The List: Tools for Processing

A friend and I met up today to do so some planning.  And the good thing about our meetings is that they always involve plenty of processing, too.  As it happened, today our processing was about processing as my friend was considering whether or not she wanted to start a blog.  We talked about that was going on in her life, if the tension on whether or not to do it was a matter of time or need.

“The question,” I think, “is whether or not you want it for processing.  Do you have what you need in your life already for processing because if so then you don’t necessarily need to add this layer to your processing or could writing in this way be helpful for that?”

Of course, that thought got us thinking about ways to process.  Sometimes, it feels like there are just one or two ways to process and that one of those ways is through all things social media (BLOGGING!  TWITTER!  FACEBOOK!  TUMBLR!  ETC).  But, there are actually a slew of ways to process things and sometimes, depending on what you are processing, you might need different tools (i.e.:  a sticky point in a relationship might call for a talk with a friend who loves you both, a frustrating experience with a toddler might warrant a question on Facebook so other parents can chime in/ support, a work conundrum might warrant a walk to sort through it all).  Given that conversation, today’s list is all about processing.  What are the ways we can process our experiences so that we have more tools at our disposal or are better able to choose the right tool for our situation?  Here, eight ideas for processing off the top of my head and in no particular order.

1.  Walk, Run, Hike.   Sometimes what an issue most needs is a little space for noodling.  I find moving my body especially helpful when I am noodling over something creative– a story idea and where to go with it, a workshop idea, a project, a painting.  The movement takes up enough of my brain power to shut down my censor and leaves the creative in me roaming free to come up with lots of stuff to work with and through.

2.  Talk.  Reach out to your partner, your person (the person in life who most gets you and reserves judgment- which could be a partner, friend, sibling, etc), a sister/ brother/ mother/ father, etc and get their perspective on the situation.  Sometimes offering what has been rolling around in our mind to someone else gets you just the take on things that you need.  And don’t rely on just your closest friends for the perspective.  Sometimes it can help to talk to a trusted person whom you don’t know THAT well.

3.  Journal.  When I was a girl, I relied on a journal for much of my processing.  I have said many times of that tool that it kept me safe.  Journaling made it clear to me what I thought, allowed me to privately process things based on my own values, opinions, dreams, and then gave me a road map for where I was going.  Sometimes, what a situation most needs is for you to brain dump everything on the page or, as was sometimes the case for me, to write some very bad poetry about it.  When you are feeling all knotted up inside and wouldn’t even know where to start in telling someone else about it, a blank page is the perfect solution.

4.  Read.  Sometimes, before we can process what to do about something, we need more information.  It is at those times that it is best to turn to a book, article, poem, etc.  Hearing how someone else thinks about things can really help our thinking.

5.  Do something that quiets your mind.  You know how when something is on your mind and you can totally be a dog with a bone about it?  Well,  that is sometimes the exact opposite of what we need.  Sometimes we totally need to take our mind off of it for a little bit to give us breathing room for processing.  So go do something that takes enough concentration that you cannot deliberately process.  Maybe it’s a yoga or fitness class; maybe it’s cook some elaborate meal, maybe it is take a workshop.

6.  Pray, Meditate, or Plug into Your Spiritual Center.  What is the way that you connect to the world in a larger, meaningful way?  For some people, it is a distinct faith tradition.  For others, it is holding an understanding about humanity and our inner-connectedness close without subscribing to a particular belief system.  Still for others, it is something else.  Sometimes, when we are processing, what we most need is grounding, and plugging into your spiritual center whether it is through prayer, meditation, yoga, or something else can really help you to move forward.  

7.  See a counselor.  Sometimes what a situation most needs is a more objective person in the conversation.  I have often said that I think counseling can be the source of really powerful learning and movement.  If you notice that you are processing the same type of thing over and over again, it might be a great time to see a counselor.  

8.  Learn.  Challenge yourself by signing up for a workshop or retreat. Sometimes what we most need to move us forward is a new framework for thinking or for someone to give us a challenge that really turns us on our heads.  Have you been eyeballing a workshop, class, or retreat opportunity?  Give yourself that gift.  You are going to come out of it with lots of great information about yourself and about how you can do things.

Which ones of these tools do you use and in what way?  What other tools do you recommend?

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5 responses to “The List: Tools for Processing”

  1. Emily

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Rosie! When you were in your early twenties, teaching full time and giving your all to everything, did you still manage to journal? I’m having a hard time balancing working, exercising, eating right, seeing friends, seeing family, and managing it all. When I want to write, words disappear. When I need to write, I have no time. I greatly respect your opinion and would appreciate any thoughts you might offer!

  2. Lady Em

    Writing in my journal has been my favoured source of processing for years and has now been transposed into my blog. The benefit of the blog for me is from the comments I receive. Be they shared experiences, words of support or the posing of an alternative view, they make me reflect. My internal monologue becomes a valuable dialogue.

    However, I am only able to journal and process when I’m in the reflective mindset. When I’m spinning out of control I just can’t get a handle on the rational. I’m not able to reason with myself and so resort to unhealthy and destructive behaviours and habits. I always regret the behaviour afterwards, when I’m calm but in the build up and during the peaks of confusion and torment I can’t get a handle on myself.

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