There are times in each of our lives when we experience a complex set of feelings. It’s not a pleasant experience at all. Yet, it seems to be something that most – if not all – people go through now and again. Some have described it as sinking into a deep hole. Others have said that it’s like the walls of a room closing in. And me? I describe it as the sense of being trapped.
This sense of being trapped is generally related to life events. For example, as many companies have down-sized and taken steps to improve the bottom line, employees are often stressed by the decisions made by upper management. As upper management touts values for excellent customer service and quality products, an employee may see that the decisions made decrease the level of both quality service and product. While it may be tempting to leave the job, are there better jobs actually available? Aren’t all companies doing much the same thing to increase profitability? Further, once one reaches a certain age, no one wants to hire the individual. That’s a trap!
Or perhaps a person experiences a long-term marriage or relationship which have fallen into patterns that just aren’t working well for the individual. The person finds that things which are done to maintain the relationship, keep the home and family stable, and all the rest are just taken for granted. Rather than an occasional expression of gratitude, the typical response from the other is grumbling. As feelings of anger and resentment build, there’s also a sense of being trapped.
Perhaps most common of all is the feeling of being trapped because of finances. You’re working as much as you can, earning as much as you can, yet there’s never quite enough money to pay all the bills. You try to budget as best you can and pay close attention to cash flow. But something happens: the water heater gives out, or the refrigerator breaks down, or the engine falls out of the car and the budget is stressed yet again. The cycle continues on and on ….. and in time you find yourself trapped.
The experience of being trapped is generally accompanied by fatigue and weariness. Studies show that people in developed nations are chronically deprived of sleep. In addition to the lack of sleep, the stress experienced from dealing with situations out of one’s control has a huge impact on our physical and mental health. The combination of these factors often leads to a sinking feeling in which a person feels as though there are no solutions to life’s problems. For some, this could be a precursor to clinical depression.
While I am not suggesting that seeking support from a career counselor, a marriage therapist, or a financial services professional aren’t appropriate responses to a growing and pervasive sense of being trapped, there are also some things we need to do for ourselves. Changing the external situation often is not the first place to start. Instead, taking better care of ourselves is a more appropriate first step.
Restoring balance and finding our footing to sort out life’s challenges often begin with getting back to the basics. Good quality rest is often the best place to begin. That’s more than just one night’s sleep. Remember that sleep enables the brain to work better, with greater insight and awareness. Exercise also stimulates the brain as well as keeps the body healthy. A good tip to remember is that exercises that are considered “heart-healthy” and also “brain-healthy.” Be mindful of healthy eating. Extra carbohydrates and processed foods make us sluggish. And, of course, mindful spiritual practice is key to having a sharp, alert mind. It’s not necessary to become a mountain top guru who meditates for hours on end. Instead, ten or fifteen minutes a day in quiet meditation helps to bring integration.
In the midst of feeling trapped, rather than try to fight and escape, the first step is often to be focused about self care. After a week or two of healthy practices, we are often able to find solutions to our problems that will be more creative and be of greater benefit to us. Whatever changes need to be made in our lives, by taking time to nurture body, mind, and soul, we’ll have greater stamina and ability to make the right changes for ourselves so that we get out of the trap.
© 2014, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.