It’s time to fight burnout


Things had been getting worse all spring. I snapped at my boyfriend almost every time we were together, blaming hunger or fatigue for my attitude, and wondered if the constant irritation was a sign we shouldn’t be together. One night in June, I called my best friend in a panic. I told her I wasn’t sure if I loved my boyfriend anymore.

Then she spoke the words that changed my life. “Do you feel anything at all right now?” My body felt frozen, my mind swirled wildly, and I realized: I didn’t. I had no emotions left. I was numb.

This, my friends, is what we call burnout.

Let me give you some context. I was in a serious long-distance relationship, so my weekends were spent with my boyfriend in one town or another, and I crammed the rest of my life into five days a week. I got up at 5 a.m. to put in an hour of freelancing before getting ready for work. Evenings were filled with more work, young adult groups, baking or “unwinding” with Netflix, and I usually crawled into bed around 11. Oh, and did I mention I was praying the Magnificat three times a day, plus Morning, Midday, Evening and Night Prayer from the Divine Office, plus half an hour of lectio divina? Not to mention participating in WeightWatchers, exercising twice a week and walking 10,000 steps a day. (We won’t mention how often my day fell short of this ideal I’d set.)

I was living the American Catholic dream. Man, I was proud of my life — right up until I realized just how deep in trouble I was.

I’d been slowly realizing that something was wrong. After reading and identifying with an article on burnout, I knew I was overcommitted and under-maintained, and a couple of anxiety spirals had terrified me. But until I heard my friend’s words, I hadn’t admitted I was sick.

When you come down with a bad cold, you have two options: push through with the help of cold medicine and a couple extra boxes of Kleenex; or stay home, eat chicken noodle soup and watch cheesy rom-coms until you feel better. Those of us who are most likely to end up in burnout probably fall into the first category. And that tends to be how we treat burnout, too — if I just push through, if I make it through this week’s obligations, I’ll be fine. I’ll slow down after the holidays. I’ll feel better when this project is done.

There’s a problem with that. A cold will run its course in a few days, one way or the other. Burnout is a long-term diagnosis. It will not get better without treatment. I’m not sure what the next stage after burnout is, but given the experience of the friend whose wisdom pulled me out, there’s a decent likelihood of some level of breakdown.

Since I can’t be your personal burnout recovery coach, here are some tips I’ve learned along my own journey:

  1. Decide that the next month is Burnout Recovery Month. Start today. You are sick and need to heal.
  2. Make sleep a priority. Get eight hours of sleep per night, and keep to a routine. Schedule half an hour before bedtime to wind down, putter around and shut off all electronics. Go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time every morning. (Bonus tip: I found that syncing my body with the sun helped a lot — I would turn down the lights as evening fell, and use candles or dim lights for the last couple hours after bed.)
  3. Assess your current outside-of-work activities. What are you in charge of/have responsibility for? Ask someone to take over that for the next month. Don’t ever feel the need to explain that you are in burnout. You are sick. That is your reason. If you can, don’t even show up at anything for a month. And above all, don’t let yourself feel guilty about it. You’ll be back to full strength soon enough.
  4. Evaluate your prayer life. Are you sacrificing quality for quantity? Check with your spiritual director or a friend and make sure you keep the essentials, but cut out all the extra devotions that are not bringing you life. Mass, Rosary, 20-30 minutes of daily lectio divina. That’s it. Add weekly adoration only when you feel like you can manage it, or go to adoration but don’t beat yourself up when your mind wanders or your eyes close. A half hour of loving meditation will draw you closer to God than will extra devotions prayed with an empty heart and a tangled mind.
  5. What do you have in your schedule that you are “supposed to be doing” but can’t and then feel guilty about? For me, it was trying to lose weight. I needed to relieve myself of that internal sense of obligation, and just unsubscribing to WeightWatchers felt like a weight lifted. Maybe you feel like you must cook all your meals. If so, switch to frozen food just for the next few weeks. Look at your hobbies. What have you been doing under a time crunch or for someone else? Set them aside for now. If you truly enjoy them, you’ll be able to get back into them later with no trouble.
  6. One last note: Burnout is a roller coaster. Be gentle with yourself. This is a process of detoxing and building new healthy habits. You’ll likely slip back close to burnout again, but when you do, just remember “sleep and prayer.” This is your new mantra. You feel overwhelmed, reason clouded by emotions you don’t understand? Time for another week of having absolutely no priorities besides getting eight hours of sleep and making time for half an hour of really focused prayer.

