Just to make a note here before I begin, there are several drafts waiting to be posted of books I’ve read over the last month and yet, none have seen light of day because of just how mad this March has been. But, they will be posted soon because this month’s reads have been worthy of sharing.
It begun as steady and constant as both January and February have been, but then we launched back into work as schools reopened with very little transition time and infection rates still soaring across the UK and with the constant feeling of being on the edge of something (who knows what at this point), March became the month of teetering. Thoughts at the tip of the tongue. Feelings barely scratching the surface before they’re contained. Actions being overthought to the point of non-existence. Thoughts, feelings, actions. Thoughts. Feelings. Actions. The cycle was endless as we went through the each day. But like all cycles, even this one was breakable.
I remember one very clear evening as I was finishing up at work and getting my stuff together to leave, a colleague asked me a simple question and while answering, I became a bit of a bubbling cauldron. All the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing and containing without giving space to came up to the surface with little to no warning – that been said, I should clarify that the dynamic between us is one that is already filled with trust and safety and so the bubbling was not ill-placed. As I brought myself to the point of overwhelm, he very calmly reminded me of a coping strategy that we use with our kids on the daily:
- Thought: What is the thought that has crossed your mind?
- Feeling: What has that thought made you feel?
- Act: How have you acted because of that feeling?
It’s a very simple technique that is designed to be a circuit breaker for the overthinking (or just the general thinking) mind and allows you to understand that the thoughts you have influence your behaviours so that you can divert them. Let me get a little personal and give you an example from that very conversation. The thoughts I was having revolved around being a burden and an inconvenience because the people I loved were going out of their way to do things for me, causing me to feel small and stressed out because I didn’t want to be the root of someone else’s troubles, and in turn was making me behave in a way that caused me to both physically and emotionally retreat and do things independently no matter how much burnout I was experiencing. Without negating my thoughts or feelings, or even diminishing them in the slightest, he said, “maybe you could consider that the people you love are doing these things for you because they’d like to show you that they love you without using so many words – they could be trying to speak your love language” and that was it. He’d made a crack in my cycle and diverted my thoughts, causing my feelings to change to one of appreciation, and eventually, my actions to be ones of acceptance.
Because sometimes, that’s all it takes for everything to change. A single thought. The power of the mind is truly magical, but it is when I am able to see it laid out like this that I am entirely humbled by the beauty of each and every individual mind that exists. This technique might not necessarily work as well with you as it did with me, but try it out anyway because let’s be real, you have everything to gain if it goes well and absolutely nothing to lose if it doesn’t.
Given the nature of this month, I feel it is so important to say that I am so lucky and so grateful to have the colleagues that I do who champion good mental health in any and every case and who teach me daily that I am not the sum of my thoughts but rather a reflection of the goodness that I put out into the world. It has been an incredibly difficult month, both in terms of finding myself slipping into old patterns of thought and radical life changes, but they have kept me grounded and reminded me of the things I needed to know even when I couldn’t hold on to those thoughts myself.
May we all be blessed with people in our lives who allow us to be ourselves with such reckless abandon, and as we go into this coming month, may we take the time and grace to be those people ourselves for those whom we love and cherish.