As we collectively continue to navigate new territory and experience change, the feeling of not being able to do anything about it, or that it is all outside of our control, can creep in. Speaking personally, some days I feel like I am on a ride that I don’t remember signing up for, and the only thing I feel like I do have control over is how I respond. And even that can feel nebulous when I lose focus.
The good news is, when I lose focus or don’t respond well in one moment, I can turn it right around and respond better in the next moment.
Mental flexibility and emotional resilience are valuable skills to cultivate for thriving in this shifting environment. Did I just say thriving? I did. I know, there’s so much talk around “making it through” and “waiting ‘til things are better” it’s easy to forget that thriving is an option. I forget. Until I remember.
A couple of ways that help me get into the driver’s seat of my feelings is 1) hit the brakes and pause BEFORE I get stuck in the rut of a negative response, and 2) find a better feeling that helps me take a different route.
The other day I came home from work to find that my significant other was super focused on finding a tax document. While I appreciated his commitment to finding it, I did not want to join him in the search. Not right then. I went to a different part of the house, but could hear him going through filing drawers and searching through rooms. The more I resisted joining him, the more tension I felt. This was a perfect opportunity to practice the pause.
I know when I’m headed towards a negative response because my body gives me clues: clenched jaw, tight throat, my head starts to hurt, and there’s pretty much always a not-so-fun story I’m spinning. These clues let me know that I am contracting and headed into the twilight zone of not knowing what I know.
The second part of this, finding a better feeling, is something to create ahead of time so it’s handy and can be brought to mind when feeling the pull of the rut. If you are up for it, you can take a moment and create it right now.
Bring to mind a time where you felt really good. It doesn’t matter what it is. Maybe it was a moment where you accomplished something big, stood up for someone, said something that was hard to say. Maybe it was a time you were on stage and got a standing ovation, got to hold your child for the first time, or held a loved one for the last time. Do you have something in mind?
The next step is to observe how that feels. Do a scan of your body from your toes to the top of your head. What sensations are showing up? Take your time and let everything show up that wants to show up. This is the antidote, the road that leads to a different experience.
But wait, there’s more! Make it more attractive. Exaggerate the feeling. You can give this feeling a name, pair it with a song, add a color, add a texture, add a mental image. Anything you can do to make this feeling more vivid makes it that much more accessible.
Okay, so here’s the really fun thing about having done the work of creating this feeling state. It is ready to go any time you want to feel better. Yep, you can access this feeling state at any point during your day for a pick me up and you can shift your experience in 5 seconds or less.
I have one that I created for falling asleep. I used to put my head on the pillow at night and have trouble turning my brain off. I would be thinking about something that happened that day, mentally preparing for the next day, or thinking about a problem that I had. One night, I had the idea to bring to mind the feeling that I wanted to have in that moment instead of waiting for my brain to stop spinning out. It took effort to refocus my brain on something different, but as I held the feeling and reinforced it, my brain calmed down, relaxed, and I was able to fall asleep. Now it is my nightly ritual for unwinding my brain from the day and getting a good night’s rest.
About that tax document. I didn’t pause at the prime moment. I continued feeling grumpy until I realized it was my document and the reason we didn’t have it was because I signed up for e-delivery. That was the moment in that situation when I changed the experience I was having, moved into solution mode, and found the missing document.
Every day we have choices about how we respond whether that be to road construction, missing tax documents, work deadlines, friends moving away, etc. The goal is not to be perfectly zen about everything that comes our way, but it’s more about building the mental flexibility and resilience to consciously expand and give ourselves the opportunity to thrive in an ever-changing world.
Writer. Wanderer. Explorer. Educator. Not all who wander are lost, they might just be exploring so they can educate themselves and write about it.