Hiding from the Mirror

Pretending you’re okay is a very, very short term plan indeed.

They’re draining the ponds in the plaza today. The signs cheerily apologise for their appearance and explain that in order to get everything looking perfect for summer, they need to drain out the water, expose the gross bits and get a little man in wet weather gear to jet-wash the crap out of everything.

And generally we understand. Most people just walk happily past those pushing-their-luck ‘pardon our stardust’ signs in Disney World without feeling too hard done by that part of the park is undergoing maintenance. After all, the magic doesn’t come without effort.

So why don’t we treat ourselves with the same level of understanding? Being a human is hard. Living takes its toll. We all need time to let the water drain out and work on improving ourselves for the busy season ahead, but it’s difficult when we’re afraid of exposing our gross bits: the dank sludgy mental algae that builds up as we run around doing work, dealing with family, subsisting on social media and convincing ourselves that reality TV is relaxing rather than just mind-numbing.

Of course, there are companies who’ll happily let you pay to go to their lavish spa, and most of us take holidays now and then, but escapism, while important, isn’t quite the complete picture in self care. Escapism is going to look at a different pond, but your pond still needs cleaning when you get back.

So what can we do to stop ourselves marching ever-onward, pretending that we’re completely fine and ready to face each new day with a seemingly endless source of strength and energy? Well here are some ideas, or at least things that have worked for me in the past.

Have a spotter. Get a friend, near or far, who you can have periodic check-ins with, talk about what you’ve been finding difficult, what you’ve done that’s been a success, what you still need to work on. Having someone who can normalise your thoughts on your own actions can really help keep you grounded.

Separate your ambitions from your goals. It’s great to dream, but if everything you want is years away then you’ll lose motivation and focus. A single goal that you can realistically achieve in the next couple of months is much more likely to keep your attention, and achieving it will give you a big boost to your motivation.

Keep track of the things you do. Whether it’s long-form diary writing, blogging or micro-journalling, making some effort to record what you’ve been doing helps give your days more meaning. If you know you’ve got to write about it later, that fourth Netflix episode might not be what you choose to do after all.

Don’t fear the silence. We can fill our ears with conversation, messages and entertainment from the moment we wake up until the moment we zonk, but it’s stressful on our brains. We can’t be set to receive all the time. Sometimes we have to transmit and sometimes we have to process. So try to find a few minutes to walk, to sip coffee or just to sit and reconnect with the moment going on around you. Let your brain breathe.

Take care of yourself. You’re the only you you’ve got.

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