Are you using work to avoid negative feelings? – Sabhalo

Are you using work to avoid negative feelings?

Is overworking a coping mechanism?


We often think of coping mechanisms as being comfort eating, drinking, taking drugs, spending money - or the healthier ones like practicing self care, doing activities you enjoy, spending time with loved ones etc.

But there is a really interesting theory that working is also a coping mechanism.

A way of supressing feelings, and distracting you from unfelt sadness.

It can be the result of a need to push down hard feeling like trauma, loss, abandonment. When you think of the phrase "she threw herself into her work" which is often used talking about people or fictional characters that are going through a hard time elsewhere in their life - they will often use work to escape from their sadness & distract them from feeling uncomfortable.

Think back to hard times, what was your reaction?

Was it just to keep calm and carry on? When I think back to some news of a family member passing away - my reaction was to pull out all of my clothes, underwear and accessories from my cupboard to reorganise it.

Having control is calming, it makes you feel safe and like life makes sense but sometimes... Sometimes it doesn't.
So where does this culture of supressing or shooing away uncomfortable emotions come from - why is it so scary to just be sad and let yourself feel it?

Think back to your own childhood.
It's a natural instinct for parents to not want their children whom they love to feel sad so often growing up we may have heard things like 'don't be sad, it's okay' - if you've ever fallen over and had a teacher, parent or even a partner tell you not to cry you'll know that human beings instinctively feel uncomfortable in the face of negative emotions and you might have learnt the lesson that your sadness wasn't acceptable.

You NEED to be sad, being sad, unproductive, depressed and angry is self care. Feeling pity for yourself is showing yourself kindness, letting yourself mourn and feel for however long you need to is your right.

The human mind is very intuitive and it knows once you are ready to move on.
Have you ever cried until you were tired and just stopped?

When you cry for so long and then eventually you take a deep breath and you feel such release - it's cathartic and you feel almost like a storm has passed.

If this all sounds alien to you and you can't imagine spending time being sad instead of being productive maybe it's that deep down you worry that once you start you won't stop. I promise you, you will - sometimes it will take a bit longer than other people but you have to shoo away guilt and negative self talk because you NEED to feel this.

This is something I wish I knew but once you are able to practice this when you need it, it is life changing.

Set an evening, and schedule this time. Watch sad movies, listen to sad songs, podcasts whatever makes you feel tender and allow yourself some time to feel the full range of human emotions and celebrate your sensitivity.

I like to light palo santo or incense after my sad times as a physical way to draw a line under it. I throw open the windows and let the smoke billow out and imagine my sad feelings are going with them. I find that having these symbolic rituals help to give your time purpose and ritual.

If your sadness is buried deep down and you are scared of facing it please seek out the help of a professional - sometimes depending on how long youv'e been holding back it can take a long time and I would strongly advise having the continued support of a therapist during this process.
I hope you enjoyed this week's podcast episode & blog post! I'm so excited to be training as a therapist, it's something I've always wanted to do but never felt brave enough to take the leap.
I'm also working on my burnout boxes right now for the store and will be launching them at some point next week.
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