Getting splashed on by a passing car before a big presentation, losing your credit card before heading to the airport, or having your bike wheel stolen before a busy day of errands, are classic examples of how the universe likes to test our emotional and psychological limits.
This past weekend I had the joy of facing the last scenario. It came on one of the best days. I had a client booked in 2 hours, as well as several hours of grocery shopping and cooking in store for my best friend’s going away party. Upon discovering my missing bike wheel a mixed bag of emotions came over me – but I got through it. And I want to show you how I did it.
Now I want to preface that despite being a Therapist I am not naturally a leaf who gently glides through turbulence. Things annoy me, make me mad, and make me sad. Feeling this way when something downright shity happens is okay - which was my first step in getting through it. Acknowledging the feelings we experience when something goes wrong is essential. Doing so allows us to cultivate self-compassion, which is a defining feature of resilience and how we can more readily accept and move through difficult feelings. It can be as simple as saying, “This is a moment of suffering. It’s okay to feel sad and angry.” Just expect to stay it over a few dozen times!
Did that make everything alright? No. After repeating this mantra several times I still felt upset, but it allowed me to have the mental space necessary to organize myself and start to figure out my next move. While I was trying to move on, my inner saboteur was trying to get the best of me, feeding me lines like “You’ll never get it all done. This is too much. People won’t appreciate your hard work.” I managed to get past these traps by reminding myself that thoughts were not facts, and by reflecting on what’s in my immediate control. I said to myself “I may or may not get it all done, but I can try and figure out these worries when they become actual problems.” I called my partner who I shared my feelings with. I told him I needed to run through my day and get some perspective. Him simply listening allowed me to process and form a plan.
Was I over it then? Not quite. While I felt more at ease, my saboteur still made several attempts to get the best of me. Fortunately re-directing my thoughts by meditating on my strengths and what I was grateful for allowed me to work through the recurrent feelings of frustration. Thinking about how thankful I am for friends worth cooking for made me realize they’re awesome people who won’t hold it against me if I have to change dinner plans.
The final ingredients that helped me recover from this set-back included self-kindness and acceptance towards facing a less than ideal scenario. I bought myself a coffee at my favorite coffee shop, where I had a nice chat with my barista - which reminded me loud and clear of the goodness in the world! While walking home I focused on my breath and surroundings, allowing me to turn away from my nagging saboteur. I truly believe the act of slowing down helped me acknowledge that I had the strength and resources to pull through, while also allowing me to focus on my breath to further calm down.
So next time life throws you a curve ball to the face, try and remember the following.
1.Acknowledge your emotions, & that it’s okay that you can make room for them while you carry on with your day.
2.Acknowledge that thoughts don't equal facts, especially those that accompany negative emotions.
3.Focus on what’s in your immediate control. Consider calling a supportive friend, or writing down an action plan.
4.Meditate on your strengths and what you’re grateful for when doubt or self-sabotage starts to creep in.
5.Offer yourself a small act of kindness and slow down.
In case you were wondering, the dinner party was a legendary success. Cheers!
Falling asleep can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle! Daily stress, changing routines, and our mental health can all have an impact on how easily we fall asleep and how rested we feel the next day.
Fortunately there several simple steps you can take to drift peacefully into dreamland.
In most cases falling asleep should not take longer than 10-20 minutes. A key piece of advice is if you haven’t been able to doze off in 15-20 minutes it’s time to get out of bed! Sounds ridiculous right? Well actually no. While this may seem like giving up, it is actually a strategic move. Often when we can’t fall sleep we’re going to find ourselves getting frustrated, which will just make matters far worse! Getting out of bed will allow you an opportunity to not only reduce tension, but also prevent you from psychologically conditioning your bed as a “thinking space”. The last thing you want to do is associate being in bed with rumination or figuring out life problems. So instead of rolling around, get out of bed for 10-15 minutes and do something boring or with little emotional investment. This means reading the newspaper or folding laundry, not tuning into Netflix or texting on your phone. If there’s a problem you need to figure out try journaling out possible solutions, or better yet set the intention to think about it at a suitable time the next day. That way if it pops in you can remind yourself you’ve scheduled a time to deal with it and it does not need your attention right now.
Meditation can also be a helpful skill to utilize when struggling with racing thoughts that are keeping you up at night. Meditation is a process of learning to relate to our thoughts differently, to observe them without having to respond or react to them. While it requires time to understand and build one’s mindfulness muscles, practicing a breathing space or body scan can help you build the capacity to resist getting lost in thought or worries. You can find some links to helpful meditations below.
3-Minute Breathing Space by Pat Rockman
Body Scan by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Other practical tips for falling asleep include taking a short walk to clear the mind, gentle yoga, or a warm shower before bed time. A warm shower can be helpful since your body temperature will naturally cool down once you finish, which can trigger the bedtime phase of our circadian rhythm. You may also want to consider your environment. Ensure your bedroom is as dark and quiet as possible. Some may find the sound of a diffuser or white noise soothing, especially if you live in an apartment where noise travels. Lastly try to eliminate or minimize screen time before bed, since the blue light emitted from our electronics can throw off our circadian rhythm.
For most people these strategies will help – especially if you are able to establish a regular sleep routine which includes going to bed around the same time each night. Getting things going on your own can also be challenging. I have personally trained in CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia) so if you’re feeling stuck please get in touch about setting up an appointment.
Sleep well! edit.