Sometimes we're stuck with our thoughts and it feels like our minds move 100 miles a minute. I notice that that tends to happen when I drink too much coffee or don't get enough sleep, especially when it's a few days in a row.
But what I do notice what's helpful is sharing this with someone else, particularly someone that understands what it's like. It's not very validating when someone says, "What do you mean you're feeling that way? Just be happy." We all want to be understood and to be heard. Or worse than that response, "What do you have to be unhappy about?"
See, it doesn't mean that we're sitting in self-pity by acknowledging what we feel. It only transforms into self-pity when we're unaware or we continue to think about how bad it feels what we're feeling. Instead, when we notice what we're feeling, we can give ourselves time to determine what we can do to take care of ourselves.
This momentary insight into our feelings provides us some space from it so that we can feel it, process it, and then go about our day. What we often don't realize is that taking the time to feel our feelings actually allows us to cope with something that's affecting us, small or large.
Sometimes all it takes is writing and allowing ourselves to write from a stream of consciousness. If you don’t like journaling, try writing down a thought or feeling, and then ask yourself where this comes from, and whether it is factual.
Sometimes we’re scared that if we feel our feelings, we worry that we won’t stop feeling this way. Another way to do this is to write your thoughts on a small slip of paper and stash it into a shoebox or a jar. When we do this consistently, we let ourselves know that we don’t have to hold in all of our feelings. This act of placing a thought into a physical container is an act of kindness towards ourselves--it’s a way of giving ourselves permission to feel this way, while compartmentalizing it in a healthy way.
Is there someone at work that you avoid talking to or feel drained after talking to them? Or maybe someone at work criticizes you or makes passive aggressive comments. It's unpleasant, especially if we have to see them every day at work.
Here are some ways to deal with those difficult work situations:
Someone who criticizes you or is passive aggressive...
It's not okay when someone treats us with disrespect. Even at work. Yes, we have to get paid. But is there a way to make it more manageable? Yes.
The critical person:
Here it's really important that you stand up for yourself, rather than let this person run over you. Here it might be helpful to plan because it might be nerve-wracking to talk to this person if you haven't stood up to this colleague before. You might want to say something about trying your best and being open to constructive feedback as opposed to overly critical feedback.
Let's say that you've confronted this difficult person and he/she/they don't change. See if you can focus on the content.
Instead of focusing on how the information is communicated, discern what the underlying message is. It doesn’t mean that it’s okay for the person to be critical, but sometimes critical people lack awareness; they might not know that their word usage or tone of voice comes across in a critical way. Perhaps this person did not intend to be critical, but rather tends to be upfront and open with his/her/their feelings.
Here's an example of passive aggression:
"That report was pretty good even though there were some errors." It's the underhanded compliment. Or maybe you've heard something with some kind of agreement, but with undertones of anger, "I guess I can wait until tomorrow, but I did tell you about it last week."
So how do you deal with this person?
For the latter example, you might say something like, "I get that this is an inconvenience. " Here you'd be taking responsibility, while pointing out the other person's underlying message. The key is that you acknowledge that the person is saying something aggressive, and you don't need to apologize unless you actually are at fault. By catching them in the act, you're empowering yourself.
Let’s be honest. There are days that run into the next. We might just not feel motivated, and that’s okay. But maybe there’s a part of you that wants to feel inspired. No, it doesn’t mean being happy every moment of the day because that’s not realistic. Maybe you’ll just have a few more of those moments of excitement.
Sometimes we just have to trust what we’re doing.
We might plan, but usually our lives veer off from those laid-out plans. When we trust ourselves, we alleviate the pressure we exert on ourselves to be where we’re “supposed” to be. Just continue moving forward and taking action like you already are. You’re already where you’re meant to be.
Do something that you haven’t done for awhile.
Listen to a band that you enjoyed as a kid. Or swing on the swings at a playground. The key is to return to that playful state, especially when we’ve been consumed by our adult mindset.
Find a mentor.
Maybe this means someone at work that inspires you. Or maybe this means reaching out to some alumni and asking them about their career paths. This is why coaches are so beneficial in sports. We often need an outside perspective and someone who has expertise in the area that we’re exploring.
