Almost three months have passed since my last post. I have wanted to pen my thoughts, however I kept experiencing a constant feeling of exhaustion, a lack of energy and found myself putting it off. This felt contrary to my usual self, leaving me with an unfulfilled feeling. My past experiences told me that I needed to understand what it was that was causing this. Realizing that I could not continue feeling this way, I needed to address my feelings and their reason. Writing provides a real catharsis and sharing my stories is gratifying. This silence was not “normal” for me.
The exhaustion, I realized, did not come from a physical exhaustion. It felt more like a constant stress in the back of my neck, a weight on my shoulders, an inability to focus, and a lack of concentration. My completion of tasks felt automated, lacking creativity and joy.
A lot has happened in the past three months. Globally, nationally, regionally, and even locally, I feel the world changing at such a rapid pace. It is overwhelming and almost feels surreal. Each day I read and learn about the impact of the global warming and climate change, I read about the continued need to bring awareness about the issues and consequences surrounding racism, discrimination, lack of diversity and inclusion. The news highlights shootings in some parts of our country each day. Then there’s the continued rise in COVID cases, the continued loss of family and friends, or friends and family of friends and family.
Why is this happening? What is needed for us to realize our collective humanity? These events feel amplified in magnitude by changes in my professional environment. These were the issues that kept clouding my mind. While these are not unknown or unexpected, my frame of mind made change harder.
My mantra, “out of change comes creative opportunities” was harder to adopt and put in practice.
I realized this constant information generated in me a sense of fear and created in me a level of constant anticipatory anxiety. An anxious fear of not knowing what and who to trust, feeling unsafe, not just physically but emotionally and psychologically. With feelings of uncertainty, of being watched and uncertain of myself, I felt that imposter feeling creeping in!
When that happens, my self-care trigger goes into panic mode. I am grateful to recognize this feeling. Over the past few years through intentional reflection, I have learnt and practiced to recognize and understand what helps me overcome this feeling.
I start by naming the uncertainties, fears, anxieties out loud or writing them in my journal or on pieces of paper. I then remind myself of similar experiences in the past and how I overcame them. This offers comfort and affirmation.
Being intentional about gratitude is a regular practice of mine, however intentional gratitude and trying to see a silver lining surrounding my uncertainties and fears has been especially helpful. I remind myself that there is nothing wrong or abnormal about having these feelings, and it is okay for me to have doubts. This allows me to embrace uncertainty with the approach of learning more about the uncertainty and why it feels stressful, rather than feeling paralyzed.
Intentional reflection helps me articulate, accept what I can control and what I cannot.
Reminding myself of one of my favorite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt, “comparison is the thief of joy” helps me embrace positive competitiveness. I have been surrounded by professionals in health care all my life. Medical training and practice is highly competitive. I have realized that it is not competition that is bad, rather how it is practiced. Competition with a selfless humble approach—which is, I and we and not I in spite of we—leads to collaboration and builds a community, celebrating a win-win for all.
Reminding myself of an exercise in self-kindness helped me build self-confidence—naming two to three things I liked or was proud of about myself. It’s something that I had read about and practiced off and on (and also had my children do). This exercise helped me get perspective and allowed me to consider my role and opportunities.
Some of this reflection process happens when I’m taking a long walk by myself, in solitude of my own company. I am also blessed and grateful for a very small community of close friends and family who are there for me. This is my trusted circle. Having open authentic conversations with them is life-giving in so many ways.
My community welcomes me with all my vulnerability, my anxiety and imperfections. They listen, they allow me to be who I am. It is here that I feel that I don’t have to pretend or wear a mask, and here that I feel like I belong.
While my uncertainties, anxieties, and fear have not disappeared, when I belong I feel surrounded with the strength and community that is supportive. I am grateful for each of them and for the opportunity to express gratitude in this honest conversation.
#REFLECT: Where have you found a place to feel psychologically safe and belong with all your uncertainties?
As 2021 continues to unfold, how do you tend to self-care, community and resilience? I will continue posting reflections on these themes and invite you to join in the conversation here or on Twitter or Instagram with your thoughts or what you are doing for self-care and care of others. My book explores such ideas too: Resilient Threads: Weaving Joy and Meaning into Well-Being.