In busy times or when you’re making a big change, do you ever find yourself avoiding the situation?
A client of mine had identified that during busy, stressful times at work, exercise was an excellent way for him to stay centred. I asked him what his options were around fitting in more exercise and he said, “I don’t have time.”
To cut a long story short, after a bit of digging, he identified that he was choosing to spend quite a few hours after work and at weekends watching TV and drinking wine. Again after digging, he agreed that these activities were helping him ‘numb’ the stress of his day and he identified that he wasn’t processing what was going on for him — and worse, he wasn’t attending to the big change he desired.
Most of us might enjoy a glass or two or a good box-set, but when does it go from occasional healthy reward to unhelpful self-medication and numbing? Rather than experience our uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, we numb them and it feels better — in the short term. Shopping or drinking socially can temporarily lift our spirits. Watching TV can help us switch off and eating can feel comforting.
Life can throw all sorts of things at us, so when things are challenging or we’re attempting to make a big change, it’s natural to comfort ourselves. However, it’s important to give ourselves space to sort through and process our thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. Ideally, we want to address and resolve whatever we’re numbing, but if it’s an ongoing situation, or something that’s wholly out of our control, that might not be possible.
- Are you numbing any uncomfortable thoughts and feelings?
- Do you find yourself spending more time (and money) than you might ordinarily choose to on shopping, eating, watching TV, drinking or taking drugs?
- Are you doing these things to excess?
- Do you ever feel these behaviours are a little bit out of control?
- What might you be numbing? E.g. work stress, financial worries, relationship issues, your or someone else’s health.
Instead of numbing out, what might you do to make you feel better? What activities can you lose yourself in? What builds your energy? E.g. exercise, meditating, art, being in nature, being with friends — whatever works for you.
What behaviours might you replace?
This isn’t about being perfect, so swapping just one evening slumped in front of the TV for something more life-affirming can go a long way to making us feel better.