Create a folder.
This could be a physical folder of magazine clippings or one on your phone with Pinterest pins or websites. Sometimes we need visual reminders to motivate us. Perhaps it’s a screenshot of a book that you’re reading.
It doesn’t have to be the “finished” product.
Remind yourself that whatever you’re working on, it doesn’t have to look “polished”. Even if you end up deleting it, you’ve got something to work with. I remember that in college, I’d wait until the last minute because I’d stare at the computer and try to perfect every sentence. I soon learned that even having a crappy sentence would mean that I’d use that idea as a jumping-off point. I’d end up keeping one sentence for every three, but the key was that I continued writing. So whether you’re writing a book or working on your next goal at the gym, we can’t expect ourselves to do everything all at once.
Learn about the rules that you’ve created for yourself. In the back of our minds, we might have these “shoulds” or “musts” that dictate our habits. For example, you might think, “I shouldn’t think of this as such a big deal.” In a statement like this, we’re taking away from how the situation impacts you. We invalidate what we’re feeling. We get so caught up in how it affects us that it makes it difficult to move beyond it. What do I mean by this? By thinking that we shouldn’t be affected by it, we become consumed by guilt and shame, “So why can’t I do it?”, rather than “I guess it is affecting me.”
Now let’s apply this thought process to the rules that we’ve created for ourselves.
Maybe you make dinner regularly, and you think “I must make dinner every day”. The difficulty with statements like these is that we have created rigidity for ourselves, and we might want to rebel against these “rules” we’ve created for ourselves. Then you might have one of those days where you eat all the bread, and you’re stuck in frustration and shame. We learn to work with our tendencies. If you enjoy eating bread, then it might be helpful to create some flexibility so that you don’t have the need to rebel.
Maybe you learn that the keto diet isn’t for you, and instead, you might carve out specific meals where you allow yourself to eat bread.
These beliefs might come up as "I can't because of…"
Write a list of these "limitations ". I put them in quotation marks because these thoughts are merely perceived. In order to detach from these perceptions, we might shift our thinking. Ask yourself if these thoughts are helpful, rather than if they're true. Let’s say that you’re trying to make it a regular habit to go to the gym, “I can’t go to the gym because I’m too tired.” See what it’d be like to shift this to, “I can…” by acknowledging your situation and assuming responsibility. Here’s how we’d apply this to our gym example, “I can meet my friend at the gym after work when I’m tired”. Now how can you use the “I can…” framework. Brainstorm different ways that you can work around your situation. If your statement is “I can’t because I’m too busy or I don’t have enough money”, think about how you can fit a task in a manageable amount of time. Start off with something manageable. Even if we start by adding in five minutes a week, we gain confidence and momentum. We prove to ourselves that we can fit it into our schedules when we thought it wasn’t possible.
Let’s say that we’ve added something to our list, but it continues to be added to the list because we keep putting it off or avoiding it.
Maybe it’s replacing the dead lightbulb at your house and you never get around to it because you have access to other lights. Having someone keep you company might give you that push. Even if it’s replacing a lightbulb, I’m sure that your friend wouldn’t mind sitting there with you. Teaching it is another alternative. Let’s say that you’ve been putting off fixing your wi-fi connection. Maybe you’d have your friend hold you accountable. This is when worrying about how others perceive us can be advantageous. You might want to avoid feeling like you’ve “messed up”, and this added pressure might help you get that task done.
Grief. It's heavy. Whether it's the death of someone or it's the loss of a family pet, it hurts. We sometimes minimize our own pain and forget that a break-up is also a loss.
About four years ago, a friend committed suicide. It was one of those painful losses because she had been such a light in my life. She never saw all that her friends saw in her.
Remind yourself that past losses are triggered with death.
If you find yourself deeply affected by a death. Maybe you didn't know the person that died. Sometimes these losses bring up all the pain related to an earlier loss. We might get frustrated with ourselves for "overreacting" because we think "I didn't know this person. Why am I so sad?" Often we're reminded of someone that did pass away, and maybe that recent death is affecting you.
Allow yourself to feel whatever you're feeling