that is human is mentionable and anything mentionable can be more manageable.
When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting,
and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know
we are not alone.” – Fred Rogers
I love this quote from Mr. Rogers; it is the epitome of what I believe as a therapist and strive to achieve with my clients. We are all human and we have immense capacity for handling emotions, but sometimes those emotions feel completely and utterly overwhelming. Having a person that we can trust can make those emotions feel more manageable and we might, just maybe, even be able to talk about them more openly.
We all want to feel like we matter and that
someone cares about us; that is a universal human desire. No one wants to feel
like they are all alone in this life, but often that is a feeling that we
experience. How do we combat those feelings of being alone, isolated, not
heard, or not cared for? Connection. Connection to someone or something that
allows us to feel seen, heard, and understood. Connection requires vulnerability
and vulnerability can be scary. Let’s be honest, we have all probably experienced
a situation that we chose to bury, ignore, or deny an emotion rather than risk
being hurt by being vulnerable and sharing.
Many of us grew up with Mr. Rogers as our introduction into learning about feelings. He didn’t shy away from talking about the hard topics either: death, divorce, pain, rage, and anger all featured on his show aimed at children. His forthright presentation of issues that we, as human beings, all struggle with was not typical for the time where children were, largely, encouraged to be seen and not heard. How refreshing to help children, and the adults that we became, to learn to recognize, identify, and name the emotions that we were feeling and that it was ok to be scared, it’s human. And if it’s human, then it’s mentionable and manageable with a little help from our friends in the neighborhood. In the words of Mr. Rogers, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
Saraf, P., Turtletaub, M., Holzer, L. (Producers), & Heller, M. (Director).
(2019) A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood [Motion Picture]. United
States: Tristar Pictures.
We live in a world of chaos filled with
the hustle and bustle of life. There are school, work, home, church, family,
and social obligations and responsibilities that are flying at us 24/7; it can
be difficult to find the quiet in a world filled with noise. Sometimes our
minds scream for the peace and quiet, they need a break from the noise of our
lives. How often are you giving yourself a break? Do you allow yourself to stop
for just a moment and find that peace? Wonder if you haven’t found your quiet
place yet? Create it!
Choose to take a moment and make a
space for yourself, if even in your mind, where you can go to feel calm and
peaceful. This is a place that is all your own, it can be anything you want it
to be. The key to this place is that it is a space where you feel completely at
ease. There is comfort in your place. There is safety in your place. This is a
Here’s a list of questions for you to
answer, in your mind or aloud, to help you start to create a quiet place in
your mind. Initially, read through the questions to become familiar with them. After
some contemplation, read through them again and experience them from a deeper,
more visceral place. Envision how you feel and allow yourself to go into that
Where’s your quiet place? This can be as broad as “at the
beach” or as specific as “sitting on my pink and white canopy bed, holding my
Cabbage Patch doll in my childhood bedroom on Forest Street in Podunk, USA”.
Is it a place that
you once visited or is it a place that you only dream of?
If you’ve been there, when did you visit and what kind of
memories does thinking about it bring to mind? If it’s a real place with
memories attached, dive into those memories. Allow yourself to feel and
re-experience what made this place your “quiet” place.
If it’s a figment of your imagination, when did you start
daydreaming of going there? Do you remember? Maybe this is a place that you
have dreamed of since you were a kid. Maybe you saw a picture somewhere.
What does your quiet
place look like? Use colors, textures, and other descriptive language to be as
specific as possible.
What does it smell like? Again, be descriptive. “Good”,
won’t have the same sensory impact as describing the scent of the ocean or the
pine of the forest after it rains.
What do you hear when
you are there? Trying to engage all your senses, do you hear insects? Birds?
Do you feel the sun on your face or the wind on your cheeks?
Are you warm or cold? What else do you feel? Sand under your feet? The spongy
feel of the forest after a big rain?
