Why do we want to retreat when life feels too hard?

Dreaming of life off-grid? There is a similar theme I am hearing lately of people wanting to retreat and run to a place that is ‘off grid’ and away from all the people or circumstances that stress them; concern them or make them feel fear about life and the future of the world in general.

It causes a great deal of anxiety in the people who are feeling this way, as quite often they are normally so socially engaged and involved. It causes disrupted sleep patterns, a lack of motivation to do healthy daily habits and quite often affects relationships due to changes in mood and interests.

So what is happening and why the sudden change?

It turns out that this is not such a sudden change, rather it has been happening in the cells of their body long before they are conscious of what is going on.

Bruce Lipton, PhD explains an experiment he conducted in The Biology of Belief that isolated cells in a petri dish. He observed that cells will move towards “nutrients” and away from “toxins” when they are in a petri dish. The cells will not go in both directions at the same time. It’s a case of one or the other. He also refers to this as the cells being in “growth” or “protection” states respectively. This movement towards what is good/healthy or away from what is bad/unhealthy is observed to be an instinctual response to support the health of the cells and prevent dis-ease of the cells.

Therefore, if this is happening on a cellular level in an organism, you can be sure this is happening on a global scale for the entire being itself.

Let’s look at what happens when we are engrossed in a conversation with someone. We lean in, we might touch their arm, and we will step towards the other person.

The opposite is true if we do not like a person, or we do not like what is being said. We instinctually step back (retreat) as a form of protection against the conversation.

The body and now the mind is quite literally responding to move away from perceived toxicity and a need to protect oneself.

This is what is happening when a person desires to run away and “get off grid” due to the pandemic, the loss of freedoms, the angst, the uncertainty, and the disbelief at what they are perceiving in the world today.

Many of the anti-vax movement are disillusioned by what they are seeing (perceiving) in the world today, which produces a visceral (deep bodily sensation) response which culminates in this wanting or yearning for a simpler life, away from the restrictions and imposed or perceived controls by the government.

But it isn’t only the “anti-vaxxers” who are wanting to run away from all the people! It is the average John or Jane who are tired of the hustle and bustle of daily life, and are feeling a call to slow down and create a more simplistic life.

If you recognise this feeling inside of you – this urge to just get away from all the people and take your family to go live a simpler life of ease and flow…remember you can find this now in this moment. It is all about your perception. Just as Dr Lipton showed in the petri dish, what you think about, you will become. Therefore you actually do get to make the choice to think of yourself as free or as controlled. Freedom starts in the mind, and then flows out into your physical being.

Our perceptions are what controls our cells, it is not the other way around. Our brain is a powerful controller, let me show you:

Imagine a red flower. See it bright shiny and red.

You can do that can’t you?

Now I want you to imagine you are on a beach in the warm sun, drink in hand and you can feel the gentle sea breeze cooling you down.

You can do that too can’t you?

But how? You most likely aren’t on a beach right now (if you are, then imagine you are in the snow with your bathing suit on!)

Our mind has the ability to imagine, dream up or create pictures in our mind – and then our mind will perceive sensations in our body. If it is warm sun, you can imagine this sensation. If it is cold snow you can imagine this too.

The same is with a perception of fear. If you have been feeling the urge to run and live off-grid then I imagine you are wondering what sort of future you are raising your children to live in? This often invokes a fear-response.

It could be called Future-Traumatic Stress Disorder (FTSD).

The results are similar though – the body kicks off into a stress response from a trigger. In the case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) the event has already happened, and the person’s nervous system and processing centre are not working in present state and time. It is muscle memory, visceral memory, like a jamming of the circuits that affects the entire body.The same can be said in a lesser degree for those experiencing FTSD. They are effectively ‘jamming their circuits’ by focusing on what hasn’t yet happened, but get angry, frustrated or scared by just thinking about the future.

This doesn’t mean thinking about and planning for the future isn’t necessary and a good strategy. The problem is when the future thinking becomes pathological and can affect the mood and behaviour of a person in present state and time.

The desire to retreat and go “off grid” is a common sentiment by those who are worried about the future of the world in which they live. Whether the world at large or their corner of the world.

Just speak to people in major cities and they will tell you “I have to get out of the city mate”. Pertaining to the heavy lockdowns, job losses, loss of freedom to move around, mandates and more.

This is why it is important to understand what is happening in their bodies at a cellular level as well as at the level of the mind so that healing can be undertaken to restore balance.

When the lockdowns are removed, the world goes back to a new normal. However the body is still holding the energy of the experience. Suspicion can sneak in, uncertainty can become the default mode of daily life, and anxiety begins to sky-rocket. The slightest upset to normal life and you can find yourself having an extreme or unusual reaction, and you wonder why.

Well its just biology and a bit of energetics. Your cells have been locked in “protection” mode. They aren’t growing, they aren’t replacing themselves, they aren’t functioning in a mode of health that comes when you are balanced and feeling calm and safe. No wonder you are tired all the time can’t sleep or switch off. Your skin might look dull, your hair lifeless, your tummy gives you some trouble, and don’t even talk to me about the reflux – off the chart lately!

All you need is to retreat into the country, or to a deserted beach somewhere far from the city to leave the bright lights and the hustle, and throw your phone in the bin. Right?

Wrong. You’ll be taking your cells with you.

The only way to manage this is to dedicate some time daily to rebalancing your entire nervous system and quieting your mind. However when you are in a highly up-regulated state this is near impossible! Your mind isn’t calm and clear, your mind is busy, it is constantly trying to figure things out and it is doing itself in.
So here is what I suggest you do – start gently. Erase the desire to clear your mind, and simply focus on filling it – with a really deep breath in. Then a really long slow exhale.

Take some time to designate 5mins every day to resting, deep breathing and restoring yourself. Daily conscious habits to bring your baseline back to the present-tense so you aren’t freaking yourself out with future thinking.

Concentrate on how good it feels to go outside and sit on the grass and breathe deeply. Play your favourite music, sit in the shade and enjoy the breeze. Watch a motivational speaker while you sit near a tree and breathe deeply.
Notice I am not saying “close your eyes and focus on nothing” ? That is because it is impossible to go from a state of high alert to a state of clear and calm in only one step. You need a few more steps in between.

It takes discipline to begin to change the narrative in your mind, so that you are affirming life and health for yourself, rather than getting stuck in the downward spiral of fear and suspicion.

So start with: sitting down. Listening to something that makes you feel good. Breathe deeply.

I suggest dedicating 5minutes of this to start with. It will be enough, and it will give you really good results quickly. The simplicity of this may make you feel like it is not enough, however I encourage you to trust the process of learning how to unwind and come back into balance in your nervous system.

Now more than ever it is imperative to learn the warning signs in our body and mind when we are overstimulated by the external world and also by our own mind. Stress, anxiety, depression, apathy and loss of happiness in daily life are all signs that you are overdoing it and need to down-regulate.

Don’t wait. Begin today and start feeling better.

Better yet, why not set aside a full day for you to retreat with other women at one of my upcoming day retreats in the south of Sydney.

contact me for details!

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