When you meet obstacles in life it’s easy (and understandable) to feel small by comparison. You know that feeling where a problem can seem so big and daunting that it feels like it could consume you at any moment? If that is you, STOP! You are NOT your story. It is not your identity. For every problem, there can be a positive solution, So, breathe and let’s open your mind to what might actually help you.
I’m not being flippant or arrogant when I say this to you. I have been through the tough stuff to the point where I nearly died, so I get how difficult it can be to have to deal with a problem and the stress attached to it, especially when you don’t feel able to. But do you know something I learned? When you shift your focus, even if it’s difficult, circumstances can go from being a huge problem to a temporary challenge that can be overcome or managed with the right approach. In a few moments I’ll ask you to do an exercise to break it down into nanagemable steps and you might find your focus will shift.
First, understand that, with the right attitude and knowledge there is always a solution. It’s just that sometimes, in a state of emotion, you see one thing and one thing only. You could liken it to when you wear sunglasses; the reality around you is one thing, but the glass filter you look through will determine how you see it. So, if you are wearing glasses that have a blue filter, things seem blue, if it’s a yellow filter, things seem yellow etc. You see, circumstance does not determine how your life turns out or how you feel, how you represent it in your mind does. What filter are you looking through? How are you representing the challenge?
Are you loading “the filter” with questions? “What will people think?”, “What if I can’t?”, “What’s wrong with me?”, “What will happen if…” etc. Perhaps you visualized the worst outcomes, playing it in your head like a movie? Guess what happens when you load a filter or a life situation or visualize? Your brain seeks to justify it. It goes on a search for the answers to the questions you ask and responds to the information you give it. So, to overcome challenge, you must become open to clearing the lens to get clarity and envisioning something new and positive. Sometimes that just means opening your mind to possibilities at the start.
It’s about adjusting your focus. I know that might be hard to hear and even patronising, but I am saying it to you because I care, and I know what it takes to overcome challenge. Swimming in stress won’t change a thing, you need to take control. What if, just for the sake of starting today, you changed the quality of your questions, so your brain has a chance of helping you? “How might I be able to?”, “What if I did feel able to?”, “What solutions might there be?”, “What resources do I have?”, “Where can I find help?”, “What could be possible?” etc.
The reality is, circumstances cannot be undone or redone, no matter how much you wish they could, and stressing about it won’t change one iota of it. You’ve got to work with your brain now towards clarity and pave a way forward from NOW.
Bringing yourself to NOW.
Stress can happen in an instant, it’s a natural fight-or-flight response to perceived threat and discomfort, but for the feeling to continue it must be “generated” by doing one of two things 1) projecting into the future, imagining what “might” happen. 2) referring to and lingering in the past. What if you were to stop throwing yourself into the future? What if you were to stop rehashing what is done and you can’t ever change? Wouldn’t it be a lot smarter and more productive to focus on the present so you can figure things out and create what you want? The past is a memory that only exists in your mind. It is not here anymore. A future is nothing more than an imagined expectation. Why bother yourself with things that don’t actually exist? Strange but true. What if you were to instead acknowledge the past and the future but not camp out in them? When you bring yourself to the present moment, you have an opportunity to deal with things in manageable steps, so it puts you in the strongest position for creating what you want. If your focus isn’t split, you have a good chance of succeeding. You know the saying, a hound can’t chase two hares at the same time, well you can’t chase problems or solutions the same time. You’ve got to choose one or the other and focus only on it. Choose to be solution focused, understanding that you might not have exactly what you want yet, but if your focus is right you’ll get there.
Bring yourself to a place of calm to create clarity – 7-11 Breathing
I want to give you a little exercise here. Take five minutes to sit now, close your eyes and be still. It’s time to BREATHE – properly! Did you know that when you feel stress your breathing pattern changes? This can cause the oxygen – carbon dioxide flow to become unstable, leading to foggy thinking and even dizziness. A good way to bring your breathing into alignment is to do a 7- 11 breathing technique, and it’s something I do several times a day just to get focused and clear. Focus on your abdominal area, breathe in through your nose for a count of 7 and out slowly for a count of 11. Do it ten times in sequence and see how your mind relaxes! Focus on the outbreath and feel the control as you breathe out slowly.
Assess your environment.
What have you been letting into your brain recently? Your brain will respond even at a chemical level to everything you present to it, whether that be water, a thought or a conversation. Become mindful about what you are exposing yourself to on a daily basis as it will affect how you feel. Are you watching bad news, looking over reminders of things that make you feel bad, having negative conversations with people etc.? You’ve got to choose your stimuli very carefully from now on. What will put you in the best position for clarity? Do you need to switch up your conversations, get new reading and positive material, watch more comedies, listen to positive podcasts etc.? Keep it upbeat and always positive, if you want to feel empowered.
Check in with your body.
As I said above, stress is initially caused by experience, but it can only continue through a generation process. For example, if you keep rehashing mistakes in your head, your body will release the corresponding chemicals, hormones and enzymes, such as adrenaline and cortisol, instantly, and it will keep releasing them until you stop rehashing. But you can actually change that with various techniques. One is breathing as outlined above, but exercise can also interrupt the pattern and instigate a flood of nice chemicals in your body, collectively known as endorphins, that abolish stress and become a gateway for clarity and reason. Try to get in some type of aerobic exercise every week.
Research shows that we come up with better solutions when walking outdoors. Actually, we’re a whopping 60% more effective at coming up with solutions outdoors than sitting indoors. So don’t sit and stew, get up and get out. Walk with a good tempo so endorphins are flowing and ask positive questions. Visualize what you want as you walk. You could also arrange a chat with someone you trust and talk it out.
Break is down to manageable steps.
When someone is stressed catastrophising is common. “Everyone”, “Always”, “Never”, all words that need to go! They make things worse when they don’t need to be. Instead chunk down. Get a paper and pen and divide the page into two columns as outlined below. Fill in each column, understanding that there are some things you are incontrol of and some that you’re not in control of. Knowing the difference is really important. There is no point lingering on things you can’t control. Instead look at what you are in control of and work with that. Look at small steps you can do with what you are in control of.That may even involve talking to someone. When you’ve listed actions, choose the top two things that will make the biggest impact in the quickest amount of time, and get working on it
|What I am in control of||What I’m not in control of|
Be honest and accept support
When you are honest with yourself, although difficult sometimes in a situation that’s stressful, it is such a relief and is most productive. Pretence always implies compounded tension (pre-tense) so be open and honest and say it as it is. Find someone you trust or seek outside support if needed, and accept help so you can move forward.
In the words of Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” If you want a better result, you’ve got to make some positive changes. This life you’ve been given is for living, appreciate it and do what it takes to feel great and live life fully!
And to help you further, here is a gift from me to you, a FREE ebook: https://www.donnakennedy.com/#ebook There are some things in it that will help move you forward.
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Today is the day for positive change!