Are you living in your happy place or down into your rabbit hole? Wonderland or wasteland? What is your inner topography like? Do you live in light or darkness, or in endless shades of grey?
No matter how much you may work to redesign your external environment, if your inner one is challenging, blue, or outright flat and barren, your soul will be unable to appreciate what your eyes are looking at. Your senses will not function optimally, will deny you of pleasure and enjoyment.
Chronic stress goes hand in hand with anxiety and the latter one with low mood and depression. You end up feeling like crap, eating crap and thinking crap which in turn makes you feel like crap and it soon becomes a vicious cycle.
You engage less and less in pleasurable activities, turn inwards and sink down the rabbit hole slowly but surely. The lower down you go, the less you can see the light and the more the darkness engulfs you.
The spiral becomes narrower and narrower on your way down and your range of thinking becomes more and more restricted and focused on more and more negative things and feelings. In the end you find yourself trapped in a hole from which you do not know how to climb back out and into the light.
The light of reality becomes distant and forgotten, all you can see is the tight dark room that has become your prison. A prison of fears, worries, obstacles, limits and impossibility. A narrow and oppressive little world of doom and gloom.
Facts become exaggerated, loosing any sense of proportion, become all or nothing, black or white, missing any flexibility and freedom of possibility that give life to resilience and hope. Instead of using realistic, specific light strokes of brush to paint your reality, you end up using the thick brush and the dark colours of helplessness and desperation. The end result being a muddied, non specific, non realistic work of doom. Instead of being able to appreciate beauty, kindness and love, all you can feel is the fire of fear’s, anxiety’s and depression’s hell.
The thing is all of this may have happened without you realizing but nevertheless with your permission. You let it happen, you surrendered, you admitted defeat, you did not ask for help. Scared and confused as to what was happening to you, overtaken by every day circumstances, you ended up struggling to deal with each new obstacle, difficulty, crisis as these grew larger and larger and into monsters you couldn't handle or so you believed.
Yes, your financial worries are real, your health challenges too, the deadlines, the problems, the chores, they are all real, no doubt about it, yet their actual size and weight may have become distorted on the way and your capabilities, strengths and possibilities may have shrunk into nothingness.
Frightened, shaken, overwhelmed the ground below your feet has become frail and unstable, thus letting you sink down the rabbit hole easier and faster, deeper and deeper into the hell of fear, uncertainty and worry.
Frantic, you try to free yourself, kick the bottom of the hole with all your might hoping to be able to reach the surface again and take a deep breath of fresh air, feel the warmth of the sunshine and clarity of levelled and objective reality and run to your freedom and deliverance.
Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't, the reason being that it is touch and go, you do not really know how you are achieving this to whatever degree, it is a game of chance. You may think it is the weather that got better, your hormones that stabilized, the new healthy nutrition plan you decided to follow, the walk you took in the countryside, the raise you got at work, the holidays you went on, the books you are reading, your meditation practice or just straight fluke.
Fact remains you got no idea whatsoever, so with the next stressful event, period, crisis, down you go again into the rabbit hole and entrapped into the vicious cycle of stress, anxiety, fear, depression. You may feel like a failure, good for nothing, a burden to your loved ones and you sink down the slippery road to hell once again, deeper.
Every time this happens the harder it becomes to bounce back to the light again. The more difficult to think realistically and constructively, to put things into proper proportion, to prioritize, things, organize your actions, realize your goals.
Hell and Paradise are down here in every day life and we are their creators with our thinking patterns. Extreme adverse realities apart, the average person living in average circumstances can make their life hell or not by the sheer power of their mind. This makes it so important to learn to control one’s mind, to learn to observe one’s thought patterns, one’s bodily reactions to things, one’s feelings, beliefs and expectations.
It may seem and feel hard or impossible at first, as one needs to undo the deep grooves created in our brains by repetitive negative thinking, stress reactions and trauma and instead create new and healthy ones. The truth is that thought alone is not enough to reprogram ourselves. We need our emotional brain to shift it’s habitual ways too, as well as train our bodies to react in different ways.
Most of us know about cognitive behaviour therapy yet there is a whole new field in psychology lately called neural/brain rewiring which is all about healing the limbic system, learning to control the fight or flight mechanism and regain one’s balance and peace. The work of Annie Hopper is but one such example if you would like to do some research on it.
To summarize, frequent reality checks, reframing facts, perception shifts, meditating, observing our body's reactions to stressful as well as happy thoughts and events and learning to recreate positive feelings at will, questioning beliefs, brainstorming possibilities, gentle exercise, pleasurable activities, healthy sensible eating habits, pacing and prioritizing are but a few of the tools we can use to help ourselves. Asking for help when needed, be that seeing a counsellor, having a massage or other physical treatment is not a luxury but a necessity. Same as we would take a medicine or have surgery if needed, we need to do what needs to be done to help ourselves heal and regain our freedom.