Have you ever noticed how quickly life seems to go downhill when you’ve lost your mental buffer?
Maybe it’s a physical pain (backache, headache, etc.) or exhaustion or emotional circumstances. You are just trying to get through the day, but things keep piling up.
You find yourself snapping at your spouse or kids. You have no patience for your colleagues. You are on the verge of tears when there is a minor change in plans.
We are not our best selves in these moments, but there is an interesting opportunity here – an opportunity to observe our reactions.
A couple of years ago, my therapist reminded me that sometimes it best not to just jump in and try to fix things.
When we are going through a tough time – our physical or emotional selves are raw – it doesn’t make sense to tackle what is wrong with our relationships. If we are already struggling, our chances of fixing a difficult issue are next to zero.
However, it’s a great time to gather information about ourselves.
Here’s what my therapist recommended:
When you notice yourself starting to react, pay attention to what you are feeling.
Tell yourself, “Hmmmm…that’s interesting.”
How is that helpful?
When we jump right into “fix it” mode, it’s easy to miss the lesson. When our reaction is to DO something, we can conveniently ignore our feelings. When our tanks are empty, we must prioritize our energy.
By giving ourselves permission to observe, we start creating mental resiliency. Your internal dialogue might go something like this:
[Event occurs] “Are you kidding me??? I can’t believe…Oh…wait…I’m really upset about this. That’s interesting. I’m so tired. I’m having trouble coping with life right now. Hmmm…interesting.”
No big questions to ask yourself. You are simply noticing an event. If the event happens again, you may want to start paying attention to the pattern. At that point, you may wish to take steps to address the pattern – but the important part is to resist throwing yourself into the mindset of, “I gotta fix this.”
I should warn you that although this can bring tremendous relief (because you are letting go of expectations that you need to navigate the situation perfectly), it’s uncomfortable. Most of us Type A personalities would rather DO than FEEL any day of the week. So don’t be afraid to give yourself permission to feel uncomfortable.
My challenge to you…
Try to catch yourself reacting to something in the next 24 hours. Allow yourself to simply observe your own reactions. Breathe deeply. Tell yourself, “That’s interesting,” and leave it at that.
Congratulate yourself on increasing your self-awareness and taking a big step to rebuilding your emotional resilience.
I’m cheering for you!
Pssst…I’ve got a free cheat sheet for you! To grab your Secondhand Therapy two-page cheat sheet, 5 Steps to a Big Decision, just enter your info below. These five steps work really well for smaller decisions, too!