Leaving Lockdown: Acknowledge Everything
Posted on 27th April 2020 at 11:42
Today we’re starting the journey of taking you through our Leaving Lockdown 5-Point Plan, starting with Acknowledge Everything. Has your standard response to ‘how are you feeling’ become ‘I’m fine’ when people ask, but underneath you’re thinking, ‘I’m anything but fine’? The likelihood is that you’re going through a whole raft of emotions right now, which change throughout the course of the day. There will be good days and bad days.
Experiencing our emotions
While many of us were at home, we had more time than ever before to experience our feelings and emotions, especially if we were in isolation. If you’re feeling scared right now and your emotional reaction is to cry, think about what you can do about it. The answer is probably nothing. Just acknowledge it, say to yourself ‘Ok, I’m feeling frightened, and that’s perfectly normal.’ If you’re feeling sad, frustrated, angry… acknowledge it and let it go.
Feelings come and go
The easiest way to explain this is thinking of a trip to an aquarium. In the first tank, a shark swims right up to where you’re standing. Sharks are scary and it might make you jump, which is a perfectly normal reaction. The next tank has some tropical fish in. Your thoughts might go to thinking about how pretty they are. Again, a perfectly normal reaction. The next tank has sting rays in. Most of the time they’re harmless, they look like they’re smiling, but you know they could zap you! Their smile might make you happy but you’re also a bit fearful of them. Again, all normal feelings.
Ignoring and avoiding our feelings only makes it worse
We’re normally so consumed in our busy lives, it’s easy to ignore what we’re really feeling. Avoiding a negative feeling buys you short term gain at the price of long-term pain, for example you avoid the short-term discomfort of a negative feeling, you become stressed and decide to drink. It "works," and the next day, when the bad feelings come, you drink again. So far so good, in the short term. In the long run, however, you will develop a bigger problem (addiction), in addition to the unresolved issues you had avoided by drinking.
Over time, avoidance becomes a bit of a prison, because after a while you begin to feel the need to avoid many situations, people, experiences and places that may bring the negative feeling to mind, stir it, or remind you of it. And the more you avoid, the weaker you feel, the more your coping skills diminish, and the less of life you can experience.
Avoidance lengthens the period of anticipation, and anticipatory anxiety is usually much worse than facing up to your feelings. You can go anywhere in your head regarding something that hasn't happened yet, and you can go wild with negative, catastrophic scenarios. In contrast, once you face up to your feelings, your mind becomes bound by the reality of what is happening to you.
Pain, fear and sadness and any other negative feelings don’t just disappear; acknowledging they are there and learning to deal with them will help you to feel more in control. When you accept a negative feeling, it tends to lose its destructive power. This is surprising and counter intuitive to many people, but if you think about it, you will see the logic of this approach.
Swimmers who are caught in an undercurrent and feel themselves being dragged out to sea might panic and begin to swim against the current with all their might. They then tire out, get cramp and are likely to drown. To survive, a swimmer should do the opposite—let go. Let the current take him out to sea. The current will weaken, and the swimmer can swim around and back to shore. The same happens with a powerful feeling: pushing against it is a waste of time and possibly dangerous. But if you accept the feeling, it will run its course.
How to acknowledge everything
So what can you do to experience your feelings without getting stuck in them, or avoiding them?
Give Your Feelings A Label
By naming your feelings, you’re taking the sting out them. Are you feeling nervous, anxious, sad, disappointed, vulnerable, angry...? (If you need help, take a look at this printable page of feeling words.) This can also help you to see how your feelings are affecting your decisions.
Turn Your Thoughts Upside Down
If you’re experiencing negative feelings, once you’ve acknowledged what’s causing them try flipping them into a positive, for example if you feel frightened of leaving home in case you catch Covid-19, try feeling safe that you’re in your own home.
If you find yourself dwelling on negative things, try distracting your brain with a quick physical activity, like going for a walk or doing PE with Joe Wicks.
Do Something to Boost Your Mood
If you’re struggling to get past your feelings once you’ve acknowledged them, do something that will make you feel better. Listen to music, dance, sing, phone a friend, or go for a walk.
Acknowledging everything means having your thoughts one at a time and getting to the point of them being in the past and you being in the present.
Once you've done that, you're ready for Step 2: Be present.
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