Emotional Wellbeing

Therapy

Mandy Kloppers

How to feel free when you feel trapped

The Covid pandemic has left so many of us feeling trapped and bored. Plans have been delayed or shelved altogether and a sense of powerlessness has settled upon us. I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog post about ways to feel free when you feel trapped.

Here goes…

Make your own decisions and stick to them

Think for yourself and remind yourself of your values and what’s important to you. When we live a life constantly considering others before ourselves we can feel trapped and possibly resentful. If you enjoy nature – make time for walks in forests, lakes and take time out from the demands of life.

Life chores affect all of us and Groundhog day is a feature for most of us, unfortunately. Shake it up a bit and make time for enjoyment – walking, self-care, shopping alone for things you like, an afternoon nap….ensure you can make unilateral decisions at times and follow what is important to you at least 40% of the time. We have to think about others so often – our family, our friends, the rules of society, what is generally expected of us, and so on, and it can lead to a feeling of imprisonment. Independent decisions will help you feel more empowered and less helpless.

Don’t believe that others always know better – chances are they don’t – no one knows you as well as you do. Trust your instincts

 

Care less about what others think

Now if this isn’t a way to feel trapped in a mental prison, I don’t know what is! Worrying about what others think (and they might not even be thinking it!) will prevent you from living your life. What a waste. Caring too much about what others think often comes from insecurity and the fear of being rejected but should you really care about those that are opinionated and judgmental anyhow? Will it matter even 10 years from now? When you do what you want to regardless, it is the best feeling in the world! You feel in charge of your life and the freedom it brings is phenomenal.

A client of mine recently did a brave thing and took part in a body painting show where she walked naked in front of an audience. She said the feeling was exhilarating and said she felt so confident after doing that. When you are brave and achieve something you have feared, your brain releases feel-good hormones that put you on cloud nine.

Reject societal pressure – you can choose what works for you. Apart from illegal stuff of course!

Stay out of your head

Think of your brain as your ‘keep-you-alive’ machine. Your brain will tell you to choose comfort. It will tell you to avoid and stay safe but in today’s modern society you need to push yourself. We face different dangers now and being brave is less likely to result in a lion capturing and eating you.

Your brain will still send you warnings to keep you safe – the anxiety you feel is just a reminder to be careful but it shouldn’t be taken too seriously, as it was eons ago when we were cave people running around in thongs. We are far safer these days and anxiety is less likely to lead to something life-threatening. If you feel anxious – look around you and remind yourself you are safe. There probably be lions or predators there about to kill you.

Our threat system (the amygdala, hippocampus) raise the alarm whether it’s a real fire or the toaster burning the toast – take deep breaths and remind yourself that your body hasn’t caught up with the modern part of your brain (the frontal cortex) and the technological developments in the world.

Use mindfulness to shift your focus to the present moment and the world around you instead of getting too caught up in the chaos of your thoughts. We all have busy minds and approximately 70% of ur thoughts aren’t useful or worthy of our attention.

Avoid the news

Watching the news helps you stay informed but too much can lead you to feel trapped and powerless in a world that people seem intent on destroying as we advance technologically. Take a break from the news now and then and focus on uplifting things – your friends, family, pets, hobbies, uplifting book and podcasts etc

Far better for your mental health!! Staying in your ‘bubble’ now and then is a great way to maintain your mental health and balance your focus. What you focus on directly affects the quality of your life. Your thoughts and focus will influence your emotions and feelings in life and will also affect what you do in your life. Ensure that your thought-feeling=behaviour cycle is uplifting and working for you. Do this by focusing on what is good in your life and the things that fill you up – positive people, rewarding experiences, and so on.

Focus on what empowers you – what do you love/values?? Be true to yourself

Your essential self needs love and attention. What is my essential self, you might be asking? Your essential self is made up of your innate qualities. Think about when you were younger – what type of person were you? Creative or more analytical? A people person or someone who preferred to be alone? Did you enjoy dancing, music, animals, sport, etc

Your essential self is who you are born to be. Our essential self gets diluted by society and by learning the rules of the world as we grow up. Slowly, our social self emerges – the one that knows what to say, how to please others, how to feel accepted, and get through life without too many problems. Parents, teachers, and other authoritative figures unwittingly veer us off our essential path. Sometimes, this change in direction is minimal but sometimes, we are forced to be totally different – for example, if your parents force you to be a doctor when you would have preferred being a tree surgeon!

If you lose your essential self you might find that you end up having an identity crisis or chasing the wrong things that don’t end up fulfilling you. Tune in to your essential self and keep healthy boundaries in place so that others know what you will and won’t accept. Others will often try to change you into something you aren’t – be aware of this and protect your true self with all that you have.

I believe being true to yourself is the quickest way to happiness and fulfillment. Even when you feel trapped, you can shift your thinking, encourage gratitude to remind yourself of what is good in your life, and remember that you, and you alone, have full control over what you want to think about your life.

Mandy X

Recommended reading: Man’s search for meaning – Viktor Frankl

Photo by Mario Azzi on Unsplash