FROZEN… IN EMOTIONAL PARALYSIS!
There can be moments in life when one is so overwhelmed with the stresses of life that one can end up so discouraged, so uncertain, so fearful or so weak as to end up feelings paralyzed, unable to move forward emotionally or any other way. Daily tasks become more than can be managed. Emotional responses can move to numbness or to the opposite extreme over emotionality. Thoughts can become confused and cause one to not be able to think clearly about anything. Social relationships suffer as one withdraws from, or overly taxes friends and family. And the end result is an inner sense of failure, uselessness, hopelessness and despair. This experience is a common thread of many different conditions: shock, grief, depression and can be the result of many different causes, including the suffering of divorce, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or even physical causes such as chemical imbalances of the brain or the over exhaustion. It is as if one is suddenly suffering a paralysis of one’s being, rather than paralysis of the body. What to do?
Let me suggest that a “one size fits all” approach is not realistic; it is important to learn about oneself enough to know what is helpful and what is not. But I thought I might present a list of options that could be worth considering when you are struggling with those feelings that prevent you from being able to accomplish the things you would like in your life.
- Take care of yourself physically, even if you don’t feel like it. Eat well. Get some exercise. Soak up some sunshine. Take time to laugh or find joy, whether from a cartoon or a lovely flower. If your “paralysis” leaves you spending too much time sleeping in bed, focus on taking some small step to reverse the trend, even if it is only extending your time up and around by a few minutes more each day.
- Recognize the transitory nature of your emotions, perhaps by remembering other times in your life that were hard, but which are now behind you. Taking time to recognize that the area of life with which you struggle is but one aspect of the whole of your being. Acknowledge that God is bigger than any struggle you face, and remind yourself of his promises to see you through whatever comes your way. I always enjoy remembering the story of the man whose favorite part of the Bible was the phrase, “And it came to pass,” because it meant that whatever it was only came to pass, not had come to stay!
- If you are like me, in those times there can be an awareness of how much there is to get done and how little of it you are accomplishing. If that is your experience, then I encourage you to not focus on everything, but to look for one thing. That is, don’t try to do everything, instead find some one thing you can do today and let that be enough for the moment. After that one, then select another. But one at a time is enough. Baby steps. Celebrating what you CAN do rather than despairing of what you don’t.
- Grant yourself some grace and some time. It’s okay to not always be on top of your game. It’s okay if some things don’t get done as efficiently as you would like. It’s okay sometimes to feel more like weeping than laughing or singing. We don’t recover from devastating experiences instantly, sometimes it just takes time; it’s okay not to rush it.
- Avoid overly cocooning or withdrawing. Keep contact with at least one person with whom you can share your struggle, whether with a friend, pastor or counselor; don’t assume you have to go through it all alone.
- Make time and opportunity for God to speak and help, even if you cannot feel his presence. Read some scripture regularly. Spend time in prayer and listening for God’s voice. Keep some kind of contact with others whose faith you respect. Make time for worship, either privately or, preferably, with others of like mind.
- Make time to focus on what IS going right in your life. Perhaps consider making a list of them. Include past blessings and experiences. Remember those who love you. Perhaps your health, your home, your country, your faith should be included on your list.
- Choose to not give up. Hard though it may seem, see your experience through, trusting that better days may be just ahead. Instead of letting the struggle defeat you, let it strengthen you instead.
- Choose to take advantage of the resources that are around you, because only you can reach out for the things you need, whether medication, social interaction or a walk in the park.
- Choose to not let everything be about you. There are others, perhaps nearby, who are also struggling in life. Find a way to be an instrument of encouragement and support for somebody else. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or nursing home. Send cards to the sick or grieving. Take a batch of cookies to a lonely friend or a single mother (or father).
Emotional paralysis is a difficult thing to experience. But it is not the end of life’s story. There is more life to come, more joy to experience, more love to know, more hope ahead. No matter what the cause, see it through. You will be glad you did.