Separation anxiety is common for children. And some of them have it really bad. They follow a parent from room to room. They won’t sleep on their own out of fear that robbers, bogie men, or bad guys from t.v. will get them. They have nightmares with separation themes like being kidnapped, one of their parents dying.

Separation anxiety is treatable but it is intense because the way to break it’s spell is to prove it wrong. Children (and their parents) need time away from one another. They need separations. They need practice being alone and finding out that the world did not end and that everyone is okay. It takes a lot of practice to do this and you start with really tiny separations and work your way up. I typically have kids rate the stressfulness of different separation scenarios (ex. being alone for 10 seconds versus a minute versus ten minutes) on a 1 to 10 scale (10 being most stressful.) I tell them that with relaxation methods and the right incentives they should be able to face a situation as high as a 6.

A 6 can seem like a lot. So with little kids, I might have them give mom and/or dad a hug to “fill up the love tank.” Then it is his/her job to use whatever coping strategies they have to keep it full and stave off the anxiety that typically makes them run back to Mom or Dad, thereby reinforcing the spell of irrational anxiety.

I have been applying this concept to myself, not so much that of a “love tank” but to no longer think of myself as some limitless supply of energy, emotions, and thoughts. I need to do things that fill me up. It is part of my mindfulness practice and my commitment to better self care.

There are plenty of things I can do that fill my time. I don’t have the bandwidth I used to have. Maybe it will come back and maybe it won’t. Although I am getting stronger, there’s still a discrepancy between the amount of mental stamina I need to function the way I used to and the amount I actually have. I have not yet been able to return to my normal reading habits. I used to read a book everyday. I’ve done this since I was a young girl. Every once in awhile, I would have a couple of week period or even a month when I was not reading a novel or a work of non fiction. I have read very little besides blogs for the past couple of months. It is too hard to concentrate after I’ve completed everything else on my to do list.

After my brief barrel of monkeys experience with hyperactive Facebooking, I find myself striving for balance, once again. You know what one of the harder things about balance is for me? It’s not black and white. It’s about having some but not too much of one thing so I can have some, but not too much of another thing, and so on and and so on. It is simpler sometimes just to go without. I spent about 4 years of my 20’s never eating sweets. I just thought it was easier that way. It helped me keep down my weight. But I missed out on some good grub. Four years is a long time. I still don’t eat a lot of sweets but I eat some and have learned to be more moderate about it. And a little chocolate is good for the soul, people.

A problem with excessive use of electronic media is that it doesn’t fill people up. We can’t be healthy with chocolate all of the time, even if it is that tantalizingly delicious Dagoba chocolate. Excessive screen time just occupies minds. I see this with kids with ADHD all of the time. Contrary to appearances, they are actually typically under-stimulated. All of the daydreaming, screen use, jumping around, etc serve to increase alertness by increasing dopamine activity. And screen time is the easiest way to keep their minds busy and occupied. And they will play them forever if allowed to do so. And when the plug is pulled, there’s often acute distress. “World, stimulate me! I am depleted! This is too hard! I can’t entertain myself! Give me back my screen!”

There are so many aspects of blogging, social media, and just the Internet in general that are extremely valuable to me. But others, not so much. And too much makes me unable to deal with the quiet of my mind. “Entertain me, world!” But the quiet of my mind is important. Silence is important. It is important for me to be alone with my thoughts and to not fear where they will take me in this very uncertain time in my life. I can’t occupy my mind to fend off the what if’s and the what could be. I know that the more I avoid these silences, the harder they will be for me and the more I will try to avoid them. Avoidance of being alone, just alone with my thoughts, even the scary ones feeds a spell. It feeds the spell of separation anxiety, not just the fear of being separated from my family by death but the fear of being bored. That’s sounds ridiculous, right? But I ask you to look at a bus stop full of people tomorrow morning. You will see that all of them are looking at their Smartphones!

I don’t want an occupied mind. I want an active and creative mind that also knows how to tolerate the slow parts of life, the parts we need for restoration and peace. I am not leaving the land of screens. I am just trying to be more careful about how and why I use them. So I am now asking myself, “Does this fill me up or does it just occupy my mind?”