Can I be real? Lately, creating and engaging is a struggle. I'm not interested in pushing harder, launching more things, or adhering to a strict social posting schedule. I need a break, and whether I'm willing to recognize it or not, my mind and body are declaring freedom.
I read a book last week that discussed negative self-talk and the reasons to be more generous with ourselves. As I reflected on this, I realized that I was caught in my own loop of berating myself. And so I decided to lean into my need for stillness and stop fighting it.
Knowing the value of an eddy isn't enough. Because they sit alongside rapids, it takes skill to direct the raft away from the river's natural flow and into the eddy. Raft guides practice and hone this skill because once the current carries you too far downstream, there is no going back.
Mother nature offers so many lessons, and this is another one worth learning. Catching an eddy is a gift. It doesn't remove us from the fun. It isn't the end of our journey. An eddy is simply a moment of calm alongside the chaos of whitewater.
So I am no longer judging myself for everything I'm not doing. I'm choosing to enjoy my eddy, renew my energy, and take in the scenery. Moving forward is just a few strokes back into the current. Is your body telling you it is time to catch an eddy? Whether you give yourself five minutes or five days, don't be afraid to step out of the rapids and into an eddy of calm.
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Welcome back! I've got a question for you...Where is your level of emotional exhaustion today?
Emotions are such a rollercoaster ride, aren't they? Just when you think everything's nice and easy, the bottom drops out, and you're plummeting again. So many of my clients are identifying this struggle that I thought it worthy of a blog series. If you need to catch up, just use this link.
Humans are natural storytellers. And it turns out that storytelling doesn't require an audience. We are continuously telling stories in our own heads. It's our way of processing and making sense of the world around us. And this is especially true when we experience negative feelings like fear, anxiety, defensiveness, and uncertainty.
What's more, the story we tell ourselves can quickly become the story we tell others. You know what I'm talking about—lunch conversations that sound something like this, "Cathy couldn't stand that everyone else was interested in my idea, so she had to jump in and start telling everyone why my idea was never going to work. She always has to prove that she's the smartest person in the room, and she doesn't care who she steps on to do it."
Our default as humans is self-preservation, and that includes protecting our self-esteem. We love to be right and seek affirmation of our conclusions and beliefs. Often this takes the form of coalition building (a.k.a, dragging other people into our drama). Not only do we proclaim the story to our friends and colleagues, but as in the example above, we serve it with a side of character assassination.
We believe that we are good people who seek to do good in the world. When we negatively impact others, we tend to look outside of ourselves for cause and effect. For example, when I almost hit the car in my blind spot, and they honk their horn and wave at me furiously, I feel bad about my error and am thankful for their quick action, but the story I tell myself is "I didn't see them in my blind spot. If I had, I wouldn't have changed lanes."
On the other hand, when I'm the person being cut off, the story changes completely. Beyond the adrenaline-fueled expletive, I make a lot of assumptions about the other driver, "Get off your phone" or "Is it so important that you stay one car length ahead of me that you are willing to cause an accident" or "Pay attention @$$hole." Come on, admit it; you do this too.
It turns out that this is so common, social psychology named it—Fundamental Attribution Error. Succinctly, this is our tendency to ascribe our actions to external factors while ascribing the actions of others to their character or personality. Voila! The magic cocktail of resentment and snarkiness is born.
In her book, Rising Strong (2015), vulnerability expert Brené Brown encourages readers to share "the story I'm making up." She counsels that this act can be a relationship-saving move. Not only does it invite the other person to correct how you are reading the situation, it also opens you to how your story may not be accurate.
So beyond snarky, under your breath utterances, how do you get better at recognizing the story you're making up? Look for three words--could, would, and should.
"She could see that I was running around like crazy trying to get everything done, but she didn't offer any help."
"If he would have asked for my opinion, this wouldn't be such a cluster."
"She shouldn't make plans in front of me and not invite me—how rude!"
We keep ourselves stuck in a heightened emotional state when we continually set ourselves up to be triggered. Could, would, and should mask expectations that we project onto others, mostly without their agreement. We obligate others to our standards of behavior or expect them to read our minds. We're the architect of our own mousetrap of negativity.
When I catch myself in woulda, coulda, shoulda thought bubbles, I now recognize that I need something from the other person, and I have the option to ask for it.
Feeling rushed to prepare dinner, my thought bubble, "Why is he just sitting there reading instead of offering to help me?" becomes my spoken question, "Hey, Dave. Do you mind helping me by cutting the vegetables?"
So the next time you are trying to present an idea, and the other person is paying attention to their screen instead of looking at you, choose not to walk away in resentment, be a victim, or stay stuck in your story that is getting you nowhere. Who knows what you'll learn when you dare to say, "The story I'm making up is that you are not interested in discussing this with me, and so I'm wondering if I should talk with you about this at a later time." Perhaps there is a legitimate distraction, and perhaps there is zero interest in discussing your idea. Either way, you walk away with clarity and honesty in the relationship and take control of the dips and turns of your emotional rollercoaster.
Like me, are you a fan of Marie Kondo's idea of filling our lives with only the things that spark joy? I've been thinking about all that Emotional Fatigue and asking myself what it would take to replace that depletion with an infusion of positivity.
Just as Marie teaches her clients to consider material goods and discard those that no longer spark joy, I'm inviting you on a journey to do the same thing with your thoughts. Imagine examining each as if it were an object, looking with fine-tuned precision, and letting go of any thinking that contributes to your anger, frustration, or resentment. But, the exercise doesn't stop here. In equal measure, we need to recognize and increase focus on our positive thoughts.
In this series, I'm offering practical actions to create an upward spiral of positive experiences that build upon one another. My first recommendation comes from our universal need to be seen, understood, and valued.
When facilitating meetings with teams reporting emotional fatigue symptoms, I begin with an activity inviting participants to share a recent moment of pride at work. Next, I ask them to write notes of thanks or gratitude to their co-workers. The result of these two concurrent actions is immediate and powerful. Participants report a positivity bump from giving recognition to others that almost equals receiving appreciation from others.
So, the first step is following the wisdom of Gandhi, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." By spreading appreciation to others, you give yourself a boost of positivity too. This step isn't enough to create an updraft that allows you to soar on positive vibes with minimal effort, but it's a significant mindset shift to help you start focusing on something that sparks joy.
Next week we'll take our mindset shift further with some help from Brené Brown.