If this sounds like you, spend January — and maybe February and I highly recommend March, too — detoxing from burnout. You’ll discover that you’ll think more clearly, love more joyfully, give more generously. You’ll find hidden strength within yourself. You’ll come out on the other side of Easter in possession of yourself and maybe even a new you, in the best way.

It’s time to fight burnout

How to Make a Yearly Reading Plan


Aside from the grim weather and Christmas tree removal (so sad!), I love the start of a new year for its goal-setting, habit-making (or breaking) aspirations. Yes, I am guilty of setting unattainably high financial or health goals and failing less than a month later. But I’ve also set more “fun” goals that I have stuck to—and that have still made me feel amazing about myself. My favorite is setting reading goals at the beginning of each year.

Pew Research Center survey conducted last year found that about a quarter of U.S. adults did not read a single book (in whole or in part) in the last year, meaning that many people are missing out on not only the joys of reading, but also the health benefits.

It is certainly not always easy to find the time or motivation for reading books. However, it becomes significantly easier when you make a plan. It may take a little bit of trial and error, but I’ve found that the following steps make reading many books in a year more than possible:

01. Setting realistic reading goals for the year

Before ever putting pen to paper and getting carried away with lofty ideas concerning how much you want to read this year, it’s important to open your calendar and take a few things into consideration. Are there certain months or weeks during the year where you are particularly busy and would have little to no time for reading—for example, busy weeks of work, holidays, a wedding, or a major life event (such as having a baby)? Write those down—take each one into consideration.

There is nothing more discouraging than setting a goal and not reaching it; so, it’s essential that your reading goals be just as realistic as your health and fitness goals. Do you have time for a book a month? A book every other month? Two or three books a month? Take the time to thoughtfully consider the amount of books you’d realistically like to complete, and give yourself the permission to be flexible.

02. Breaking your list into different genres or seasons

After you determine how many books you’d like to read over the course of the year, it can be fun to break that number down into different genres or types of books you’d like to tackle.

Last year, I decided to vary my regular fiction reading (both classic literature and new-release fiction) with a mixture of parenting, health, and self-help/spiritual books. This helped me to read more books from unfamiliar genres without burning myself out, since I always read a fun fiction novel in between the sometimes “less fun” books.

It’s also important to note that if setting any number of books is stressing you out, then you don’t have to pick a number! You can choose to focus solely on different genres you want to explore—for example, deciding that you are going to read only American history nonfiction books and historical fiction novels this year. Another fun way to do this is to determine your book selection based on the season, or time of year—reading only Christmas-themed books during the holiday season or only books with a summer setting during the summer months, for example.

03. Setting up a method to track your books

In order to keep up with your reading plan over the course of the year, it’s essential to establish some method to track every book you read. Giving yourself that concrete sense of accomplishment will really help you keep up momentum throughout the year. There’s the old-fashioned pen and paper method. I once attempted to keep a separate reading journal, including my own summaries and reviews of the books I read, but it lasted only a few books. While this level of dedication may work for some people, I learned that I needed something simpler. So I made a “reading list” at the end of my paper planner in the notes section.

Creating a simple Google spreadsheet is another easy way to keep track of books—with the added bonus that it lives forever online, making it easy to reference past years (especially when you create a new tab for each year). Whether you use paper or an online spreadsheet, I recommend making separate columns for the title of the book, the author, the genre, the month you completed it, and a simple rating out of five stars.These five simple steps take only a minute to record, and they serve as a good reminder of the kinds of books you’ve read and whether or not you enjoyed them overall.

For those readers who want to step up their game and join a community of readers online, there is a plethora of different apps and websites that allow you to create and save your book list and goals, as well as discover other books based on your interests, rate and review books, and discuss them with other readers online. Goodreads is the largest platform for readers, but you can also check out sites like LibraryThingLibib, and Riffle and determine which platform is the best fit for you. Sharing your reading lists and goals with a whole community of readers can inspire and motivate you to complete your goals!

