It’s natural for us to hide when we are struggling. We are afraid people will judge us for not being over traumatic experiences. We worry we will dampen their otherwise sunny worlds, assuming their worlds are perfect when ours are not. We fear their responses if we experience anger or sadness we can’t control, and of course we fear not being in control. Will we cry on a bench in the middle of a public museum? Will we overreact to an error on the softball field and yell an f*** bomb or smack the ground? Will we fail to filter our thoughts and let them be spoken unedited? As much as we are hurting, we don’t want to compound the pain and hurt others. So, we skip annual events, ignore invitations, and find excuses to stay home, where we feel we are safe and in control.
There is nothing wrong with being introverted, whether consistently or temporarily, but we will probably have to interact with people again, including those who hurt us most and those we want to “protect” from our difficult emotions. We will have birthdays, and our loved ones will want to celebrate them. There will be holidays we want to honor with gifts for loved ones, even if we prefer to order online and have them shipped for us. We will eventually need groceries and supplies that we can’t get delivered. And we probably can’t do all our work from home forever. We will have to shower, put on clothes we aren’t embarrassed to be seen in, and risk interacting with other humans. If we’re lucky, we will get to pet a dog, too.
Knowing this reality, we can make the most of our alone time and learn to free our emotions through:
- Journaling. I blog regularly and write monthly newsletters, but my public writings would be far more emotionally-charged, if I did not allow some time for free-form, stream-of-consciousness journaling. I can write all the f*** bombs I want there and express thoughts that would be hurtful or damaging, and no one gets hurt, especially because I tend to pull the pages from my notebook, shred, and recycle them within the week. It might not be a total win for the environment, but it tends to be a win for the people around me who might otherwise be sprayed with shrapnel from landmines they couldn’t see, and I had forgotten I buried.
- Meditating. Our brains are constantly firing thoughts. Some experts estimate we average 70,000 thoughts per day. Clearly, we aren’t paying attention to each of them, but how we choose which ones to give authority varies with our stress level. Meditation is a practice that allows us to observe and control our minds, regardless of outside stresses. As a result, we often feel calmer and more control of what stresses us. I am no meditation master, but I am noticing a difference between my stress levels, confidence, and creativity on days when I do not meditate.
- Swimming. I learned to swim because the impact of running was too painful, after I was assaulted in 2014. It was a frustrating process that resulted in a few angry, panicked moments with my personal partner and group lessons at the YMCA. I didn’t know how to breathe efficiently and often worked harder than I needed to, which is a metaphor for my life! It was difficult discovering how disconnected I was from my own body, but it has been a major triumph to reconnect and see the progress. (It’s also a bonus that no one can see my tears in the pool.) Now, when I am in the pool, it is meditative. When my mind wanders, I can lose my rhythm and inhale water instead of air. I simply notice, take control, and refocus. I now find most of my workouts provide these opportunities, so if golf, running, cycling, ice skating, or skiing is your preference, rock on! Try not to notice that you left the house.
Do you have a particularly effective way of freeing your emotions when you’re alone? Share your tips in the Comments below.