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Permission to Feel

Written by John Walters, Co-Founder of Questae Collective

I’m going to honest with you here…its Tuesday 5th January 2021, it’s the second day back in this new year, and the first day of another lockdown!

I woke this morning feeling pretty crap! I felt low, sad, unmotivated, a little alone even, and I could feel a gnawing anxiousness in my stomach, I felt meh!

Yesterday I also felt a little out of sorts to start with, but as the day progressed I felt motivated, invigored, and happy that I was getting back to some sort of normality, a routine, interaction, creativity, and all that. But then after Boris’s announcement last night, well I was just out of sorts, and I’m sure you know what I mean. I didn’t sleep well and that gnawing feeling of anxiety was there again this morning.

However, as much as the news is a bit shit, I am determined to focus on the things that bring me joy. The year ahead is like a new book with 365 unwritten blank pages (ok 360 today), in these pages I can choose what to write, some days will be full of joy, others not so. There will be tests, there will be challenges, tears, but also laughter, joy, happiness, and what I have learned from last year is that shit will continue to happen, challenges will come, they too push me, often to the brink, BUT, although I cannot control those moments, I CAN control how I react to them, how they define me, my mood, how my mental self digests, and processes things at these times.

Black dog does come to visit, and when it does I accept the visit with serenity, but this is because I am now loaded with a plethora of tools, tools that I have learned to use over these past years, they have help me to not just try and prise black dog off me and fight, these are tools that cause black dog to leave of its own accord, if it gets nothing from me it will leave me alone.  This doesn’t happen straight away, it’s not immediate, it does take patience, and it takes strength, but once I’m engaging those tools, it does happen.

Reading has helped me, a lot. There are so many, but one does stand out for me. Mark Manson’s book ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k’ taught me many things, and although the title uses a profanity, actually it uses it perfectly. One of the many takeaways from that book, for me, was the idea that I only have a small number of f**ks to give each day, and some of them deserve a few at a time, so I must be careful how I use them. Use them on the wrong thing, and oh dear, now we’re going to have a problem, here’s a situation that we really do need to give a f**k, but I have used them all on stuff that I shouldn’t have – oops!

The book taught me clarity, it gave me an understanding that we just need to focus on those things that really do matter, the things that we can control, the things that we should give a f**k about need to have our attention, but when we’ve been giving a load of f**ks out on mediocre, unnecessary, unimportant things, or things that we simply can’t control, then our bag is empty and we don’t have the emotional capacity, or resilience, to cope.

It doesn’t mean not giving a f**k about anything, it’s not saying to be a ‘knob-ed’, what it’s saying is take care of the things that matter, and last year I think I really started to not only understand this, but I also started the process of actioning, and living it, really only giving a f**k when I should.

 The news is just so depressing, and this has been affecting my mental health, the weather is shit (well it is January), and the new lockdown doesn’t help. Schools aren’t reopening for the foreseeable, so parents are having to balance home working with home schooling, and that is not easy by any means!

But the thing is, I cannot control any of these things, if they’re going to happen, they’re going to happen. What I can control however is how I react, I can also put into practice the tools I have to combat, overcome, and foster a more positive mindset. This doesn’t mean being that always happy, go lucky, shit never sticks kinda person, it means that internally I engage those coping mechanisms, I sort out what can be controlled by me and what cant, what I should care about, or not. What really is important, and what’s not.

So today I wanted to share with you the tools that I use. They are simple, quick, and easily done anywhere or at any time. I do however appreciate that not all these things will work for everyone, but if you don’t try you’ll never find out. If you DO try and even just one works for you, well that’s one more than you had before so what have you got to lose?

  • Breathing – just feel your breath, even if just for a couple of minutes, breath in, breath out and feel calmness wash over you
  • Meditation – there are so may apps with guided meditation now, try one out – I use one called Let’s meditate: Guided Meditation
  • Stopping/reflection – just sit back and reflect, focus on a happy time, or a funny moment
  • Walking – get out, round the block for 5 mins, or if you can 20, 30 or more mins
  • Looking out of the window – just do nothing for 5 mins, look out and engage your mind with nature
  • Music – listen to what gets you going
  • Podcasts – listen to a motivational, or funny podcast, or subject that you love
  • A nice cup of tea – but stop what you’re doing to enjoy it
  • Writing – journaling, affirmations, gratitude or just a text to someone you care for, to tell them exactly that!
  • Talking – a call to a friend, a family member, speak to someone who makes you happy

And here’s a good tip for you, set the alarm on your phone (or any alarm) to remind you to take regular breaks, even just a 2-minute rest, get away from the screen, stand, stretch, focus on something 20 meters away for 20 seconds, let the eyes adjust.

As I say, these are the tools I use and they work for me, and I would suggest that you at least give them a go, try them out, and hey, maybe you’ll find one that does work for you, one that does have a positive effect.  But the main thing is, give yourself permission to recognise your emotions, don’t beat yourself up for feeling shit, we are allowed to ‘feel’, just don’t bottle it up, or put on a brave face, actually say how you feel to somebody, I think you’ll be surprised by the reaction.

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