my shoulders physically rise and I close off my posture. So – I breath.. big deep breaths.
- I seek the council of my supports. I might speak with my Supervisor, my co-workers, my spouse, my friends or my councilor.
- I force myself to pragmatism. I go over ALL of the comments and evaluate the facts. I look at things like the reality of “I have bad days, I have good days. I have no way of knowing if the author of the comment was having a good day or a bad day when they wrote the comment.”
- I assess the truth of the comments. “Was I moody? Where was my headspace? Was I working when I was in a tough space?” I look for my truth.
- Time, I give myself some more time.
- I journal, I talk it out. These two pieces are like the polysporin I put on my burn. Journalling and talking it out help me to clean the wound.
- I apply corrective actions where I need to. I take responsibility for any corrective actions that need to be made. For sure – this step requires some “distance” between stimulus and response. The space required here is necessary to ensure that my “corrective actions” are proportional to the corrections that are needed. Corrective actions here might look like “making sure I am not taking my bad days out on my class, maybe making sure I take the comments in a more wholesome context, or realizing the truth that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea…
- Check in with my model. Am I being authentic? This is a part of corrective actions I suppose, but my model is one of my supports.
- Fortitude…. Pick myself up, dust myself off, straighten myself up, put a bandaid on – and get back at it.
And all that for someone writing down what their impressions were at a given moment in time… and sincerely – this is still prickly for me…
I’ve got lots and lots of physical scars on my body that represent emotional hurts. Not every scar on my body is the result of an emotional hurt… but I know I have lots of emotional scars too… We all do I suppose. I’ve got emotional ouches that still need to be tended to… still not enough distance between the hurt and the healing… and I know that some of those ouches will required opening of the wound to be able to clean the “gunk” out…
As I walk along my journey, I am learning tools and supports to deal with “stuff”.
I’ve been able to learn from works like “The Four Agreements” that give tools for getting through some of the hurts – “Be impeccable with your word.”, “Take nothing personally.”, “Don’t make assumptions, ask questions.” and “Always do your best.” These tools really help, support me in scenarios like this one. This is another type of ‘mental ointment’… If I have been authentic, and have done my best, then what more can I give? In this particular situation – I don’t have the facility to ask questions… The big one out of these four for me is the “Take nothing personally.”… something more to work on.
Thanks for letting me share this with you. I hope you get/got something from it.
This week I’d like to challenge you to:
- Be authentic. Be you!
- Drink 4 big glasses of water every day.
- Journal a little. Take some time each day to get in touch with yourself… (see #1).
That’s it, I challenge you.