Numbing Out, Noticing, and Stopping the Spiral.

Tell me if this rings a bell: You’re humming along in your regular routine. Weeks are passing like days, and while you’re not exactly happy, you’re keeping yourself busy and distracted.

You think you’re ticking all the boxes. You’re filling the void with food and movies and audiobooks (or whatever your particular vices are), and it seems like things are more or less OK (if a little depressing and stressful).

…you kind of feel like this guy. (Number25 by cliff1066 on Flickr.com)

And then…in the blink of an eye…you wake up.

You blink, and it’s like you’re coming back to yourself. The sights and sounds around you suddenly come into sharper focus. You observe things that you’ve been ignoring. When you think back, it’s like you weren’t even there for the past…however long.

Does this ring a bell at all?

I call it Numbing Out. And I haven’t been keeping an exact record, but I think I do it fairly regularly.

Like for the first half of this month, for example.

But hey, at least I’ve started to recognize patterns and symptoms…right?

These will vary slightly from person to person, but here are my top 5 symptoms of Numbing Out:

1. Not-moving. Honestly, not really moving my body in any way at all. Not even going for walks. Period. (Extra-fun bonus: when I don’t move, I get SORE. Lots of aches and pains)

2. Eating more. Medicating myself with food. Like I said, filling the emptiness. (Extra-fun bonus: Combine this with #1, and I end up outgrowing my jeans)

3. Avoiding self-care. A big one for me when I’m numbing out is feeling like I can’t give myself Reiki. It feels like things just aren’t flowing. Probably because Numbing Out entails a whole lot of not-being-centred. But this applies to other self-care-ish things too.

4. Not being Present with people you love.  For me, this is all about Xander. Everything about parenting feels like a chore when I’m in the middle of numbing out. (Extra-fun bonus: I feel terrible about it even while it’s happening, but that doesn’t make me able to snap out of it. It just makes me cranky and sad. Out of all of my symptoms, I regret this one the most).

5. Avoiding stillness and silence. I distract myself constantly. I listen to audiobooks non-stop. During a particularly bad postpartum depression-y period of numbing out, I listened to the Twilight Saga audiobooks on such a regular loop that Matthew half-joked that Xander would recognize the Twilight narrator’s voice before he recognized his own Daddy’s.

comfortably numb by rovingI on Flickr.com

And the verdict is in…Meg’s been numbing out.

Yup, even though we’re over halfway through my absolute favourite month of the year, I can categorically state that I missed a bunch of it. Every symptom was present, but the real clincher was the constant (and I do mean constant) need for audiobooks. It got to the point where I could feel my brain begging for stillness.

Now that I’m awake again and noticing things, I’m compiling a list of things I can do to (hopefully) keep this from happening again. I present:

Meg’s Top Six Things To Stop The Numbing-Out Spiral

1. Seek stillness and silence. Turn off the TV, close the computer, and just…shhh. Try reading a book or sipping some tea without any distractions. Just for a change. Look for ways to add stillness to your day.

2. Choose a better option. If you’re zoning out on audiobooks, try listening to music (music = more dancing!). If you’re noticing a tendency to snack a lot, try eating something your body actually wants…or have some water and see if that’s the real issue. If you really want to watch a movie, pick something that’s going to engage you and watch it with a friend. Making a conscious choice helps stave off the numbing.

3. Move. Walking, dancing, skipping, whatever. Moving is key. Ever notice how going for a walk can clear your head and make a solution to a problem just appear? That’s because moving your body is magic.

4. Take time to notice things. Make mental lists of noteworthy or fun things you encounter during your day. Havi Brooks posts lists on her Facebook page, and it’s a great reminder. You’ll see the coolest stuff!  The other day I was on the bus and I saw a woman in a pink PJ set sitting out on the steps of her apartment building with a book and a mug of tea. And it made me grin all the way home.

5. Make real connections. Talking to someone in real life brings everything into focus so much faster than email or Facebook-wall-commenting. And focus is the enemy of Numbing Out. So is self-expression. Let’s bring back phone calls (or Skype calls, if it’s long distance). I miss conversation!

6. Clean something. It’s hard to get the momentum when you’re Numbing Out, but cleaning—really cleaning, not “functional-levels-of-tidy”-ing—can help because it moves the energy around in your home, and it actually feels nice to Be there.

There are definitely more ways out there, but these are the Big Six in my books. At least I think they are…I’m currently testing them out. So far so good, but I’ll keep you posted.

Bonus of not being numb? You notice things like this. (sky 2 by ~BrendaStarr~ on Flickr.com)

Do you ever find yourself Numbing Out? Do you have any good tricks to stop it? I’d love to hear them!

7 thoughts on “Numbing Out, Noticing, and Stopping the Spiral.”

  1. I’m in the middle of a numbing out crisis now, so what a timely post! I haven’t done a real yoga class in forever, my dancing has taken a back seat, and I haven’t had any inspiration for blog posts recently. I think I go into this phase when I am overwhelmed, which typically happens around this time. October is the month of about 347387483 birthdays for friends and relatives, so right about now’s the time I start panicking about gifts and cards and parties. Plus, with October comes the start of Christmas onslaught.
    I like the suggestion to make a point of noticing things. My favorite of the week was walking past 6 deer in the park, including 2 males with huge sets of antlers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen bucks that close before (well, that weren’t dead on the side of the road).

    1. Well, at least I’ve been in good company, then! <3
      Isn't it odd how in the exact times we NEED stillness and/or self-care, we can't seem to get the energy to do it? And then we feel bad about not-doing it and it just makes us spiral more? (that's how it works for me, anyway). Wouldn't it be awesome if we could just take the pressure off and be OK with not-doing for a while? I'm so bad at giving myself permission to deviate from "the plan."

      I hope you come through the crisis soon! I think noticing is a VERY big first step!

  2. When I start numbing out, I tend to wallow in it a bit. I kind of enjoy being a slacker for that time. Eventually, I do shake the cobwebs off, but not until I’m good and ready. I think I need to numb out a bit, every so often.

    1. That’s a very good point. There’s something to be said for just cocooning and not really “doing.” Just so long as it’s not affecting other people…I get VERY distant with Xander when I’m *really* numbing out, and our relationship suffers. I feel like complete and utter crap about it, but it still happens. Something I’m working on, I guess.

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