By Abby Fosco
The past year has been a trying one for all of us. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the election, and the list goes on, we’ve had to manage and adapt to the tension of life’s current events. Now that the holiday season is upon us, the idea of family dinner conversations may have lots of people stressed. With differing opinions on political views and other sensitive topics, conflicts and arguments feel like a discomforting possibility if these topics are brought up in conversations.
As we begin to prepare for the holidays and hopefully aim to ‘keep the peace’ at our celebratory gatherings, I asked our clinicians here at MMC for their tips and advice on navigating potentially stressful conversations:
Nathalie Edmond, PsyD, E-RYT | Founder and Director of MMC
Kristine Aguilar, MSW, LCSW
Shashi Khanna, LCSW
Emily Suzuki, MA, LAC
If you need additional support throughout the holiday season and as 2020 comes to an end, our team here at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling is here for you. Click here to learn more about MMC’s clinicians and counseling services.
By Emily Suzuki, MA, LAC
Lately, it feels like I’m moving at a mile a minute. The world is spinning all around us. If I’m being honest, the times when I pause long enough to notice what I’m feeling, I sometimes sense a real and visceral spinning sensation in my own body.
There is pain all around us as the election season is approaching, wildfires are smoldering, racial injustice is embedded in the very fabric of our lives, and it’s no wonder I don’t want to stop moving.
Being in constant motion, and moving fast when faced with discomfort, is a defensive mechanism. One that, I would imagine, is familiar to many of us. Whether we’re keeping busy with our bodies, thoughts, schedules, or our to-do lists, we are likely avoiding something, or a great many somethings.
Avoidance is a way we cope with anxiety and distress. It’s a function of our nervous system that wants to protect us from a real or perceived threat. Rather than acknowledging our thoughts and emotions by giving them time and space to be felt, being “too busy” keeps them at bay.
This is not to minimize the strength and excellent coping skills that a good old-fashioned schedule and routine can provide. Keeping busy can be an anchor and masterful when what we’re trying to keep at bay is slipping into old patterns such as addiction or depression.
However, when it’s in service of avoiding being present, or when we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re too busy to slow down, perhaps, the avoidance is actually the pattern that needs noticing.
What happens when we avoid too much, or too long, is the very real possibility that what we’re working so hard to suppress eventually comes to the surface. Demanding acknowledgement, it commands us to slow down. When what we’ve been trying to hold together starts crumbling and feels like it’s falling apart, it might be expressed as anxiety, a panic attack, deep sadness and depression, or anger.
So, how then do we prevent this spinning out, and gently slow down to a pace that is more sustainable and inclusive to all our parts, feelings, and needs?
Here’s what’s helping me:
Take 3 breaths. In that very moment, when you’re coming up with every excuse, all the things you need to do, and why you don’t have time to stop, that’s the moment, to pause, close your eyes, and take 3 breaths. When you do it, notice the way each breath nourishes you in this moment, the way taking three gulps of water feels when you’re hot and thirsty.
Be mindful about how you use your phone to avoid. Let’s be honest, many of us use our phones as a crutch to avoid any number of moments. We have attachment issues with our phones, but the good news is we can change our relationship with them and choose to use them in mindful ways. Download a meditation app like Insight Timer, and practice a guided visualization or listen to a podcast like Ten Percent Happier. Now you’re no longer avoiding but practicing.
Sit down for 5 minutes each morning. Is life really so busy that I can’t find five minutes to sit and be still? Is my pain and suffering really that unbearable that I can’t tolerate a few minutes of being with it? When I ask myself these questions, it shines the light on the main barrier getting in the way of this profoundly simple practice: a powerful relationship of avoidance. When I am in practice of sitting daily, my practice of slowing down bleeds into other areas of life, and being still is more easily achieved and overall less uncomfortable.
Give yourself the permission to slow down and to tend to what you’ve been so busy avoiding. As uncomfortable as it may sound, you may discover it’s very relieving to rest. To learn more about mindfulness and how therapy may be helpful, you can read more here about Mindful and Multicultural Counseling located in Ewing, NJ, or reach out to contact@mmcounselingcenter to learn more about how we can help you.
Mindful and Multicultural Counseling Clinical Team
Therapists and psychologists committed to improving well being and mindful living.