I spent the first month of this year in an absolutely beautiful tropical paradise. We were in Mauritius for a couple of weeks on the way back from an extended trip visiting some family in East Africa. And it was an amazing trip. It is a great privilege to be able to take that time out.
I had this thought while I was sitting on the balcony there that I felt low and disengaged. I didn't feel present in the wonderful place we were in. And then I immediately felt guilty because I thought how can I have these feelings?
Here I am in a beautiful surrounding. And I'm not making the most of it. I'm not enjoying myself enough. I'm not happy enough. And I had guilty feelings for a long time.
I don't know why I decided in my head that being away and in a beautiful place, I had to enjoy it more or to appreciate it more.
I had to be happy all the time because how could I be unhappy in a beautiful place?
It was a really tough experience for me because I've had feelings of not feeling great here in the UK. And I've reconciled it with being in my London life, being in work, going through the daily drudgery of life. So experiencing those feelings when I was away was a whole new situation for me and the biggest thing that came up was feeling guilty about not feeling ok.
Being away should solve all my problems - being away should take away all my troubles. And of course it didn't - life is like that.
While I was away I put a lot of pressure on myself to make the most of it. And actually really all I needed to do was just be present to how I was feeling.
So it got me thinking a lot about how we're often told that we can't be stressed and feel gratitude at the same time. And I agree with that to some degree.
I do think that if you are stressed or you're finding things tough, and then you lean into gratitude and connect with all your blessings, then it's difficult to stay in that stressed state because those feelings of gratitude will reduce the stress and connect you your present moment of being ok.
But that said, I also think that you can acknowledge your privilege and your good fortune in life and find things hard, I think these two can be present at the same time.
This experience taught me some deep lessons.
I've come out of this feeling so much stronger, so much more, I hate to use these words flippantly but so much more resilient and capable. And here's what I know now.
It's okay to say you're finding things tough.
Even when you have
💠 a good job
💠 you have a loving family
💠 you have a roof over your head
💠 you have friends round you
None of that should take away from the fact that you might be finding things hard.
Sometimes we get told that there's always someone worse off than you That's true, but there's also someone better off than you.
How you feel is how you feel. Your experience is unique to you.
There's no value in adding guilt to that by saying I shouldn't feel this way. And there's no guilt for finding things tough. We don't always have to pick ourselves up. This is the biggest thing that I have learned because I think in the past I've always put a lot of pressure myself to feel better.
So that's why I have really come to terms with the fact that sometimes it's just okay to not be okay.
😔 to sit with those feelings and see them through
😔 to feel sad when life is good
😔 to acknowledge and accept that not every day is a shiny happy day
One of the biggest things that came out of a lot of my work with clients through lockdown was that people had the time and the space to face their feelings and they found it hugely uncomfortable.
It was really difficult to sit with feelings of anxiety, of loneliness, of struggle and face them because in a normal life and in pre pandemic life, we were busy, we were active. We had many things to distract us, many things to keep our minds and our lives busy. And so we could run away from those feelings. We could avoid them, we could keep ourselves busy from having to think about them.
Then all of a sudden when we were in lockdown, we had time on our hands. We had nowhere to hide. It was harder to ignore those feelings and we had to face the fact that sometimes things are tough. And it's not nice feeling that way. But actually what I've learned is that by seeing those feelings through and moving through them or walking through them, actually that's the greatest teacher of all.
Be curious about how you're feeling.
⭐ Sit with it
⭐ Acknowledge it
⭐ If you can, embrace it
⭐ Then get curious about why you feel that way.
When we can be curious we move from a place of pain and problem to one of solution and acceptance.
Perhaps on the surface everything is great but there’s a part of your life that’s not fulfilled.
Search into what’s behind the feelings and look at the different areas of your life. You can use various tools for this – including a life balance wheel.
What areas of your life feel fulfilled, happy, full up? (if you imagine each different aspect of life- work, family, home, career, social…as a cup, how full is the cup?)
If anything feels empty, start to look at why. Is something lacking? Has something changed?
When you can identify the area to work on and know what needs to change, then you can start to take the steps to making it happen.
So if any of this hits a mark, then stop and take a moment to acknowledge how you feel. And then do the exercise above.
I’ve specifically designed a wellbeing matrix for this and it works really well to help you understand different areas that impact your wellbeing. Email me if you want a copy or reach out if you want more info. And let me know how you get on!