Acknowledgement is the medicine

In the pause, we gain great strength. The answers we seek – to being, doing, having more – lie within us. Give yourself the gift of time and space to acknowledge, says Laura Toop

Sitting on the beach in May 2016, looking out at the endless Caribbean Sea skyline, the waves lapping onto the shore, the sun on my back, I realised this was the first time in months, probably years, I had taken a pause, to acknowledge where I was and how I felt.

The previous year, my husband had died – 11 months between diagnosis and death. My health had suffered and, ultimately, my career disappeared too. By any measure, it was a lot to contend with.

Many times, I asked myself: ‘How was I going to cope? What was I going to do?’

Yet, on that beach in Aruba, I noticed how grounded I felt, more connected with myself, calmer and more confident to take on the world I now faced.
I knew I did not want to return to the previous unhelpful coping strategies of the past. The numbing, denying, avoiding, doing more – they never worked long-term.

The medicine I needed for the long term was to acknowledge. It had been there all along, the helpful coping strategy I sought, if only I had taken the time to pause and look.

We tell ourselves there is no time to pause. I’m too busy, I’ll stop tomorrow, we say, but tomorrow never comes.

Propelled forward by the expectations, real and implied, of ourselves and others, we become caught up in being busy. We want to be there, not here.
The fear of rejection, criticism, or failure of not being, having or doing more, keeping us stuck in being busy. We want to fit in, to belong.

We disconnect from who we are and what matters most to us as the boundaries between what is ours and what is theirs are now obscured. We want to feel connected, aligned with ourselves.

Operating in the eye of this busyness, it is impossible to notice fully what is going on and how the continued stress impacts both the mind and the body. Until it is too late, that is, and burnout or sickness strike. As it did for me.

Acknowledgement is the medicine.
In the pause, we gain great strength. The answers we seek – to being, doing, having more – lie within. Give yourself the gift of time and space to acknowledge.

Acknowledgement offers the opportunity to take notice and to connect with ourselves, who we are, what really matters to us and how we want to feel, without judgement or criticism or expectation of ourselves or from others.

Acknowledge the reality of what is. Work with your emotions. They are neither positive nor negative, simply signals telling us what we need, desire or want more of. With clarity comes greater connection and grounding with and for us.

Giving you greater courage to move through the uncertainty of the world around us.

Acknowledge your own voice, what matters most to you. The strength of your relationships and the confidence to stand firm with your boundaries will grow.

Acknowledgement allows you to boost the powers of your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest, digest, growth and repair. In short, those factors that pacify our ‘fight and flight’ instinct and improve our chances of avoiding burnout. Being intentional about holding space for ourselves is key in a busy world. However, with journalling, meditation and focusing on our breathing, there are other ways we can acknowledge with purpose.

Creative expression is a way to hold space. I know others who have found art and photography as a means of ‘holding space’ for their own thoughts.

Personally, I found dance. I call it ‘self-expression without words’. In the end, ‘holding space’ is about being with what is, and it matters for us to have clarity, focus and grounding in the moment. It is about you finding your own perfect acknowledgment medicine.

Award-winning photographer Linda Robertson says ‘behind the lens is my perfect meditation’.

In these moments ‘nothing else matters’.

Acclaimed artist Tracey Emin recognises that ‘if I don’t make things, I become ill and depressed. Painting makes me feel like a better human being. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing.’

Although I don’t journal, I do use words as a means of expression. I prefer Post-it notes or artist sketchpads. They allow freedom of space and thus thought. There is no perfect place to start, no right or wrong words to choose – you simply start where you are, with the first thing that comes to mind.

We can still hold space with purpose by asking ourselves six key questions. I call them The Baseline Six.

  • Where am I?
  • How do I feel?
  • What matters most, or how do I want to feel?
  • What is in my control? Our creativity, perspectives, emotions, judgements, attitudes, decisions and desires.
  • What might stop me?
  • What support can I seek, from others or myself?

It is these six questions that allow me to meet with any situation, big or small, to build the bridge to a greater connection with myself and my position within the world.

We can tell ourselves there is no time to pause, we have things to do, but, in acknowledging, you have clarity of where you are and what you want to take focused, purposeful action – courageously, confidently and calmly – undeterred by the busy and uncertain world outside. Use The Baseline Six to find your own acknowledgement medicine before it becomes too late.

The choice I made – to purposely set aside time and space to acknowledge,
to connect with myself, what mattered most to me and how I wanted to feel – has been both compass and anchor in the years since May 2016. It gave
me the courage, the confidence, the calmness to weather whatever situation, big or small, came my way, free from burnout and sickness.

Acknowledgement was the medicine I sought. It was there all along, had I stopped long enough
to notice it.

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