Waking up in a funk. Not feeling your best. Wrong side of the bed. These are things that happen to us.
Lately, in response to this kid acting in very age-appropriate ways, I have found myself dictating open letters to him in my head. For example:
To the free-loading two year old living in my house:
I found the butter knife in the litter box.
Gross, dude. So, so gross. The level of grossness is so great that I think I have to go ahead and throw the knife away.
Stay out of the litter box, for the love.
Part One: Liam
Liam’s been on my mind a lot. I’m really aware of the ten year reunion of his life and really aware that it only lasts for nine months. And this awareness feels important. I’ve put out an intention to check whatever this is out; to be open to…anything.
Part Two: PTSD
On Friday I went to a training for an intervention (SBIRT) and at the very end we touched on PTSD. I was reminded that sometimes people who have been diagnosed with PTSD do not remember the trauma. Or if they do remember it, they don’t perceive it as such. It’s a coping mechanism, right, and it helps people—us—to get on with our lives. So, not remembering and/or not identifying with a trauma—that’s in my head all weekend.
My kid turned two a couple weeks ago and I made her this cake. I am so proud of it! Not because I made it up all by myself (nope, I found it on Martha’s website), but because I made something colorful and beautiful and fun to honor my kid. What I really want to talk about, though, is how the creation of this cake felt. That, my friends, is what I want to talk about all of the time, as corny or cliche as it might sound coming from a therapist, I want to talk about your feelings. Oh, and you’re safe here. Really, you are.
Let’s talk about my emotions first. In making this cake I felt excited, happy, proud, nervous, frustrated, scared, anxious, and delighted. Being able to track my feelings like this (excited: saw the cake on the internet, wanted to make it, great anticipation; happy: purchased all of the ingredients, loving that it would require eight sticks of butter…) took some practice. Life used to happen at me. Emotions hit me and I accepted them without question and took the ride. Now I can experience an emotion and recognize where it comes from and intentionally experience how it affects me. I’m not trying to say that I have control over my emotions; I simply have a better awareness of what’s going on. Why is that important? Being able to track my emotions helps me to know when I’m getting triggered and allows me to make a decision about how to proceed in life, versus allowing the emotion to take me over and make poor decisions. Ever say or do something in the heat of the moment that you later regretted? That’s what I’m talking about. Staying grounded if and when you want to stay grounded.
Try it out for a bit. Track your emotions while you are going through your morning routine, or at lunch, or whenever. Check out if you can identify your emotions and why you are feeling them. It’s a step in the direction of greater self-awareness which ultimately points toward living a happier life.
Why ground? We make our healthiest decisions when we are grounded. That’s my experience at least. Here is a little grounding exercise that I like to do, especially in a group. It helps me get into my body and exist in the present moment. Try it out. Make it your own. And try not to judge yourself. If you find yourself judging yourself, try not to judge yourself for judging yourself.
A grounding exercise:
Put both feet on the floor and place your hands comfortably in your lap.
Close your eyes or simply look at the floor with a gentle downward gaze.
Feel your feet on the ground. Feel your butt on the seat. Feel your hands on your legs. Feel your clothing on your body.
Begin to pay attention to your breathing. Don’t change anything, just notice how you breathe. As you are breathing take notice of the thoughts going in and out of your head. Give them permission to leave. Try not to judge them, simply allow them to exit. If they come back give them permission to leave again…and again.
Take a deep breath in, deep into the nooks and crannies of your lungs. And breathe out. Push all of the air out of your lungs. Push the old air out; the stuff that has been sitting in there for a couple of days. Do it again. Using your breath move deeper into your body until you are breathing down into your toes. Notice how your body feels. Really try to get in there with your breath and check out what is going on. Get acquainted with your body. Again, give your thoughts permission to leave.
Continue to breathe until you feel comfortable in your body. Start to move your fingers and toes wiggle around a bit in your chair. When you are ready open your eyes and get reacquainted with the room.
How do you feel?