04. Making it fun by including incentives or joining a reading group

As is the case with all goal-setting, it is often helpful to create small incentives or rewards for yourself in order to help you stick to your reading plan. These can be as large or small as you want them to be. As someone who loves to collect 10 more books before I’ve finished the two in front of me, telling myself that I can buy a pretty new book after I’ve completed the books I’ve picked out for the next three months is a great incentive for me.

To make tackling your reading goals even more enjoyable, find a book club to join—or start one! Not only will reading alongside others motivate you to keep reading, but you will also benefit greatly from having people with whom you can discuss and dissect the book. If a book club sounds too intimidating or time consuming, you can also join different reading clubs or online forums for book discussion and other reader’s reviews of a book (Goodreads is, again, a good place to do this).

A yearly reading plan is more than another list of things to accomplish over the coming year. It is a way for you to challenge yourself as a reader, motivate yourself to explore new genres or books you don’t typically read, and have fun doing it! 

Don’t Let the ‘I Should’ Mentality Kill Your Christmas Spirit This Year


Invitations to parties. Gifts to buy. Traditions to maintain. Festivities to enjoy. The activities that come with the season can be overwhelming. While the holiday season brings a lot of joy, it can also be stressful and bring anxiety.

I’ve realized that my stress around the holiday season arises from the Santa-size list of things I feel I should be doing. Whether it’s putting up Christmas lights or baking six dozen cookies for a cookie exchange, I mindlessly do these holiday activities simply because I think I’m supposed to.

But this isn’t the holiday I envision for myself.

I envision a holiday season where my days are slow. Where I drink coffee, read my favorite Christmas stories, and listen to holiday music on Saturday mornings. Where times with friends and family are rest-filled and restorative because I can enjoy their presence instead of fretting over my to-do list. Where opportunities to serve my community are filled with blessing versus burden.

Too often, our schedules are full and our commitments overwhelming because we act on the unquestioned assumption that more is better. Another party we should attend. Another Christmas gift exchange we should buy for. Another new recipe we should make. We believe these activities will give our December significance and meaning.

“Shoulding” distracts us from the things that matter most to us. When our lives are filled with things that we should be doing, we start operating on autopilot versus intentionally investing ourselves and resources in the activities, people, and places that matter most to us.

This propensity toward shoulding manifests itself as stress because we’re filling our schedules to the brink and fear what people think about us if we don’t conform. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can lead to health problems such as headaches, muscle tension and pain, fatigue, changes in sex drive, and chest pain. It can also mean anxiety, a lack of focus and motivation, irritability, anger, and depression. Without proper stress management, your body may suffer during the holiday season, compounding the problem and causing you to miss out on the enjoyment that comes with the season.

There’s no reason for the holidays to be a time of to-do lists and going through the motions of what it means to celebrate the season. By keeping a few things in mind this year, I’m making a commitment to enjoy this time and do things because I want to, not because I should.

Envision Your Ideal Holiday

Cast a vision for what you want your holidays to look like. Are your goals to savor time with family and show your neighbors that you care about them?

Lara Casey writes in Make It Happen, her book about meaningful goal setting:

“Our chase for success so easily disguises itself as a ‘should’—because everyone around us is doing it. You should be working hard at the expense of time with your family if you want to be successful. You should be staying up late to get ahead if you want to make it. You should climb the success ladder now, so you can live a joyful life when you retire. You should, or you won’t be enough.”

Maybe you’re living in a new city, and you want to enjoy the holiday activities of that city. As I look to the holiday season, I’m excited to decorate and enjoy the home my husband and I just moved into, participate in the life of my local church, cook and bake in my kitchen, and spend time with my family and closest friends. Whatever your vision is for the holidays, describe it with words, an image, a Pinterest board, etc., and let yourself be inspired.

Determine Your Priorities

If you don’t set boundaries on your schedule and emotional resources, someone else will. Don’t feel obligated to say yes to requests immediately, and recognize that when you say yes to one activity, you are always saying no to something else.

Keeping a hold on your time during the holidays doesn’t make you a Scrooge; it makes you smart. Author and speaker Greg McKeown calls this “essentialism.” In his book, McKeown defines essentialism as the disciplined pursuit of less:

“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It’s about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”

Essentialism is simultaneously liberating and requiring work. It frees us from the burden of doing everything, but it calls us to make the hard choice of where we’ll invest ourselves and resources.

