I’ve been hitting you with deep questions and lots of self aware examining in longer-than-usual podcasts — so this week I thought I’d include a single question reframe for your whole life. Enjoy this episode of That’s What She Said!
Is it nourishing or numbing?
This question applies to each and every habit, task, relationship, boundary, pattern, or activity you complete.
Consider your commute, your screen habits, your food habits, your travel habits, your self care routines, and your time spent with those you love: nourishing or numbing?
At a deeper level, consider your business practices, the information you consume, the books you read, the shows you watch, and the people you interact with on a regular basis: nourishing or numbing?
The goal, of course, is to do less numbing and more nourishing.
Only of course it’s not that simple. We humans don’t magically switch off our numbing patterns just because we realize they’re numbing, nor do we naturally move toward genuine nourishment until we are in deep, nearly unspeakable pain. For me, seeking nourishment only took losing 40 grand, going through a divorce, battling depression for two decades, and waking up every day feeling like I was being suffocated by despair, as well as my thyroid giving out in a spectacular way. We’re pushed toward fast and quick solutions when we most desperately need deep care, deep rest, and deep understanding.
When we’re malnourished — whether at the physical level or the soul level — our brains send signals to get us some quick fixes and some time off.
We often reach for more and more numbing agents when we need nourishment most.
The more stressed or tired or depleted or frustrated we are, the more numbing we do — and repeat, and deepen the cycle, and repeat again, but this time with more retail therapy! And pop-up sales and coupons and free shipping! BEHOLD, I HAVE A WHOLE NEW WARDROBE AND MY SOUL FEELS FIIIIIIIIIIINE. ISH. (FINE-ISH. I’ll just be over here, weeping into my new sequined jumpsuit.)
Life can quickly become a numbing pattern spread across every waking moment, only now we need to find a way to numb the discomfort that comes with mounting credit cards bills as well…
How do you begin to build more nourishing habits, patterns, practices, and activities into your life?
You properly identify an activity as nourishing or numbing.
Only that identifying bit is really, really tricky.
Most activities can be nourishing or numbing, depending on circumstances and context.
Take, for example, dessert. If you’re working on your fifth gallon of ice cream this evening, we both know you’re numbing. But if you’ve been working incredibly hard to eat the most nutrient-dense foods on earth and you’re celebrating a milestone of some kind, that same ice cream can be absolutely nourishing.
This is why self care and soul care can be so tricky. We humans are smart enough to disguise numbing agents as nourishment, and we can use nourishing activities to numb when we do them excessively.
When you obsessively check email but don’t process it — meaning that you read but don’t respond to messages — you’re numbing. And probably working yourself into a panic, besides.
This also happens with marketing activities and making asks, which can be numbing when you turn them over and over (and over and OVER) in your mind instead of actually doing them. But when you show up, make asks, provide simple calls to action for your peeps, and stand in your worth (without making your work your worth)…that’s nourishing for your work all the way down.
Likewise, watching Brene Brown’s special on Netflix is nourishing AF. (If you haven’t yet watched it, HALT YOUR LIFE AND DO THAT NOW PLEASE.) Watching 22 episodes of anything back to back while lying on the couch and consuming DoorDash’s parade of fried foods, not so much.
A hot bath: nourishing. Hiding from your family in the bathroom for 6.3 hours during Christmas, armed with a bag of Doritos and your sound-proof headphones: numbing.
Getting 6-pack abs would be nourishing for me, since that would be making wildly new life patterns and choices, while it would be numbing for someone who has had an eating disorder and workout addiction.
You get the idea.
As you go about your day, take note of what is nourishing and what is numbing.
If you ‘don’t have time’ to notice, you’re numbing exceptionally hard today.
Days ‘off’ are not necessarily nourishing.
Days ‘off’ often involve doing work that isn’t done during the usual work week, so days ‘off’ are really catch-all times for doing chores offline.
On a recent ‘day off,’ I did five loads of laundry, cleaned the bathroom, went grocery shopping, hit up the pharmacy and the co-op for a few items, walked Neville, vacuumed my car, cleaned the kitchen, cooked dinner, and picked up my neighbor’s mail because they were on vacation. And I don’t even have kids.
That workload gets ever more unwieldy as you add more people to the mix, whether they’re friends, kids, relatives, roommates, or pets!
When was the last time you had a full, no responsibilities day off?
