Guest post by Karen Liebenguth
Surviving or Thriving is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, running from 8th – 12th May 2017.
The theme has deeply resonated with me, spurring me to share a personal perspective of how I feel when I experience life in both modes.
In surviving mode, my world feels narrow. I feel tired, low and numb. Uninspired. I find I’m just about coping with my day-to-day life and the most pressing demands it makes of me – nothing more.
I’m unable to see the good things, the opportunities, let alone take advantage of them or begin to imagine what might be possible for me. I also don’t sleep so well and often wake early with a nagging, anxious feeling.
Ah, but when I’m in thriving mode, my world feels expansive. I feel alive, energised, uplifted, courageous and open-minded.
My smile is broadening as I write and re-experience that wonderful feeling of opportunity and optimism, which results from being able to see further into my life and having the conviction and self-belief that great things are possible for me and that I deserve them.
I’m not alone in connecting with the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week. I have heard from clients, through my work as a life coach, as well as from friends and family members, that many others experience ‘just surviving’ and thriving too.
It’s part of our human condition.
We don’t feel the same every day. However, sometimes, we spend more days, or even longer periods of time, ‘just surviving’ rather than feeling well, happy and resourceful, which can - if left unchecked - lead to mental ill-health, anxiety and depression.
It doesn’t have to be like that.
What is the difference between surviving and thriving?
When I’m in ‘just surviving’ mode, I can slip into the grip of fear, doubt, uncertainty and my limiting views about myself and the world can take hold.
Over the years, I have managed to build a regarded coaching and mindfulness business, however, like many other self-employed people, a quiet work spell or the deferment of an opportunity can trigger all manner of negative thoughts like ‘I’m not good enough, I can’t do it, I don’t have what it takes’…
Then I begin to feel anxious. I start doubting myself and I feel insecure and uncertain about my future. And it can get worse. I move into catastrophising, about losing everything and being out on the street.
That’s a snap shot of where my mind can go. How it can drag me down, unsettle me and narrow my view of the world, stunt my creativity and imagination.
In joyful contrast, when I’m thriving, I’m connected to what I care about, what I value, what’s important to me and to what I want to see happening in my life. It’s all there, crystal-clear in my mind.
The good news
We can all learn how to become more aware of when we are ‘just surviving’ and notice how we feel and the types of thoughts we typically buy into and take as truth.
So here is how:
Next time you are ‘just surviving’ write down and notice:
- How you feel, for example, anxious, helpless, disengaged, low, sad, withdrawn, angry, stupid, isolated, disempowered, defensive, lonely, exposed, exhausted etc.
- Your fears, for example, I feel anxious that nobody will like me, I feel anxious that I won’t be able to do it, that I will fail.
- Your doubts, for example, I’m not sure whether I have what it takes to pull off what I need to do.
- Your limiting beliefs, for example, I am not good at this, I can’t do it, it’s not for me, it only happens to other people etc.
Next time when you feel you are thriving write down and notice:
- How you feel, for example, connected, alive, buzzing, energised, focused, motivated, inspired, joyful, calm, reflective, engaged, open-mined etc.
- What you care about, for example, your work and making a difference, your family, health, friends etc.
- What you value, for example, me-time, meaningful conversations, your partner, holidays, playing with your children, being in nature etc.
- What’s important to you, for example, honesty, listening, being listened to, caring for others, exercise, healthy eating, togetherness etc.
- What you want to see, for example, you see yourself grasping opportunities when they arise, you hear yourself say ‘yes’ more often, feeling confident in your abilities
Writing down your feelings can help you to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and help you to support yourself too. When you feel that you are 'just surviving', you can take your ‘thriving notes’ and read them out loud to yourself. That way you can learn to counsel yourself, and support yourself to thrive more of the time.
Find out more
Karen Liebenguth is a qualified life coach. She offers 1:1 coaching while walking outdoors in green space, where she believes insight, change and creativity can happen most naturally. Karen is also an accredited mindfulness teacher and MBTI facilitator. She offers 1:1 mindfulness training, tailored mindfulness workshops and courses for the workplace. For more information on Karen’s work visit her website: http://www.greenspacecoaching.com.
To read more about Mental Health Awareness Week you can visit the Mental Health Foundation website, where they also share further advice on looking after your mental health.
If you enjoyed reading this post, please comment and share (via the options below), and use #MHAW17 to join the wider online conversation about Mental Health Awareness Week. To stay updated on our latest wellbeing news and events, follow Network of Wellbeing (NOW) on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for our monthly newsletter.