Four words. One question.
How are you feeling?
I remember stopping in my tracks when I heard the question with a perplexed facial expression that probably read, ‘was that directed to me?’. I was confused. Here was the Head of the Freshers events, an important annual event asking me how I was feeling. In the moment the first thought that came to my mind was “Oooh this is interesting, why are you asking me how I’m feeling? Surely I should be asking you because I’m not the priority right now.” (Alhamdulilah I am the President of an amazing society at LSE this year). And because of this logic, while I was appreciative, I did find it strange when people consistently asked me throughout the week how I was feeling.
A week later with the occurrence of several pressurising incidents, ‘How are you feeling’ was the prompt that I needed to get myself together. While I was at YMLP over summer, one of my friends described how asking herself two questions proved useful to deal with anxiety. The questions are:
What are you feeling?
Why are you feeling it?
When I remembered this, I said to myself while travelling on the bus, you know what, I’m just going to do this exercise really quickly! Write in the journal on my phone (that I hadn’t used in months!), name what I’m feeling right now and just get to the root of it. It took me no longer than three minutes, but the result was instantaneous! I went from a state of helplessness and feeling overwhelmed to gaining clarity. Most importantly, it got me back into a space of where I could be focused and intentional with my actions again. This exercise is what I now call, the checking in exercise.
Self-awareness is vital in regards to mental health, and the foundation of the checking in exercise is about honesty in your relationship with yourself. I’ll never forget one of the sisters in the society asking me during those weeks, ‘Do you ever get stressed?’ And I replied with, ‘This is bad, but I’m relatively numb to stress most of the time. My real problem is anxiety.’ And that’s why in the moments when I did feel stressed, it was so important for me to acknowledge it and name it.
Checking in with yourself prevents you from hiding from your feelings which in the long run saves you time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, name it! Whether it’s frustration, anger, powerlessness, whatever it is, just name it! Because once you acknowledge it, it becomes easier to move into the zone of ‘why’. And when you gain clarity on the ‘why’, you recognise what is outside of your control and what is within your control. This is where the power comes from. You become aware of what does not require your energy. Being stressed or anxious over what has occurred in the past and what is outside of your control is wasted energy. Instead, there’s a positivity that ensues when you focus your energy on another set of two questions:
What do I need to learn from this experience or moment?
What can I do now that is within my control and sphere of influence?
Aside from being honest with yourself, it’s important, to be honest with the people around you about how you feel. There will be moments when you will need people or others will need you for help and support. The tweets below from Nafisa_Bakkar (The Founder of Amaliah), articulates well the value in expressing our emotions.
Put out the real you, share your struggles, let it be known you’re not having a good day. Your honesty might just help someone through theirs. I try doing this on my snapchat and it resonates. Every other snap story is food, smiley people and just look how glorious my life is.
We need to normalise the fact that not everyday is going to be a good day. I wish bloggers and vloggers would open up and show the days and times where they just feel plain crap. Not everyday HIIII GUUUUUUYS 😀 :D.
This part has probably been the most difficult for me primarily because I’m a super private person, but it has also been a great learning curve and I’ve embraced it a lot more because of how much value I place on honesty within a team. At the basis of it, we are students so there are moments where the experience can be intense or overwhelming hence I consciously strive to create an environment where people can express that. I would prefer for someone to vocalise if they feel overwhelmed or stressed so we can think strategically about minimising it rather than the person burning out from exhaustion.
Lastly, not every day will be great so make time for yourself and your well-being. Remember to check in!