“Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke,
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream.”
These are some of the lyrics to A Day in the Life by The Beatles and written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon in 1967. Even back then the essence of a life on fast forward was established. If that was fast forward, today we are in hyper-speed. People are burning out, relationships and families suffering and our best friend is sometimes Facebook.
People often ask me how to balance all the crazy movement in their lives. They have too many responsibilities for too many things or too many places to be, without enough time to get there. Perhaps, not enough time to finish projects either at home or at work. The list could go on. Any crisis or transition in life upsets the apple cart and chaos happens.
My answer, altered a bit per person, is basically the same. Easy to tell you, yes I know, but developing these with practice into your way of thinking will ease your troubled mind and fatigued body.
Here is what I tell them:
Pay ATTENTION, be AWARE, have ACCEPTANCE
Pay attention to you. What are you doing and why? What is driving you to have the schedule or responsibilities you have? Are you a person who can’t say no to something? Are you trying to impress anyone, a parent, a boss, a significant other? Are you afraid of the consequences if you slow down? Are you over compensating for something else or trying to give your kids things you never had and believe they must have? Are you caught up in the idea of more means better? What drives you? What behaviors are you doing because of that drive? Is it realistic and healthy or is it killing you?
Be aware. Notice the behaviors you do over and over and get negative results. You stay up too late and can’t get motivated in the morning for example. Are you a creative, right brained person trying to fit into a left brained system without tools to help you compensate? Do you always get a double espresso and curse yourself for feeling jittery and snapping at people? Do you sign the kids up for too many activities and fine you live in your car and everyone is always exhausted? Do you believe you have a crystal ball or can mind read and try to base your decisions on faulty logic? We all have mindless behaviors. Behaviors we do all the time that cause us more harm than good. Be aware of them. Take a few moments every day (doesn’t have to be long) and mindfully explore a different, better way of doing something. Also, be aware that everything you think, feel and do are because of you and not someone else. Take total responsibility for your actions.
Have acceptance. Accept this is who you currently are and this is your life. It is yours of your making. Even if things have happened to you that have shaped your life, it is still yours. Accept what you can’t change and strategize a way to make the best of what you have. Harping, complaining, griping and gossiping are all maladaptive, often harmful behaviors. They typically accomplish nothing but more negativity and skewed realities. Remember the Salem witch trials?
Stop judging yourself or others for mistakes, thoughts of should have, ought to, must, have to, bad, good, stupid, idiot are all judgment words with lots of power. You don’t need them. They don’t help you or anyone else. All they do is add negativity and weight to your already haired life. You have a problem, accept it and be proactive in solving it to the best of your ability with what you have at this moment. This moment is all you have. The next moment may not be here. It’s now or never. You don’t like what someone else is doing, let it go. Getting angry and yelling at the driver ahead of you for going slow is your problem not theirs. Yelling at them won’t correct the fact that your behavior made time so tight an incident will flip your apple cart.
In essence, what I try to teach is to be mindful not mindless. Celebrate each moment. Find something good in everything even if on the surface, even if it’s not evident. If concentration camp survivors and prisoners of war can find enough positive thoughts to keep them sane, so can you.
Take five minutes today and sit someplace quiet, preferably with nature. Observe with your eyes, ears, nose and skin. Really pay attention to the stillness in the storm of our current society. Believe it or not, it is possible to have degrees if not complete stillness in our culture. You have to want it, look for it within you by becoming aware of who you are and what you want. Deciding what is really important to you. Be aware of the conflict between what you really want and what you are doing. Accept this is who you are and what your life is like now and start to strategize to make mindful decisions about it.
It’s your life and your responsibility. Own it, live it. Life is short and no one can take it with them.
ATTENTION, AWARENESS, ACCEPTANCE, BE MINDFUL NOT MINDLESS, LET IT GO
By now I think all of us know of the horrors that happened at the Boston Marathon on Monday. I’m currently in Florida and luckily (that I am aware) don’t know anyone who ran or attended the event. My son, who used to live in the area of the attack, had the job of contacting friends to make sure everyone was accounted for. They were all fine.
I know there is a possibility that someone reading this does not have favorable news. To you, I send my deepest hope for healing and strength of perseverance.
The rest of us have the job of learning just how much television to watch on the topic. Dissecting factual information from fiction and how we can help. None of which is easy.
The 24 hour news coverage concept I’m sure must have seemed like a good idea. My personal opinion is that it has done little to alleviate stress and much to exacerbate fear, anxiety and anger. News is no longer news but opinions, assumptions and exaggerations with some actual facts thrown in. As a relative of mine said, “Well, they have to fill air time with something.”
The Boston coverage has been on almost every station for the past couple days. Some reporters are more careful about keeping fluid in reporting facts. While others even when the two reporters standing are right next to each other at the scene report conflicting information as verifiable fact. Eventually the chaos of the devastating event works its way into our living rooms and lives. We react.
After 911, I was involved in post-trauma counseling and realized many people do not have the knowledge needed to screen themselves from becoming secondary victims. Nor did they realize the impact knowing, with or without watching coverage can have on their own lives. So, I came up with a couple guidelines I could hand out. I thought this would be an appropriate opportunity to re-look at this.
What you need to know: 1. Are me and my family safe? 2. Is there a specific plan of action I need to do to remain safe? 3. If I know or think I know someone involved, how do I find out? 4. Who can I contact to see how and where I can lend my services to help?
After you know the answer to these questions, the remainder of what you see on news reports is secondary. There is nothing wrong with secondary reasons but there is a time when you have to walk away from media reports to maintain your mental health.
When should you walk away from watching news reports: 1. You place your life on hold, afraid if you leave the report, you might miss a piece of important information. 2. You feel drawn or compelled to watch repetitive and more detailed footage of the event despite having seen it before. 3. You start arguing with family or friends over details as they are told in reports. 4. You have trouble eating, sleeping, thinking or are OVERLY upset or angered because of the images and statements.
There is something in the human condition that causes us to be drawn to explore disaster involving human beings. These are what I referred to as secondary reasoning.
So, possible secondary reasons you are watching the continuous reports…
- Need for survival: If I study this enough I’ll know what to do if it happens to me.
- Shock: I can’t believe this is happening. We watch over and over until it hits us, this is real.
- Desire for a reason why the event occurred: Part of survival thinking. I heard a lot of this thinking post-Katrina. New Orleans got hit because of…. (fill in ridiculous reason here). I don’t do that, so I am safe.
- Empathy and reactions from helplessness: Having faces to traumatic events connects us with our own fragility and humanity. Feeling helpless to change the unfolding events often causes both a passive and reactive reaction. Passive: I’m not there but if I pray hard, think hard, watch enough, somehow those people will know that I know and I care. I can’t do a damn thing to help. But I’m doing what I can. Active: I’m donating money, going to the scene to wrap bandages, cleaning up debris, helping people find loved ones, making coffee for first responders.
- Sense of community: Human beings need each other. Media is a way to bring us to locations and a larger community then our normal existence. In life-threatening situations, this intensifies. Average citizens on the spot become heroic helpers. We want to think we would be heroic helpers too.
- Justice /Revenge or both: We want the world to make sense. If we decide (see #2) that the people in trouble did not deserve what happened – someone has to be held accountable. We watch to make sure that happens.
As we gain more details and faces concerning the Boston Marathon tragedy keep yourself in check. If you start having symptoms listed above or others such as crying spells, anger outbursts, panic, nightmares or feel like it is happening to you, pull back. If you can’t or your symptoms worsen, it would be good to talk or journal about what you are feeling – and turn off the television! At least for large blocks of time.