Do you ever have those times when things in the world affect you more than usual? I’m having one of those times and I’m trying my best not to get overwhelmed. I’m all about a process so the one for this is to write about my thoughts. On Sunday, I posted my ponderings on Facebook and today I’m sharing more thoughts here with you. It feels weird, I’m not gonna lie. But it also brings me peace and, based on some of the comments in FB and in messenger, it seems like I’ve helped others along the way. My old way of being was to retract inward—probably my brain protecting me—and then I’d hunker down. I noticed that the more I did this, the more difficult it was to go back out into the world. Not what I want. Here are my thoughts on why it’s important to resist the urge to hunker down and instead release our thoughts and extend our hands.
Helping is Healing
Deane Root was late to services last week at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania. As he was walking up to the door he heard gun shots and ran back to his car. He was interviewed by CBS News and said that the best response to trauma is to help each other—as he held the hands of his wife and long-time friend. Helping is healing. I’ve heard from countless volunteers that helping someone else makes them feel capable and like their lives matter. It may sound selfish but let’s not judge because we all want to matter even when we’re unsure or in a funk. When we assist someone else we get a new perspective and often appreciation which can be just enough to lift us up, renew our hope, and help us get out of our funk. Think about all the folks who enlisted after 9/11. Instead of allowing hopelessness and hate to rule their lives they decided to defend our country and democracy. Your gesture doesn’t have to be as grand, just share your gifts with another human being and see what happens. Rake the leaves for your busy neighbor. Leave a healthy snack for your postal worker. Write a note to someone you haven’t seen in a while. We all have something to offer the world that can make a positive difference to others.
It’s easy for our minds to race and repeat and overthink. I once had a therapist who was shocked at how fast my mind raced through thoughts and asked me how I wasn’t curled up in a ball under the covers. True Story. I work hard to disrupt my unproductive thought patterns and one of the ways I do this is with compassion—for myself and others. I do two things when I find myself in a conversation with a difficult person:
- Show compassion for myself—I tell myself, “Breathe. This is a normal reaction to someone you find difficult. You’ve handled these folks in the past just fine and will do so again.”
- Show compassion for the other person—I tell myself, “Whoa, I’ve hit a nerve! I know how frustrating that can be. Really listen to understand her needs and wishes—find common ground.”
This breaks-up my negative thoughts, preventing me from overthinking and overreacting. I focus on breathing and active listening instead. Giving my brain a couple of jobs while also tapping into my human experience keeps me calmer. I have a clearer mind the calmer I am which makes a difficult interaction go a little smoother. Plus, if I don’t say anything I regret, then I don’t have anything to stew over. Less stewing is great for me! This doesn’t happen overnight, by the way—it’s a skill that requires frequent use and practice just like any other. Here’s an interesting article to get you started!
Putting ourselves out there, particularly when we feel overwhelmed and vulnerable, is hard. Thing is, we’re not alone. There are people experiencing something similar, there are folks who love us and want to support us, and there are those who want to share in this crazy human experience. If we don’t share we can be overcome by fear, hopelessness, anger, anxiety and a host of other things that hold us back from being our best selves. Sharing is not just for at home or among close friends; it’s for everywhere. You never know who you may inspire. Get out there!