Are you there by
yourself or do you have people with you? Who? Let’s be honest there are some
people that do not help us feel calm, they don’t need to be included in your
quiet place. Yep, even if they are your parents, children, spouse, or best
friend. Sometimes we need to find peace away from even those that we love the
Lastly, after you’ve created a picture
with sound, touch, smell, and maybe taste too. Give yourself permission to
visit this place when you feel the noise of the world is too much. I have
clients that use this as part of their morning or bedtime routine to help them
get into a quiet headspace to start their day or go to sleep. Personally, I
like doing it for a few minutes in the middle of my day when I have a break. I
close my office door, take a few deep belly breaths, visualize a place (I have
several), and let the experience encompass my senses and clear my head so that
I can move on with my day with a newfound sense of quiet and calmness.
“Technology has changed you!” is a phrase that my daughters throw around jokingly when I am on my phone, tablet, or laptop when they think that I should be engaged with them. They’re right though, as much as I hate to admit, and be called on, my behavior; technology has changed me. However, with the influx of digitally charged interactions comes the opportunity to connect with friends and family that, previously, was difficult to stay in contact with, but there is also the increased ability to disconnect from in – person interactions and relationships.
So, just how much is technology impacting our relationships? According to a recent study conducted by the market – research group Nielsen, American adults average 11 hours per day reading, listening, surfing, posting, or just generally interacting with media. 11 hours per day! Now, it’s true that a lot of us use a lot of media sources for our jobs, school, and hobbies, but how much of that 11 hours per day is spent on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, Pinterest, or the social media site du jour? What are we giving up interacting on a social media platform for nearly half the day? How are our relationships with our kids, spouses, friends, and other family members impacted? How is our relationship with ourselves impacted? What is social media doing to strengthen or damage your relationships?
Interestingly, when I ask those questions of clients most look completely dumbfounded for a minute. Then as they begin to evaluate the function that media serves in their lives and their relationships, they often come to an answer quickly…it’s a distraction. Media is an escape hatch from real life, but it’s often “sold” as being reality. This seemingly innocent incongruity, fantasy vs reality, can cause some real issues. Ok, so what are some things that we can do to counteract the negative effects and heighten the positive effects?
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries! That’s right folks let’s talk about how social media, and media in general, is going to be used within our relationships. There isn’t an easy button for this discussion, each relationship is different and so are the boundaries established within those relationships. Some families may have a social media moratorium during the week, others may have limits on what media influences are allowed, and still others may have a more laisse faire approach…no one solution is fundamentally better than the other as long as the people involved have been part of the discussion, even teens and kids. I’m not saying that the kids get to decide but allowing children to be part of the decision – making process and have a voice is empowering and models respect and compromise.
Set media free time aside every day and use part of it to connect with those you care about. Most people are not going to be in a situation where they must be “plugged in” 24 hours a day. Media free time is crucial to balancing mental, physical, and emotional wellness. Go for a walk/run with your best friend, take a hike with your family, go on a bike ride with y our spouse, or just sit around the kitchen table and eat dinner without cell phones or the TV on in the background. Also, allow yourself some time to disconnect from media and sit with your thoughts and feelings. Give yourself the space to really connect w ith yourself and understand what’s happening for you mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Be wary of the comparison trap! All media, but social media in particular, is rife for falling into the habit of comparing ourselves with those in our neighborhood, school, church, or the world in general; this is a harmful mindset. Remember that social media is being sold as reality, but it is fantasy. Often it is used as a “highlights” reel to life, but we don’t get to see the “bloopers” reel. Real life is not a series of perfect moments like what is featured on someone’s Instagram story. Comparing our lives to that well curated presentation can lead to feelings of failure, inadequacy, and hopelessness.
Lastly, take breaks from media if it feels like it is becoming obsessive or is dominating your “real” life. Recently, my college age daughter went on an “electronics fast” for one of her classes for a week. She was only allowed to use a desktop computer and the university’s website to complete homework, otherwise she had to be digital free. I admit, I had a hard time not being able to shoot her a quick text or message, but I think that it was an experience that we could all use from time to time. We have convinced ourselves that life would cease to exist without media …that is not reality.