Ensure that you have ample time to dedicate to your priorities and commitments by scheduling chosen events into your calendar, including the time you’ll need to prepare for them. For example, if you’re headed to several parties, and you’re expected to bring a dish or a present, set times for cooking, shopping, and wrapping.

Adjust Your Attitude

A full schedule is not the enemy, but a full schedule filled with activities that you don’t care about is. Once you set your priorities and choose what you want to do instead of what you think you should be doing, invest yourself wholeheartedly. As Jim Elliot wrote, “Wherever you are, be all there.”

Convince yourself that you’ll be gaining more, not missing out, by limiting your holiday to-do list. When I choose to invest myself in the things that matter to me—spending time with family and friends and enjoying the little details of the season—I find deep satisfaction in the holidays because I’m investing in the activities that give me a strong sense of fulfillment. I may not curate an Instagram-worthy holiday experience, but I will accomplish what’s important to me.

Bob Goff, New York Times bestselling author of Love Does, writes, “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” Shoulding distracts us from the activities that we are uniquely called to do and feel passionate about. Shoulding consumes us with obligations that don’t matter to us or don’t bear significance when looking beyond the holiday season.

Shift your focus to the things that bring you joy—not the things that everyone is supposed to enjoy. This small change will ensure that your holiday is meaningful and personal to you and your family.

I’m choosing not to should on myself this season. Instead I’ll simply invest my time and resources in the things that matter to me. And come December 31, I think I’ll be glad about that decision—and I’ll have a lot less stress.

Hard Books As an Antidote to Burnout


If you’re anything like me, sitting down with a copy of War and Peace isn’t the first impulse you have during a time of especially vicious burnout. When life seems to be coming at us from every direction, our reading tastes tend to turn to the lighthearted, the fanciful, and the familiar. After yet another exhausting day of studying, working, or parenting, it can even feel easier to just forego books altogether and let YouTube put us to sleep.

But picking up a “challenging” book might actually be a challenging form of self-care that can help mitigate the symptoms of burnout. Far from being draining and adding to our already heavy workload, reading challenging books can relieve frazzled feelings and restore our minds while helping us find catharsis in our daily lives.

Returning to focus

For me, burnout often manifests with scattered attention and fragmented energy. I feel pulled in so many directions at once by my to-do list that it’s impossible to actually address the important issues among the ones clamoring for my attention. Regular tasks become hard to organize, and if I manage to get them done, it feels like I have nothing left in the tank for what I really want to do.

Challenging books can, counterintuitively, help ease this frustration. These works demand all of our attention and energy to absorb, helping us reorient our inner lives into a more linear and focused pattern. You just can’t read A Tale of Two Cities or The Silmarillion while simultaneously answering emails on your phone and cooking dinner. To follow the story and really enjoy the rich prose of these and similar works, the reader must let her mind rest on the story and the story alone.

I know what you might be thinking: “Great, the last thing I need is another demand on my attention.” But hear me out. When you pick up a long or challenging book like The Brothers Karamazov, the very act of comprehension in reading requires that you put down the phone, cancel distractions, and pay attention to only one thing. This simple act of directing your attention at one thing is in and of itself helpful for resting your overworked mind while giving you the reward of a great story. With a good hard book, there are no consequences, no deadlines, no tests, in fact, no real demands on you at all. During high-pressure times, I’ve found real solace in this demand-free space.

The pleasure of accomplishment

Another big contributor to burnout is the lack of closure or reward and the repetitive weight of seemingly endless tasks, like keeping up with bills, packing lunches, or commuting. In contrast, books have a clear narrative and physical form, and good ones have a moment (or moments) of definite catharsis. They have a beginning, middle, and end. Their very structure stands in stark contrast to the habits that burn us out: they aren’t repetitive tasks or formless to-dos.

Finishing a chapter, a section, and eventually a whole book can help you achieve a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. For too many of us, the cathartic feeling of total completion is rare in our everyday adult lives. Reading a challenging book and actually finishing it can inject a dose of that satisfaction into an otherwise frustrating day.

