We hear phrases like it all the time: “Bring the body and the mind will follow,” or “Act as if.” The concept that even if we don’t want to do something or feel as if we can’t, if we simply do it anyway, we will eventually yield the result we wish for. It’s much easier said than done, to show up for our lives when we are struggling under the weight of life. There is power in dragging ourselves to rise to challenges we don’t always feel equipped to face. Showing up often breeds the positivity and change of perspective needed to make it through hard days.
Small Beginnings Make Big Endings
When you’re battling depression or grief, or your job is stressful and overwhelming, it can feel like it’s not possible to leave your home and face the world. The problem that we face when it feels like showing up for work or social engagements is impossible, is that we often simply don’t have the choice not to go. When considering the concept of suiting up and showing up, start with the things you absolutely must do. We must go to work to earn a living, we must care for ourselves, and if we are caregivers, those we are responsible for. The best place to start with showing up for life is the places we have to. Start small and make a gratitude list for these items. What makes you grateful for your job? What makes you grateful for your partner or children? Sometimes the simple act of being reminded why something is important to you is enough to kickstart things into motion.
Small actions make the difference when we’re trying to build or re-build a habit. When it comes to socializing and seeking the connection we need to thrive, it can feel like making it out to dinner with friends or a birthday party is impossible. This is another place where starting small and simple is best. Start with honest conversations. If you feel that getting up and out of the house is too much, begin with a phone call. Start with the people in your support network, a trusted friend or a counselor, even a parent with whom you are closely bonded. Be vulnerable about what is challenging you. Sometimes even speaking something out loud takes the power out of something that is making it hard to show up for life, like a breakup. The longer we sit with something painful the more power we give it to be an invasive force in our thoughts.
The Value of Doing What We Think We Don’t Want to
When our struggle leads us to shy away from doing things we used to enjoy, the sadness or dissatisfaction that we experience tends to perpetuate the problem. We’re struggling with depression, so we skip that night out to celebrate a friend’s promotion; then the subsequent regret and guilt we feel for not going makes us feel more depressed. So, taking the opposite action is the first line of defense we have in combating these feelings. When our minds tell us we just can’t bear to get up and get ready to go out, the action of getting up and getting ready instead can provide us with the mental assistance we need to get moving. Several small actions compound, helping assist us in feeling happier and more productive. Repeated behavior creates a biological response, building new pathways in our brains. It’s a choice to push those repeated behaviors toward the positive or negative. It’s possible to take positive action even while feeling negative, creating the desired outcome over time.
Actions such as smiling and laughing actually release “feel good” chemicals, such as endorphins and serotonin, assisting us at a biological level. On days when we perhaps feel the least equipped to experience joy, showing up and making the attempt can be the first step in actually feeling happy. Often when we feel as if we don’t want to show up for something it’s because we have a preconceived idea of what the experience will feel like. Showing up even when we don’t want to gives us the opportunity to have our perspective shifts; as things are often easier or more enjoyable than we had previously decided they would be.
None of this is to say that you should not be gentle with yourself. Listening to your mind and body, and if needed the advice of a mental health professional, is still important when we are battling struggles in life. If we feel we cannot show up because we have not done so for a long period of time, it’s okay to pause and rest. If our mental health struggles are too much to bear, it’s okay to sit with your feelings in a place where you feel safe and upheld. Self-care should always be important in making the decision to show up, even when you don’t want to. Consider all the options, seek a change in perspective, bring the body and sometimes the mind will follow.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at (800) 799-4673.