Keeping Things Light

May 28th, 2015

self-care“I like to keep things light.” This is what a boyfriend – let’s call him Rahim – recently told a friend of mine – let’s call her Sharon. Rahim said this in the face of major crises, including a life or death situation for a loved one. Sharon told me about the inherent dichotomy in what her boyfriend is saying versus what he is experiencing. And how stating that he keeps things light is actually an avoidance strategy that is not honest, nor is it ultimately helpful. Rahim was sleeping poorly, had stomach aches, and generally felt miserable.  So much for  keeping things light.

But this way of dealing – or not dealing – with difficulties isn’t unique to Rahim. Many of us operate this way.  We think that by telling ourselves that “all is good”, everything will in fact be good. I could describe what you’re at risk of if you avoid your issues, fears, and stressors.  Instead, I’ll let let my friend do that, using Sharon’s response to her boyfriend, Rahim, as a guide.  While Sharon uses language that invokes a higher power or deity, I think we can all find ways of understanding what she is saying, regardless of religious beliefs. Let’s see what she has to say:

“I was thinking about how you say that you like to keep things light (while worrying beyond measure) after we got off the phone. … There is nothing “light” about worry. Your digestive system and circadian rhythms are being disrupted by the depth that you are feeling if not discussing. A physician would never insist that a body cleanse itself of toxins without a liver or kidneys. My point is that it seems like you are telling yourself to “think positive” without doing anything to release the built up worry. It’s always going to be there just as toxins are in our bodies. God created a means by which they are flushed to make room for new so that we don’t get sick. God also gave us endorphins and means to produce them so that we can think positively. What are you doing to work with God to help you think positively – to produce endorphins?”

Sharon then suggests that Rahim do some self-care. Some options include exercise, running, laughter, playing his favorite sport, and talking about his worries with someone who will listen without judgement. It difficult for him to do these things given how stressful his life has become. And his life is currently anything but “light”. But by finding ways for him to deal with the issues, rather than avoid them, he might actually find deeper internal resources – as well as deeper sleep – than he thought were available.

If you find yourself “keeping things light” when they are actually heavy, you might follow Sharon’s advice as well. And after you do so, you might find an actual lightness within yourself; not just the one you’re trying to convince yourself that exists.

Need a therapist or counselor to help with self-care in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC? Contact Mike Giordano, LICSW at or 202-460-6384.

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