… how allowing grief to continue creates ongoing stress.
Have you noticed the way that one conversation can plant a seed that leads you to great clarity?
The way that the simplest sentence can suddenly open up a whole train of thought and allows you to see something you’ve been struggling with for so long in a completely different way?
That’s exactly what happened for me recently when I was chatting with author & qualified Psychologist, Dr Jo Lukins (https://www.drjolukins.com/).
Information appears out of nowhere – at the exact moment you’re ready to receive it.
I was talking with Dr Jo about a completely unrelated topic and we suddenly found ourselves off on a tangent talking about the effect that grief can have on our habits.
When we think about grief, we often think about the loss of a loved one – usually a family member or a close friend. But what I’d never considered was that you can grieve for all sorts of things in your life, and that any loss can have a significant impact on you.
As Dr Jo talked to me about the work that she does with elite athletes, and the way in which long-term injuries have caused some of them to spiral into a grieving process, I found myself in a moment of clarity.
I suddenly had a whole host of information right in front of me around a subject that I had been struggling to understand.
I had allowed my identity to become entwined with my ability to play sport.
In my younger years I spent a lot of my time engaged in sporting endeavours. I played at top levels of netball and could have made it to higher levels of others sports as well, but I loved them all too much to specialise in any of them.
Being active, strong and fit was a significant part of who I was as an individual.
But as my prefectionism kicked in, I drove myself harder and harder, and I pushed myself to be faster, stronger, fitter – better. I lost sight of the importance of allowing my body to rest … and I placed myself under extreme pressure, always testing and measuring myself against what I had been able to achieve in the last session.
Then I discovered I had a fracture in my spine. I was halfway through a netball season and I continued to train and play as if nothing had happened. It was only once the season ended that I took the time to really assess the toll that continuing to play had taken.
My body was broken and I reluctantly made the decision that my competitive netball days were behind me.
Suddenly, without warning, it felt like I lost half my life.
I no longer had a training schedule or a group of teammates around me. I didn’t ‘fit’ anywhere anymore and there was no uniform to wear.
So I filled the gap by working harder and attending more gym classes. I played the occasional social game of netball and worked some more. I continued to push myself harder and harder at the gym, always measuring where I was by how I performed against the last class I had done.
As life moved forwards, the pressure I placed myself under became more and more extreme. And as my system struggled to carry the load I was placing it under, my health also took a turn for the worse.
I ignored it all and continued to drive myself forwards, becoming more and more unwell with every day that passed.
Eventually I pushed myself too far, and my whole world collapsed.
The pressure became too much, my mind snapped and my body said ‘no more’.
My world shattered into a million pieces around me and I found myself unable to go anywhere, do anything and unable to cope with anything other than the absolute basics in life.
Here’s what I didn’t know: that when I could no longer play netball I had lost a massive part of myself and I hadn’t understood the impact of that loss. I had been grieving this loss for over a decade and it had significantly added to the stress I was carrying in my life.
When my whole world collapsed, it was like an additional trauma piling on top of this underlying grief, and it left me immobilised and feeling like I couldn’t move.
I struggled for years to try and get myself fit again.
But I could never understand why I continually failed every time I took a step towards getting myself back to an active life. I pushed myself to ‘get back to’ where I had been by trying to do the same things I had done before.
It wasn’t until I was talking to Dr Jo that I realised that by ignoring the level of grief I was feeling, I had allowed it to move into more of a depressive form. More and more, that depressive feeling took over my life and I found myself sitting still rather than moving, which is a big part of who I AM.
That one conversation with Dr Jo made me realise that there was a deeper issue that I needed to look at, and a wound within me that needed to heal.
Suddenly, I could clearly see that when I rebuilt my life, I redefined who I AM. I no longer define myself by external activities, places, roles or people but I was trying to force myself to do the same fitness things that used to be my way of life.
With clarity comes stress relief.
One of the greatest learnings I have received through the process of rebuilding my life has been the ability to accept information and allow it to stand on its own. By dropping judgment around information I can look at things more clearly. I no longer hide from understanding what is going on in my life.
When I allow information to come to me and start to ask questions rather than apply judgment, it makes it so much easier to take a step forward in a different way. What do I need right now? What’s the right thing for me here? How can I do this differently so that it works for me moving forwards?
Start asking questions and the pressure drops out of the equation. Without the pressure, stress has a much harder time maintaining a presence in your life.
Where are you holding onto grief because you’ve lost something and you can’t seem to move on? How can you get your moment of clarity that allows you to step forward in a different way?
If you want to explore a few ways to start learning to ask yourself questions that matter, you can access tips in the articles and videos in my FREE email series – it’s a great way to help you begin your journey. Simply click here to start you on your way.