The empty space inside you that gapes open and is not being filled. The passionate fire that pulls you towards something. The tense wrong feeling in your belly or shoulders that says it’s too much even as you keep doing it.
It can be painful to listen to messages from body, mind and heart. It can be painful to feel the depth of our own needs. Sometimes I feel resentful of the fact that I have needs of my own, when I have so many other things to do every day. I catch myself thinking that I should just go on functioning with only minimal self-care, and I resent the time and energy I must commit to keep myself thriving instead of minimally functional.
But being a good parent doesn’t mean you must settle for a self that is minimally functional. And being a great parent calls on each of us to look deeply into our own needs and nurture ourselves as well as our children. That is hard, and painful, and it comes on top of everything else we are doing already. Sometimes identifiying and filling our own personal needs feels like a project so overwhelming and demanding that it’s a lot easier to just…
- Check Facebook, Pinterest, or whatever online social hub you frequent
- Spend an extra hour on your work computer
- Browse online shopping sites
- Engage in other distracting, numbing activities, online or offline
Making the choice to spend too much time tuning your needs out this way, though, steals time and energy that you could otherwise be using to actually make yourself feel better in ways that are deeper and more sustainable.
How do you escape the trap? How do you shift to a life in which you actually meet needs instead of deadening yourself to them?
Distraction to Fulfillment: An Action Plan in Seven Steps
1. Ask yourself. List your top three unmet needs, just off the top of your head… things that you are getting too much of or not enough of. List the top three ways you distract yourself from these needs when they are triggered at a moment when your resources feel tapped out.
2. Notice. As you go through your day, be curious. Ask yourself what you are feeling and why. Notice when you start to squelch something and explore what it’s like to sit with discomfort instead. What is the discomfort telling you?
3. Plan long-term. Sit down with a pen and paper and brainstorm the ideal way to meet your most critical unmet needs. Try not to worry about being realistic at first; think big and bold and free. Once you have some initial ideas down, dip your toes in the water by committing to a single chunk of time per week or month to making progress on getting what you need.
5. Exercise patience. You won’t solve most of these challenges quickly or easily, but that is okay. You’ll find that even a small dose of progress towards taking better will make you much more inclined to stay present and use your time well the rest of the time. And occasionally, you will find that meeting a need actually takes less time than you thought.
4. Set yourself up for success. Think about some specific, more fulfilling activities you can do for yourself, instead of numbing and distracting choices. Make these activities easy by making sure you have any supplies, set-up or other preliminaries complete ahead of time as much as possible. Make the numbing, distracting activities harder – for online activitiy, you might set up site-blocking programs, keep your browser window closed when working in other programs, move tempting app icons such as your browser to less accessible parts of your smart phone, keep your laptop out of the living room and bedroom, and so on.
The goal is… less time numbing out, more time tuning in by raising the bar just a bit on those activities that don’t actually serve you, and lowering the bar for the activities you’ve decided will help you most.
5. Be gentle with yourself. Some distraction is healthy and okay. Only you can decide how much that is. And sometimes you’ll resolve to change, only to mess up. More than once. Notice it, forgive yourself, try again.
6. Experiment and re-evaluate. Consider both the long-term planning and the short-term ideas you come up with to be ongoing experiments. Some will work and some will not. Put a date on your calendar to assess how you feel about the new choices you’ve made, what’s working and what’s not, and what you might like to try doing differently. Habit change is a process, not a one-time choice.
Want help creating a more detailed, personalized action plan to start truly fulfilling your own needs while still being an awesome parent and ditching some bad habits? Sign up for a free 30-minute mini-session over the phone.
What need are you working to better fulfill right now?