Something you get to do, not something you have to do

It’s easy to feel like we’re always working. From checking email first thing in the morning to picking up after family members to using her free time to clean, shop, pay bills, and do battle with the IRS, the modern woman puts in a lot of hours. Although reading “hard” books does require a little effort, it’s really helpful to think about doing so as real leisure—adding another thing to life’s never-ending to-do list is the opposite of the point. Although I am a huge proponent of reading on a schedule, the minute you see reading as a task you “have” to do rather than a beautiful activity you “get” to do, the fun is over. For this reason, it’s really important to choose books that you actually want to read; if a book gives you a sinking feeling when you look at it, put it back! Do you enjoy fantasy? Pick up some Tolkien or an epic poem like Beowulf or the Odyssey. Romance? Try Madame Bovary or Lorna Doone. Politics? Grab Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Non-Fiction? Susan Wise Bauer’s History of the Ancient World or Oswald Chambers’ Witness are both enthralling.

Think of it this way: having access to both the “hard” books and the education necessary to read them is a rare combination, possessed by relatively few women throughout history. To read is not only to rest, but also to delight in a precious gift.

Reading is also one leisure activity in which there need be no guilt. This is a neat feature of books—I’ve felt guilty many a time after a four-hour binge on Netflix, but never yet have I felt like time reading was ever misspent or “lazy.” There’s nothing wrong with watching movies on streaming services, but let’s be honest, rarely does spending our tired hours sitting in front of a screen make us feel better. (Most of the time, I find it just makes me feel “not-worse.”) Not to mention, I have found that it is easier to justify “me-time” to your family members or co-workers if you’re wielding an impressive book (as opposed to an iPad or a pair of headphones).

The inspiration of stories

One of the many rewards of these difficult books is the potential they carry to inspire and support us as we confront difficulty and stress. Besides their anti-burnout properties, books offer delight, inspiration, and a deeper connection to what makes us human. For example, as a mariner, I identify with Ishmael’s famous words on the first page of Moby Dick about hearing the call to the sea when I feel “a damp, drizzly November in my soul.”

If it’s a damp, drizzly November in your soul, go to sea with Ishmael. Adventure through magical lands with King Arthur and his knights. Tell myths with the rabbits of Watership Down. Reckon with your soul alongside Anna Karenina. These and many other stories between the covers of challenging books have the power to lift the veil of stress and busyness that so often clouds our vision and to replace it with beautiful stories. In the words of Declan O’Donnell, the protagonist of Brian Doyle’s The Plover, “For thousands of years we said [we wanted] gold and food and land and power and freedom and knowledge and none of those were true . . . because we are starving for story, our greatest hunger.”

How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Work Relationships


There’s a cliché in the world of psychotherapy that many of the issues and problems you face as an adult are rooted in things that happened in your childhood. But things often become clichés for a reason, and there is actually a lot of truth to this principle, particularly when it comes to adult relationships.

The best-selling book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love, has re-ignited popular culture’s interest in attachment theory and for good reason: it can help you better understand yourself and why you behave the way you do in relationships. Why? Because attachment theory describes how our earliest relationships with our caregivers provide a blueprint for how we interact with others as adults.

While we tend to focus on how our attachment style influences our relationship with our family of origin and our romantic relationships, our attachment styles also play key roles in how we handle communication and conflict at work. How can your attachment style positively or negatively affect your relationship with your boss and coworkers?

Cultivating a greater sense of awareness about how you typically respond to conflict with your boss or coworkers can help you make any necessary adjustments to improve your communication style. The first step is to identify your attachment style, the second is to identify how your attachment style affects your experience and relationships with others at work, and the third is to identify any changes or adjustments you can make to improve the quality of your relationships with your coworkers and boss.

Let’s take a closer look at the four adult attachment styles and how they affect your work relationships.

Attachment 101

Your attachment style describes the type of relationship you had with your primary caregiver as a child. When you were sad, tired, scared, or hungry, as a child, your primary caregiver either took care of your needs or did not. When your caregiver meets your needs and you learn that you can depend on them, you have a secure attachment style. About 56 percent of the population has this type of attachment style. When your caregiver is inconsistent with meeting your needs, you often form an anxious attachment style, which characterizes about 20 percent of the population. And when your caregiver neglects or ignores your needs, you are likely to form an avoidant attachment style; people with avoidant attachment style make up about 23 percent of the population. The least common attachment style, found in only about 1 percent of the population, is disorganized attachment style and can form when there is abuse or violence in the home. (Because this attachment style is far less common, it won’t be discussed in this article).

Secure attachment

When you form a secure attachment, you have fairly stable and healthy relationships with your coworkers. For example, a study by Annette Towler and Alice Stuhlmacher found that women who have secure attachment styles are more likely to be satisfied with their job, and they are also more likely to experience lower levels of conflict at work. If you have a secure attachment style and are working at a job that is a good fit for you, you are more likely to report feeling challenged, competent, and secure with your job, as well as liking and getting along with your coworkers, according to a 2015 study by Michael Leiter, Arla Day, and Lisa Price on attachment styles at work.

If you have a secure attachment style, try focusing on investing your time and energy into work that you feel passionate about. Because others look to you for balance and guidance in team dynamics, it is important for you to set boundaries and know where it’s best to focus your attention.

Anxious attachment

When you have an anxious attachment, you may primarily experience anxiety about your relationships. You may find yourself wondering if you are doing enough to keep everyone satisfied with your performance at work (never feeling good enough), or you may live in constant worry that you are on the verge of being fired. Fitting in at work is likely very important, and it can spark a lot of anxiety in you.

This doesn’t mean having an anxious attachment style necessarily puts you at a disadvantage. A 2011 study by Tsachi Ein-Dor, Mario Mikulincer, and Phillip R. Shaver found that individuals with anxious attachment styles were more likely to promote group effectiveness because of their awareness of nuances and potential “dangers” to the group.

If you have an anxious attachment style, one area to try to grow in is setting boundaries, time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders suggests. Because fitting in with your team is important to you, you might find yourself neglecting to set healthy boundaries, but this can lead to resentment and burnout. For this type of person, it will help to focus on setting healthy boundaries (and not being afraid to say “no”) to help keep work relationships strong.

Avoidant attachment

While individuals with anxious attachment focus primarily on being liked by others, those with an avoidant attachment style tend to place a greater emphasis on being independent of others. Leiter and his colleagues found that individuals with avoidant attachment were more likely to prefer to work alone and to use work as an excuse to avoid socializing. But this can negatively affect your experience at work. For example, Towler and Stuhlmacher found that women who have an avoidant attachment style have lower quality relationships with their supervisors.

But there are also advantages to having an avoidant attachment style. Ein-Dor and his co-authors found that individuals with this attachment style tend to respond more quickly to resolve issues in the group. Have high self-esteem and a strong sense of self can help you act decisively in situations at work rather than waiting for direction from others.

If this is your attachment style, it might be helpful to focus on bringing more balance to your work life by making an effort to make authentic connections with others at work. While it may be tempting to shut your office door or pop your headphones in to indicate that you are “very busy,” consider the benefits that can come from connecting with your boss and coworkers.

Whatever your attachment style, knowing more about its particular characteristics will equip you to use and hone its strengths while being on the lookout for its challenges.

How spending time in an (almost) empty house showed me just how calm life can be

By Karen Quaintmere

Before I moved house, I had sorted and sifted, sold and donated, and generally reduced my possessions.

I thought I was living with very little. That I had ‘minimized’ to a point that felt comfortable for me.

Having sold my home, I packed up my remaining furniture and pictures, clothes, and kitchen belongings, and shed stuff, and books and so on to put them into storage. There was a gap between the sale of my home and moving to the new house. My stuff filled just over two storage containers. That was a bit of a wake-up call. Did I really have that much? After all my efforts to reduce what I own!

I moved into my brand new home without my things in order to sort out carpets and flooring and to allow time to get some changes in the house completed before my containers arrived.

I moved in with just what I could cram into my fairly modest car. An airbed, pillow, blankets, a towel, a bag of clothes, a few kitchen things, a hand-held Dyson, my laptop, a couple of books, and a few art materials. Oh, and a few house plants and a string of lights. And my cat—my treasured companion. It was a bit like indoor camping. And I loved it.

Watching the light moving across the almost empty open-plan living space. No curtains obscuring the light or the view of trees through the windows. Watching it get light and later the darkness draw in. The reflections in the floor tiles. 

I felt so calm.

