I've been thinking a lot about where my energy goes lately because I'm having some fatigue, despite a lot of self-care. I know that where my thoughts go my energy goes, so I'm trying to be more observant of what I'm thinking. There is a lot going on in there!
Guess where my energy is going? It's going into the future and the past. I am playing out conversations in my head that haven't happened yet. Thinking of what I'll say if “Someone says this, I will say that.” Then my mind gets all twisted up, and I have several stories running, because I am creative. I also notice my mind in the past replaying what has happened, what's been said, and how I wish it would have gone versus how I responded. The snippets of time from the past play through my mind like a video; some precious, like laying in bed with my mom during her last days, and some traumatic, like disputes and perceived "wrongs" by others.
By observing where my thoughts are going, I am realizing I want to be more present and call back my mental energy. For me peaceful reminiscing can be therapeutic and helps me heal, but rehearsing trauma sends me into flight or flights, tenses my body and makes me irritable. It does point me toward where I need to breathe, shift my energy, ask for acceptance and healing, and generates helpful topics to journal about so I can release those feelings from my body.
When I project to the future, I've noticed that my heart rate increases, my chest tightens, and my mind races with all kinds of wild stories. I am beginning to try the mantra I will know how to handle each situation as it comes. I also replay my mentor's words, "Don't borrow problems from tomorrow." I catch myself being able to stop the runaway train of my mind with either one or both of these thoughts. I do believe that more than 90% of the scenarios I play out will never happen. It's a waste of my energy, plus my body doesn't know that I am just playing it out therefore my nervous system goes haywire over something that is only in my mind. This imaginary battle consumes my energy and I am left feeling tired and wired over something that never happened and will never happen.
In Qi Gong, we say that the mind is like a drunken monkey swinging from thought to thought. It's a funny image, isn't it? A little crazed monkey swinging from “What will I do if my kids XYZ,” to “What if my parents get sick? How will I work full time, and care for them?” to “I have to remember to get strawberries at the grocery” to “How will I handle it if management gives me another project on top of what I'm already doing at work?” …You get the point. Does this sound familiar?
I want to encourage you to begin to observe your thoughts without judgement. See if you can pause them, and interrupt them, with a new mantra, and bring yourself back to the present and what you can effect right now. The more we can groom what we think to be positive and focus on what we want, the happier our life will be. Maybe you can shift to “I will handle each task and conversation as it comes” and put other task related thoughts on a to-do list to help you remove that reminder from your mind. Start to call back your mental energy and be gentle with yourself. This is a practice that I succeed at some days and am less polished at on others. The more I practice it, the more my body stays out of fight-or-flight, and the calmer my internal world is.