Can you schedule one right now for the near future, even if it’s simply sitting at home and kicking everyone else out of the house so you can hear yourself think?
How can you consciously create — and then protect — space to simply BE in your life without having to do a long list of chores, tasks, or errands?
Your brain will probably pop in with simple solutions and half-steps, here. What if we got rid of that one chore? What if we allowed ourselves twenty whole minutes to breathe some fresh air outside?
Please, please, don’t fall for the half-steps that don’t offer any long-term gains and only keep you paddling along, just-barely-not-drowning, at the surface.
You deserve better than an inner auction of your own time and value that ends in compromising all over the place.
I asked you how you can get a day to yourself — and your brain immediately called that impossible. It probably offered a few minutes as a compromise.
I asked when you can simply BE in your life — and your brain suggested you download some kind of app and start a new practice, which is one more thing to check off of your to-do list and/or beat yourself up for not doing.
Being — or practicing the art of being present — is a completely free, no apps required activity that involves no screens and probably your pets. When I say ‘being,’ I mean stepping outside and feeling the air on your face. Possibly looking at the sky, or maybe sipping a beverage, but not if that’s too much work or if you don’t feel like looking at the sky today.
To put this another way: it doesn’t count if you don’t enjoy it.
Busyness is often a numbing mechanism.
You eventually become afraid of slowing down, since you know that there’s a shit-ton of unprocessed emotion waiting for you in the silence. At some level, you don’t WANT to hear your thoughts or notice your feelings.
Maybe it’s a conscious decision to speed up and stay in motion, or maybe it’s a subconscious fear that if you actually listen to yourself, you’ll have to make some changes. Small changes, like scheduling yourself to have a little more time that’s not ‘on,’ or big changes, like ending a relationship or quitting your job.
LOOKING busy is also a numbing mechanism.
When you force yourself to sit at a screen and ‘work,’ even with nothing in particular to do, you’re feeding the part of your brain that’s been conditioned to tie your work to your worth, and numbing the Very Much Alive parts of you shouting that your work is done for today, and you’re free to move about the world as you please. (We’ll talk about that in detail in next week’s podcast!)
Where are you remaining busy to avoid feeling your feelings or having a confrontation with another person?
Where are you remaining busy in order to ‘put in your time’ for all those friends who work corporate jobs and don’t have the freedom to walk away from their desks right now?
When do you consciously slow down, and how often does that happen?
What would halting the busyness in your life look like if you started with being 10% less busy?
What would you cancel, ignore, or stop doing if I said your busyness would cost you $1,000 a week? $10,000?
(I’m making up that $10,000 number so you can see exactly how much would be *on the table and scheduled for deletion* if you had to pay a great deal of money to remain busy. Your priorities: in order.)
If you chronically describe yourself as ‘busy,’ slowing down is the first step. Only HOW do you slow down and it’s SCARY and UGH I have to much to DO, Kristen — I know. That brings me to my next point.
Breathwork is nourishing because it’s soul care and self care, combined.
It maxes out at taking an hour of your day and can only be done once per day, so it can’t take over your life. Breathwork is a little like going to the gym or eating well or going for a walk outside even though the weather isn’t perfect — you’ll feel better in the end. But brain is like, NO EAT THE ICE CREAM. AND SIT HERE UNTIL THE END OF TIME STREAMING MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY FILMS IF THAT’S WHAT YOU REALLY NEED.
You’ll feel both better and lighter after breathwork, but starting a practice can be intimidating. Like, how long do I do it for, and when, and what happens if I have questions?
The Softness Sessions are all about introducing you to breathwork in small, steady ways.
We’ll build your stamina week by week for six weeks, then meet live for a full-length group breathwork session on October 29th.
You’ll get yourself some soul-level nourishment every step of the way.
I’ve condensed everything I know about human life universals — loneliness, mess, doubt, wandering the wilderness, steadiness, and joy — into potent and dense audio magic, then added breathwork to the end. (And made a book to ship your way the minute you join.)
We’ll rebuild the muscles that have atrophied from numbing all over the place, and we’ll reconnect you with…you.
Your desires and dreams.
Your truest work.
Your deepest, most wild and amazing possibilities.
We’ll stop the takeover of numbing once a week starting September 19th, and see what happens as a result.
If you dig my work and are even remotely curious — and I’m guessing both of those things are true because you’re here, right now — pick up The Softness Sessions n-o-w.