At the drive-thru of life…
The funny thing about problems is that when you’re stuck in the middle of them, you have no perspective.
It’s all skewed, all warped, and sometimes it takes an awfully long time away to gain the clarity needed to regain the parts of you that you lost and walk away in completion. Sometimes we never allow ourselves the time or headspace to reclaim our lost parts at all — but that’s a story for another day.
During the process of life’s trials and rough patches we often seek coping strategies or defect to old mechanisms of survival; our diet slips, the weekday wine increases and we behave in ways which we would normally refrain from. It’s almost like giving yourself a free pass to temporarily ‘act out’, and turn a blind eye to the bigger picture. Quite literally, you can worry about that tomorrow, when life gets a bit easier.
But how long have you been waiting for life to get a bit easier now?
I find that stress and bad situations have a way of creeping up on you when you’re going through the motions of life. If you’re living the path of least resistance, sometimes you don’t notice that the coping strategies you’ve adopted are actually doing you greater harm than good, and there comes a point where you have to be bare-faced real with yourself about what the hell you’re going to do next.
This realization dawned on me as I was driving halfway across town (again) to get to the Starbucks drive-thru where I could grab a coffee, something sweet and not have to get three children out of the car. I was exhausted, sleep deprived and running out of patience, empathy and understanding FAST.
I drove away from the window and supped on my plastic takeaway lid like it was an adult sippy cup — warm and comforting — sugar satiating my need for instant energy and dopamine, caffeine reanimating my tattered senses.
I was literally placating myself with an edible security blanket. I may as well have retreated to the corner to suck my thumb like Prince John in Disney’s Robin Hood…
What can I do?
Sarcasm aside, self-flagellation achieves nothing so I decided it was time to look at the root cause of this behaviour and what I can do to help myself in a more loving, nurturing way. Sound mad? Well hear me out:
TO START — if I’m craving caffeine and sugar, I’m exhausted, and the by-product (for me) of overindulging in both of these is not only more physical exhaustion but adrenal fatigue and blood sugar spikes which make me snappy. So really, it’s a vicious cycle and it’s helping no one.
THE NEXT LEVEL — The coffee and sweet things were acting like a security blanket, as in they are comforting and familiar; they produce an expected reaction when I consume them, so now I have to get real with myself about why I need comforting. Has it been a bad day? Do I need to talk it through with another human? Do I need adult conversation? Am I feeling overwhelmed or underappreciated? If so, why?
GOING FORWARDS — I have to try and reconcile what I think the root cause is and how I can make better decisions about how to manage that emotion. If it is something that is easily solvable that is the issue, like the positioning of the children’s car seats or ensuring everyone has colour-coordinated cups and plates for mealtimes to prevent arguments over ‘purple’, then you can take action in advance and try and avoid the issue. If it is more complex, perhaps someone who can’t help but make unhelpful, snarky comments on the school run or at work, then all you can try and do is learn new strategies for coping with their behaviour, or more specifically how it makes you feel.
Thankfully, I find time causes ever-growing irreverence for other people’s opinions in such situations, but if you have to live with it, try to turn your own awareness of how it makes you feel into a super-power which helps aid your self-protection, rather than internalising it.
What I basically mean is, try not to give too much of a fuck about what other people think, or it will wear you down.
If you have to be in the presence of someone who makes you feel bad, try to remember that their issues are theirs, not yours, and you don’t have to carry them. Neither do you have to try and change or fix yourself to their standard or expectation — you are your own gold standard.
If you find your energy is lagging at a certain time of day or after certain situations, research a healthful alternative to what you would turn to on a bad day and keep it well stocked or stashed for when you need it the most. Schedule a call with someone who is a great listener, or book a counselling session at the end of a really intense or stressful period/project. Seriously, we all need to debrief once in a while.
Learn to let go, and you will free yourself
This year I have been working through a lot of ‘old-stuff’ and my associated security blankets. Some things, with awareness, you can literally let go of and like a fly-away balloon they will drift away to insignificance almost immediately, whilst others go far deeper and require a great deal more time and attention. Not to self-indulge, criticise or mither, but to really get to that root cause of why we do things.
Sometimes we need help with this process, and if you feel like you need a professional on hand to guide and help you to understand then please don’t ever feel afraid to seek out those who are trained to do so. Anyone from a counsellor to a hypnotherapist, personal trainer or holistic-therapist. There is always someone who can help you find your way through. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Like a snake shedding its skin, there is a greater you on the other side.
Thanks for reading,