As I feel myself sinking more and more into the depths of the “sunken place” (sans the tea cup, Get Out reference), I find it necessary to stop, breathe, and initiate extreme Self-Check.
The sunken place is that overly dramatic dark abyss that we see in cartoons. It is made out to be something like a void where you are sitting in the pit of this darkness with no visible way out. This place is what results when our circumstances all seem to be stacked against us. We may feel alone, like no one else can relate, and like we have no options other than to just deal with it. However, when something horrible presents itself to us, we are faced with a choice. We can be Issa Rae about it and decide that it can't have our joy, or we can be Tyrese about it and let it consume and destroy us (i.e., the sunken place).
As a third year evening law student, I am faced with the choice of succumbing to the extreme exhaustion, the feelings of being stuck in this place with what seems like no room for advancement, the stress of working full-time in a high-demand job, the worry about not having much of a social life, and everything that comes with watching everyone else live through that big glass window called social media.
Yes, all of the sacrificed time, friendships and relationships will eventually pay off. People have been telling me that for years, but as I sit here and wait for said payment, I struggle with wanting to just walk away from it all. These are the times that I have to kick the Self-Check into high gear.
Self-Check is simple. Here's what you need:
When I slip into these spaces, I definitely acknowledge that it is happening. I can feel it coming like a person with arthritis feels the first rain. But what do I do once I acknowledge its onset? If I sit there and let it take over, then I lose.
This downward spiral causes a significant amount of dissonance. I struggle with the fact that everything gives me negative feelings and also with the fact that there are days where I am fine with those feelings. On those days, I'm perfectly okay with seeing a guy at the coffee shop whose hands are full and not helping him with the door. I am also okay with not smiling at the woman at the grocery store who smiles as she passes me in the feminine hygiene aisle as if to say, "Girl, I understand." No! You don't understand. I am in a full struggle regarding whether or not I should be the woman that my parents and grandparents raised me to be! Don't you see? No, she doesn't see that personal battle, so you have the choice of putting on your best smile and adding a nod for measure, or of being the horrible version of You that's trying to takeover. Anete referenced the seven-second window of impression in her initial post and it is real. If you're going to put your best You forward, then the first step is to acknowledge when that version of You is slipping into the darkness and then fix it.
2. Quick Disengagement
This is the fun step! It's fun for me because I know that this is the step most skipped and also the step that I, personally, enjoy the most.
In order to get to a healthy spot mentally, you have to get rid of those things and people that cause the negative feelings (well those things and people that you're able to get rid of without getting expelled or fired). That means, log out of all social networking sites, put that iPhone on 'Do Not Disturb,' and just be!
If your build-up seems to be happening with your same old daily routine, then hit the switch and do a complete 180 (like Miley Cyrus, but not really!). I usually give myself one day to be sad about whatever is getting me down, but I am sure to use that Down Day as best as I can. On these days I am sure to keep my phone far out of reach otherwise I’ll find myself searching for things to pile onto my mountain of anger just to have something to complain about.
We often struggle on these Down Days with the anxiety that comes with not knowing what we may potentially be missing out on while we are away from our phones. We wonder random things like: will my crush text me, will Beyoncé announce a new album or tour, or will Kevin Hart finally admit that had a full blown relationship with this woman that has nothing on his wife (add thought bubbles where appropriate)? No, none of these things will happen just because you’ve decided to spend one day away from your phone, so disengage and embrace it.
A lot of people use the internet as their source of happiness, so for those people, the quick disengage is about as much torture as dangling food in front of my face and telling me not to eat it. But, even those using the internet for happiness could use a break from it. Go outside, take a walk, go to the gym, play with your children, enjoy nature! I have not come across one person who is not able to find inner peace while alone with nature.
The quick disengage is essential no matter where you are. If you skip this step, then you might as well skip the whole process. However, the good thing about this step is that it does not stand alone. Inward reflection is a concurrent step that should be taken alongside the quick disengage.
3. Inward Reflection
It would be completely pointless to take yourself out of the situations that cause your stress or discomfort if you do not use that time wisely.
Once you have finally put your busy mind at ease, you can begin to work on the deeper rooted issues. Whether it be through quiet meditation, a long jog with music, the soothing sounds of a Yoga instructor's voice, or maxing out your credit card at your nearest mall. Put yourself in a space where you can reflect on the reasons and things that have gotten you down.
Arm yourselves by learning yourselves, your limits, and your triggers. Find out what gets you upset. Once you do that, find a way to control that situation and control the anger that it causes you. For example, I once had an ex that could not help but to lie. It was like he didn't have that thing in his mind that told him that lying was wrong. Initially, I would blow up about it because the lies would be about any and every small thing. But, after a while you will acknowledge that this person is flawed, you learn the ways in which they are flawed, and then you either get rid of them to keep your peace or you learn to deal with it while keeping your anger intact (I took the easy road and just got out of there!). Either way, without reflecting on what was happening to me and how it made me feel, I would not have learned that I have such a low tolerance for lies and liars.
It took me a lot of pounding the pavement to learn that there was something other than hunger that could take me to that level of anger. But running outdoors was my only saving grace during those times. I learned that, when my feet are moving is when I can think with the clearest and emptiest slate. This finding created the space for me to think with a new type of clarity, breathe, and scream, if need be until I was more at ease and essentially un-phased by the liars that happen to be way too close for comfort within my life. And, with that space and that knowledge, I was able to avoid a lot of the situations that would have normally gotten me down.
Your quick disengage and inward reflection may look completely different from mine, but that does not mean that it is any less necessary. Find what helps you clear your mind, disengage from the things of this world, and reflect on the reasons behind your anger as well as the ways that you can better react to those triggers in the future.
The home stretch in all of this is simply to apply all that you've done in the prior steps to your days going forward. I mean, why put in all of that work just to not apply it?
Bad days are going to happen no matter how much you try to lead an angelic life. Hard times will strike, you may fail, divorces may happen, dishonesty will reign, but what you do following these events shapes who You are.
If you want the You that is presented to the world to be the best version of You possible, then it is very necessary to Self-Check as you go.
These steps have been written time and time again. They've been written in this order, in different order, with additional steps, less some steps, and so on! You get the point. We've all said these things but, it sometimes takes another person's perspective or explanation of the steps before you actually take the necessary steps to apply this process.
A Self-Check can happen in as quick as a 30-minute workout or even a 10-minute yoga session. If we make it a part of our daily routines to Self-Check, then when we feel ourselves spiraling downward, it will be much easier to bring ourselves out of it and continue living mentally-healthy and mentally-happy lives.
Here are a couple of articles, websites and books that have helped me with my ongoing Self-Check: