Don't wait for a migraine - choosing to press pause

I’m sitting here with a head feeling like bruised cotton wool, after another hormone-induced migraine, trying (and failing) to ignore my ever-growing to-do list. I always feel as though my head has gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson in his pomp, but nevertheless as I’m not firing on all cylinders, it’s given me the opportunity to reflect on things.

Striving, striving, striving

I’ve got to be honest, I very rarely sit back and reflect on things. I never seem to pause and take time to acknowledge my achievements. Whether it’s something like running 5k for the first time in over a year (tick last week), or it’s being able to touch my toes again thanks to yoga (tick this year), or completing four years study to become a counsellor (tick again last month). It’s usually a tick, a bit of a ‘yay’ moment with something alcoholic and then I’m off on to the next shiny thing.

It’s not that I’m not grateful or proud of what I’ve achieved, I just always want to be better. So, the 5k must become a 10k, and then back to racing half marathons…and oooo! Do I still have a marathon in me..? The yoga, needs to keep my back de-knotted, but I also want to be able to do the splits in my 40s. The qualification is amazing, but now I’m planning what I want to specialise in, so I can continue to become more qualified and more useful for this community. And so on I roll…

But, this migraine has meant I’ve had to sit still today – no planning, because I’m struggling to collect my thoughts together. Whereas usually I can focus on one thing, my thoughts are like a herd of cats, doing their own thing and they’re refuse to play ball. No doing anything more complicated than writing today, because spelling, typing and writing coherently are a challenge and so I’ve given my brain free rein to focus on pressing pause and why I think we struggle with it.

It can be hard to just stop

It’s a marker of how far I’m starting to progress away from the feelings of inadequacy when it comes to my childlessness, that I can even contemplate writing this blog without wanting to gouge my own eyes out. Rewind to 2012, 2014, 2015 and even 2017, and I would’ve told myself exactly where I could shove any notions of pausing, reflecting and the like. Piss off you bloody hippy!  

Everything about me was shit, my body didn’t work, I was in a job I tolerated, but was fast running out of love for and nothing, absolutely nothing gave me pleasure, except to go for long walks, alone in nature. But, that joy never reached my face, nor my brain, it was just something I did. Gotta keep doing, because I can’t do feeling!

But, as I’ve progressed through my childlessness, I’ve definitely noticed that I have less of an issue with slowing down and taking time out. That’s not to say that I’m any less busy, or ambitious with my plans, it’s just that I recognise I’m able to take time to pause.

So, how do you get to this stage then? How can you feel comfortable when things stop and you have to feel again?

Why do we do it to ourselves? The need to stay busy

For me doing, doing, doing is a way to stop me feeling. Whether those feelings are good, bad or indifferent, it doesn’t matter. It just stops all of that feeling stuff and I think often that’s a coping strategy we use to help us get through the days, numb the pain and be able to cope with life in general.

It means that I don’t constantly feel overwhelmed with the enormity of what I’m having to carry around with me, nor do I need to contemplate anything beyond my immediate moment. It stops the feelings bubbling up and means that I can remain productive. Can you relate to this?

If you can, you’re not alone but guess what, like all things, that stops working too, because life becomes a tread mill – it did for me and that’s why I threw everything up in the air and changed course. Now, it’s not something I would recommend for everyone, because courting chaos doesn’t always work, but when I thought long and hard about what my life would look like without children, a relentless tread mill was the last thing I wanted. It felt like an enormous booby-prize, despite the job security and the salary.

And I see this happening in with other people too. The low level dissatisfaction, the feelings of hopelessness and perhaps thinking ‘what’s the bloody point’?, but not knowing what you want to do instead. But hold on before you throw everything up in the air and decide none of it is working. Don’t let the panic set in because this is a marathon not a sprint.

It’s a gentle stop, not an emergency brake

Like all things, it takes time to feel comfortable pressing pause on life. So ask yourself, when I stop doing, how does it feel to have space to think?

Speaking from my own experience, I would imagine it would be scary, intimidating, uncomfortable or even overwhelming. But, if doing has started to stop working for you, what’s the alternative? Perhaps it’s time to try something else to give yourself space to feel and breathe and to start focusing on what is working for you and what isn’t.

If that feels really huge and something you can’t deal with then I would recommend starting small. Whether, that’s just sitting and looking out of a window, walking in nature (I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was what I was doing) or following a guided meditation (there are loads on Youtube for free), then that is all good, because just stopping for a bit will help you be able to breathe.

It’s not a miracle worker this one, but it will help you just to slow down, take some time and press pause for a bit. And most of it, it can help you to stop the tread mill so you can think about what you want. 

And if you still feel shit after trying this out then perhaps it’s time to ask for some help from a counsellor. You know where I am if you need me x

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