There were some things I definitely missed. A real bed. My sofa, and being able to sit at a table. Wardrobes—being able to put things away out of sight. A bread knife. A colander. Mugs to be able to offer guests a hot drink. My shredder—I ended up with so much unwanted paper around without it!

I bought a few things I’d intended to replace in any event. I bought a few plants for the garden because I love to plant (I’m not so minimal in the garden).

All in all I managed very well with very few things. Amazingly well. Working with what I had, meant that I had to simplify everything. Preparing food became simpler, and clearing away and cleaning became much easier.

Choosing what to wear hardly took any time at all and yet I never felt like I didn’t have something appropriate to put on. And yet, I was living out of one bag.

It’s not just that there was physically less stuff in the space, but visually there was less clutter.

I got to thinking about why I had all that other stuff stored away and what I would do when it arrived. I started to view the arrival of my stored ‘stuff’ with trepidation.

And then yesterday it arrived. OVERWHELM!

I wanted to ask the removal guys to take it back.

So, now begins again the process of sifting and sorting and editing, until it feels right. Until there’s nothing more that I want to remove at this point in my life. I’m learning that this is an iterative process. That I have to allow it to take the time it needs to take. To honour this journey.

The difference for me now is that I have had a real experience of minimalism and that will motivate me to continue this process. It was like my version of the 30-day minimalism game.

Moving into space for a time helped me to see just how little I actually need. And, how having less means so much more. More light. More space. More breathing room. More calm.

What Happens When Repressed Memories of Trauma Begin to Resurface

By The Mighty

The impact of recovering memories that have been repressed for years can be a debilitating process in your trauma healing. They have been repressed for a reason; that reason being that when a person goes through significant trauma, the brain shuts down, dissociation takes over and as a survival technique, the trauma(s) get unconsciously blocked and tucked away from you and stored into disorganized files in your brain due to a high level of stress, or you were in a situation where you felt threatened and it was a matter of life or death – so your mind did what it had to in order to keep you safe, and therefore you could go on and have the ability to live your life and function in society.

Repressed memories can come back to you in various ways, including having a trigger, nightmares, flashbacks, body memories and somatic/conversion symptoms. This can lead to feelings of denial, shame, guilt, anger, hurt, sadness, numbness and so forth.

Having new memories come up can affect your current state of reality, your relationships, your perception of the world and of those around you, which can take you back to the past and keep you stuck there, making you feel as though you are re-living the trauma all over again. It can destabilize you and your life, and may be followed by dissociation, depersonalization/derealization and dissociative amnesia. It can make you see “safe” people as “unsafe,” and while you’re stuck in those memories, nothing and no one may feel safe – not even yourself. This can then lead to isolation, avoidance, low self-care and a war within your mind and your body.

Your body can react in ways that it did back then which can be both new for you, and extremely frightening. You may find yourself going into the fight, flight, freeze, flop or fawn responses at what you think are minuscule things. Your memories may come through in re-enactment behaviors. You may find yourself repeating behaviors that relate to your traumas. However your memories come back to you is valid. However you and your body respond to your memories coming up are valid. Your feelings towards your memories are valid – and all of this is OK. You are OK, and you are safe now.

When repressed memories come up, it is important to try and understand the biology behind it – why they’re coming up at this point in time, how you can work with them, learn to trust yourself and what your mind and body are trying to tell you, and how you can manage your safety and wellbeing as you’re working through them. Try to acknowledge what is happening for you and validate your past experiences, learn and identify your triggers, and allow yourself to sit with the feelings that are coming up. Ground yourself in your current reality,“It is 2019, I am in xx years old, I live with __ now, I am safe.” Differentiate between your reality and your memories and work on staying present and grounded, and give yourself permission to be kind to yourself during this process. Communicate your experiences with a trusted therapist. Allow space for vulnerability. Be gentle and compassionate towards yourself.

Trauma recovery isn’t linear – you might have all of your memories of your trauma, and you might have none. You might not have memories, but it may still be affecting you subconsciously. You might have scattered jigsaw pieces of different traumas and not the full puzzle, and that’s OK too. Your repressed memories come to you when you are finally ready to deal with them. They are not there to hurt you or ruin the life you have created for yourself – they are there to tell you what happened to you, to help you make sense of why things are the way that they are, that it’s time to work with them and that you are safe enough to do so.$deep_link=true