Behaviors are measurable; others can see us doing them. However, these measurables are determined by what is immeasurable. Our actions flow forth from our inner psyche---a conglomeration of thoughts and feelings which translate into clarity or confusion; motivation or stagnation.
When we are afraid of somehow not feeling good enough or failing once again, we develop “ways” to avoid those fears of failure or disappointment. Generally these “ways” can be categorized in two groups: we OVERDO or underdo (AVOID). Examples include,
OVER-reacting/eating/drinking/spending/sleeping; AVOIDING people/tasks/doing. And with each OVER or UNDER, the spinning cycle moves out of our head and into behavioral patterns, the fabric of life itself. Furthermore, when those “go to” behaviors don’t work, we then beat ourselves up. The swirling twirling negative thoughts continue. We may “agonize over our agony” and choose another “go to” behavior or way of thinking to relieve that awful feeling. And all those OVERs and UNDERs leave us right where we started-- feeling inadequate. We think, “Ah.ha. I have failed once again.”
So how do we get moving, motivated, break loose the clog, and stop the madness?
- Recognize the Pattern. Seeing our specifics within this spinning cycle can help us get outside of our head where we tend to maximize or minimize. We want to see the pattern as common, yet we don’t want to normalize and park there. Acknowledging a pattern is putting it on the table, as opposed to just stuffing the annoying cycle into the abyss of our emotional closets hoping it will go away.
- Receive grace. We will never be perfect. In fact, we may be off and on the ride of swirling thoughts and feelings throughout our lives. Being able to receive grace instead of an incessant whipping will get us a lot further. Instead of responding to a set back with the all-or-nothing mentality, throwing in the towel when your record is less than flawless, or procrastinating till you know you will succeed, embracing grace is imperative. Grace isn’t letting yourself off the hook or indulging yourself. It is acknowledging your shortcomings, and then gently choosing over and over (if need be) to keep getting on the horse. It is staying committed to a vision inspite of your imperfect attempts.
- Have an accessible Escape Plan (off the spinning cycle, that is). When you are on this spinning wheel you are likely flooded emotionally and might not be able to access all your good senses. So having a written plan or some trigger key words that remind you of your plan is a good idea. This can be somewhere in your phone, on a note card in your pocket, or taped inside a cabinet door. Appointing an accountable person works for some--a spouse, friend or therapist who can help you get outside of your head, step back and remind you where you are headed. As far as what goes into your plan, I will share with you some of my personal favorite tactics due to their effectiveness:
- Physically get moving. Movement, whether walking, kickboxing or biking is a proven way to mess with our physiology in a good way. Healing chemicals are released into our system and toxic chemicals are released out of our system. All of this provides great benefits to our mind and spirit. The physical activity at this point is not about checking off an exercise goal, it is about resetting our mental and emotional state.
- Journal. This may be vomiting on paper. Just like after a good puke we feel better, identifying our thoughts may help release them and move to a more positive mindset. Its like dumping the junk on the table as opposed to shoving more stuff into that junk drawer. It helps you look stuff in the eyeball so you can sort through it and let it go. Journaling may also be used to examine obstacles that are in the way of goals and brainstorm a plan that anticipates those obstacles.
- Feed our brain helpful thoughts. Having “go to” articles or passages saved on links online or as a picture on my phone (snap a photo of a passage in a book I am reading) are great way to access brain food. Feeding my brain accurate information helps me stay clear on the “how” and the “why” of my goals. Another way I feed my brain and in turn uplift my spirit is memorizing “go to” scriptures that I believe speak truth and always encourage me or help me let go.
- Take a nap. Because I am a doer, a nap is a good thing for me. It stops my doing, planning, fixing. It makes me stop and is a concrete way I offer myself grace. Now if you are one who procrastinates or sleeps excessively in times of trouble, then napping may be the last thing you need to be doing in order to get off that crazy wheel.
- Receive love from others. Calling or texting a friend can be a good pick me up. Having people who will shed light into your life, can be a good way to be encouraged, gain insight or just find humor or levity in things.
- Music. Uplifting music is always a great pick me up and good at clearing the head.
As you reach for your goals, whatever they may be, don’t let setbacks and underlying thoughts and feelings trip you up. Expect obstacles, disappointments and prepare for them in the best way so they don’t have power over you. This is not being negative---it is accepting human nature and the world we live in and preparing yourself for hope to always trump. When we do this, those setbacks will happen less and decrease in intensity. Recognizing the Pattern, Embracing Grace and Utilizing your Escape Plan will be the keys for movement and decreased moments of that swirling stagnation.
Jill Lillard, MA LPC