7 signs you’re ready to reclaim your life
How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Do you jump out of bed, ready to seize the day or press the snooze button, turnover and try and delay that moment when your life begins again?
Chances are, if things are going well, you're full of energy, enthusiasm and general joie de vivre. But if you're 'get up and go', has got up and gone, the start of another day just won't fill you with any excitement.
Find yourself a 'SAFE SPACE'
As a psychotherapist and coach, I love a mnemonic and use them all the time in my work.
'SAFE SPACE' is one I use as a practical way of remembering the nine primary human emotional needs…… Security, Attention, Fun-Family-Friends, Emotional intimacy, Status, Privacy, Achievement, Control and Engagement.
These nine needs, which evolved from the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow in the 1950's, are like nine individual boxes. The more keys you have to unlock more of these boxes, the more positive you are likely to feel about your life, and the greater your sense of wellbeing.
Paul hit a crisis
Paul came along for a follow up appointment recently, feeling so much better. I suggested he compare his life now to 6 weeks ago when we first met, when he had felt so low.
Back then, he was on the point of going to see his GP for antidepressants. He was waking up in the morning, feeling depressed and anxious but not really knowing why. He sat in his room for hours on end, avoiding people, worrying endlessly about what was wrong with him and why he felt so bad.
Fortunately, he chose to come along for some therapeutic coaching rather than taking the pills.
Back then, when he had just dropped out of school, lacked direction and felt a failure, was isolated and ruminating on past regrets, his negative feelings were overwhelming. Those feelings were sending him an uncomfortable message that some areas of his life needed changing. Those feelings were trying very hard to catch his attention, pushing him to do something different.
By contrast, now he had taken action, found a job, got a new girlfriend, bought a car and had a real sense of direction and purpose in his life.
Together, we took the time to reflect which of life's 'happiness boxes' had previously been locked, what he had to do about that and where he had to look to find the 'keys'.
It's ok to feel bad
Rather than ignore uncomfortable emotions, rather than self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, rather than getting a prescription from your GP, perhaps its time, like Paul did, to pay attention, listen to what your wise subconscious mind is trying to tell you and use emotional intelligence to reclaim your wellbeing and reclaim your life?
You see, your emotions are your very best friends and they always trying to help you move in the right direction. But many people don't listen to their emotions. They simply regard them as something annoying they have to suppress or run away from. They want to be happy but many are not prepared to put the effort in and make changes.
It is said that Einstein defined insanity as 'doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.'
If you're experiencing some negative feelings or symptoms, try working out what they are trying to tell you. Try doing something different.
It's okay to feel bad sometimes.
It's not okay to ignore the signs or symptoms that are trying so hard to help you by drawing your attention to something in your life that needs changing.
7 signs you’re ready to reclaim your life
Whether it's Face book envy, sibling rivalry or that old green-eyed monster, full blown jealousy; if you find you are comparing your life to others and coming off worse, it's not really about wanting others to have less, than a deep desire for you to have more.
Perhaps it's the happy couple next door, the work colleague who's really popular, the friend who always seem so calm? It's worth asking yourself what is it about that other person's life that you aspire to for yourself?
Look for the clues. Acknowledge the feelings.. and take positive action.
It might be anger focused outward on others, or anger focused inward on yourself; both can be a problem if you have no idea what the anger is about.
Many angry people have an internal dialogue which keeps them feeling angry. As they say, 'a man with a hammer sees many nails.'
But anger isn't always bad. It is an energy, a driving force and can be harnessed for motivation to make change.
Anger with purpose is entirely different from the self-perpetuating, smouldering, destructive anger which has no direction. Think about people who suffer harm or loss and use their anger to set up a charity or self help group for example.
If anger is trying to draw your attention to something, what is it? Ask yourself what you are really angry about and how the anger is trying to get you to do something different.
Many people get diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). They seem to get caught up in a loop of hyper vigilance which keeps them on edge nearly all the time.
In our prehistory, as chimps in the jungle, a heightened level of anxiety would have kept us alive. But it's no way to live your life in modern society. It's very uncomfortable and very tiring.
Think of anxiety as being on a continuum. It's okay to be anxious if you're starting a new job or standing up to give a speech. But if anxiety has become your companion all day and every day, and it's stopping you doing the things you want to do, it's time to wonder exactly what it is you're anxious about.
Try taking a calm and cool look at all the your life. Is there someone or a situation which is making you anxious? Are you feeling bullied? Are your relationships supportive? Is there a trauma that needs resolving? We feel anxious when we do not feel safe.
What do you need to change in your life to allow you to feel safe again?
Life is full of ups and downs.
We simply can't expect to always be happy, but if you're feeling low most of the time, it could be that some of your emotional needs are not being met by your current lifestyle.
Churchill talked about 'the black dog of depression' yet the dog truly is man's best friend when it draws your attention to action you need to take.
If every day is the same and nothing new is going on, if you are lonely or isolated, you are likely to feel restless or bored. A boring life with nothing new to learn and lack of stimulation, is reason enough on its own to feel down.
If you're feeling bored or restless and lacking motivational energy, that might be just time to take on a new project, try new things, meet new people or just wear your hair different.
Lots of people say, 'I'll do so and so when I feel better', but it's the doing which brings that feel-good reward.
If you're bored, take action now. Expand. Make a decision to live a bigger life.
At night when we sleep, the rational brain steps down and allows the unconscious mind an opportunity to play, to try and resolve worries, anxieties and emotional arousals from the previous day.
Dreams can tell us so much. Keeping a dream diary is a useful way to uncover some of the concerns of the subconscious mind, that older wiser part of the brain which instinctively knows what's wrong and what you need to do to put it right.
But remember, dreams are not literal, they are metaphorical. If you dream you are strangling your boss, that is not what your subconscious is telling you to do! But it may be suggesting you are more assertive, change jobs or take back some control.
#7. Aches and pains
If you ignore uncomfortable emotions for long enough, your body will begin to communicate with you too.
Aches and pains can be a sign of poor quality sleep and lack of rest. Physical symptoms can also provide a sign that you are stressed or anxious.
Headaches, back aches, anxiety attacks, irritable bowel syndrome and so many other physical symptoms have their roots in disturbances in our unconscious mind that affect our emotional well-being.
Remember, we all have these 'internal drivers', a bit like your own personal SAT NAV trying to send you in the right direction so you can feel your best, be your best and live your best life.
The mind and body are like an enormous feedback loop; a system. When a system is balanced and the life is balanced, a comfortable homoeostasis is established and wellbeing is the result.
But when we are living a life out of balance and our needs are not being met from our environment, that internal driver will just keep pressing your emotional or physical 'buttons' until you take action, get back into the driver's seat and reclaim your life.
Frances A Masters MBACP accred GHGI FRTC