Hi guys! Happy weekend! How are you all doing? I really hope you’re all getting some happy vacation time this summer! Can you believe we’re almost in August? I can’t and in fact it was really scaring me for the past while. August means a new semester and that semester is going to be held at school soon instead of online. This is part of what was getting me panicky; I don’t feel ready to go back in presence. Being able to do my classes online was great for me mostly because I could hide behind my screen instead of speaking up in a live classroom of 30-ish people! I also didn’t have to spend a ton of time on public transit to get to school and COVID too of course is a major concern. On top of that I really need to pursue my job and save money on top of my expenses and my writing is incredibly important to me. Even with 3 classes I had no idea how I would juggle what I have to do.
All of this made me incredibly anxious all while going through a bipolar low brought on by switching meds and this very stress. I felt like I couldn’t properly function at work and I was just way too overwhelmed; I had decisions to make but felt paralyzed. In short…not a good time for me. That’s why I had to leave from work one shift and go to my parents to finally make some key decisions. That’s what this blog is about today; listening to yourself for mental health.
Listening to Ourselves
I think a lot of mental health struggles are related to and/or worsened by not listening to ourselves. For one reason or another we feel that we HAVE to do certain things even if it means sacrificing our health. Nothing is worth that! Making decisions based on our own personal needs is a core aspect of self-care. Otherwise we end up doing what society deems important, what our parents want, what depictions in the media convey to us, etc. That is the opposite of listening to ourselves and it gets us in hot water.
Why Not Listening to Ourselves is so Harmful
Here are some of the negative consequences of not listening to ourselves.
- We can be left with regrets.
- End up realizing that what we did was to please others or meet a certain expectation that doesn’t actually make US happy.
- Not respecting our own limits and boundaries can result in a huge amount of anxiety which can also turn into depression.
- Taking on more than what we know we can handle can result in not doing any of those things as well as we could have because our energy is too dissipated.
- We can burn ourselves out resulting in having to stop EVERYTHING we do.
- Repairing the damage caused by not listening to ourselves usually takes much longer than the time it took for us to be hurt by it in the first place.
- Trying to do more to save time doesn’t end well in the long-run.
- We can’t live up to our full potential.
- We get caught in a pattern of doing things for others rather than ourselves. This becomes a feature of our lives making it more difficult to distinguish our desires from the expectations we face.
- We can lose sight of our personal goals, dreams and personality.
- It can encourage / perpetuate impulsiveness.
- Make us feel out of control and powerless in our lives.
- Result in deep confusion.
The Benefits of Listening to Ourselves
- It builds the habit of listening to our intuition and practicing self-care.
- We end up feeling happier with our decisions.
- Progress may be slower but our steps are often more sure and steady. (The rabbit and the hare.)
- Our energy is more focussed and directed.
- Fewer regrets.
- Even with mistakes and roadblocks we’re still moving along the right trajectory.
- Knowing our limits and adjusting accordingly reduces anxiety as well as the likelihood of depression and burnout.
- We learn more about our true selves and what works vs. what doesn’t.
- We focus more on what we WANT to do rather than what we feel we NEED to or SHOULD do.
This list basically ran through my mind and helped me realize that I needed to make some personal choices. Beyond that, I had to do some soul-searching to discover my own priorities and desires. I realized that maintaining the tremendous progress I’ve made with my mental health is the top priority and nothing can harm that. I absolutely refuse to go back to where I was! This in itself was a turning point. Sorry, not sorry society, I’m doing what’s right for myself this time around.
Now what made this extra complicated for me is the nature of Bipolar and BPD. My goals, desires and plans can change with the weather so one minute I can be interested in business and the next…Hell-bent on becoming a doctor. Then I realize I’m terrible at math and love helping people so I should become a psychologist instead. In other words I can’t always trust myself. Actually – I NEVER fully trust myself which is really disconcerting.
I decided that school isn’t the best idea for me right now; it can wait. I’m not going to lose or fail at everything by taking one year off to continue working on myself and other pursuits. I also need time tom solidly figure out what I want because maybe my way of helping people doesn’t absolutely require becoming a psychologist. I don’t know if being in school for another 7 or 8 years is the right thing for me. Either way I realized that I have to take everything one day at a time and keep pressure and stress to a realistic minimum. I can’t do everything at once as much as I would like too. In other words I can’t let my mind impose too much, I have to listen to my gut feeling / intuition. I need a more organic approach to figuring out my path.
The Result of Having Listened to Myself
I felt better the very same day that I made the decision to put a hold on school. The next days of work were much easier, the fun returned and a humongous weight was lifted from my shoulders. Listening to ourselves is so incredibly worth it both in the short-term and the long run. I’d go so far as to say that it’s the root of personal success! I feel freer and new opportunities have opened up which I’ll discuss in another article.
We understand the risks, the benefits and the importance of listening to ourselves but how do we put this into practice? Well, here are my thoughts:
- Keep track of what you’re naturally drawn towards. What do you do that makes you feel deeply rewarded / happy? What is something you could do as a job that doesn’t feel like a job?
- What doesn’t fulfil you; what things feel off…unrewarding…tedious?
- What scares you? What scares you in a good motivational way and what contributes to your stress and creates discomfort?
- What are your sources of influence and how do they affect you? Are they constructive and helpful or demanding and controlling?
- Do you feel obliged to make certain choices or continue along a certain path?
- Are you feeling extra stressed, anxious, confused, overwhelmed, etc.? Try writing down how you feel to make sense of which aspects of your life are troubling you.
- Allow yourself to be uncomfortable by using it as a warning flag for when you’re off track.
- Ask others for feedback and use them to bounce ideas off but refrain from internalizing their opinions if they’re not reflecting your own.
- Remain open-minded and remember that things like this don’t have an end date. Listening to ourselves is a continuous and life-long process.
I hope this post has encouraged you to step up and commence some deep, personal reflection. YOU know best, you just have to learn how to uncover personal truths. Do you have any thoughts, questions or examples of times you’ve listened to yourself? Please share them in the comments!