My Monday morning SUCKED.
I spent the entire day trying to clean away the Sunday Scaries yesterday. I prepped veggies. I vacuumed aggressively. I planned out my outfits.
But as we all know, changing our circumstances does not always change our thoughts.
This morning, I woke up OVERWHELMED. I did a quick thought download outside, and here’s what it sounded like:
- I am totally overwhelmed
- I have so much to do
- I dropped the ball on so many things last week and everyone is mad
- I’m really late on things
- There’s no way to do all the things I need to do today
- I just don’t have any energy
- Why is my brain doing this?
- Why can’t I just get back on track?
Etc, etc, etc.
I didn’t want to get ready for the day – I wanted to work in my bed, in my cozy pajamas, and scroll on my phone to shield myself from the anticipation of “all the things” I had to do.
But I knew, even though all those bullet points FELT true, that they weren’t actually facts. I also knew that I could CHOOSE intentional thoughts to replace them.
I chose this one: I might feel differently after I take a shower.
I couldn’t even make it to “I will feel differently”, I had to go for “I might.” 😂
So I got my butt into the shower, listened to a podcast, and when I got out… I felt… about 4% better.
So I chose another thought: I can just take it one task at a time.
That seemed hard but do-able. So I sat down at my desk. I looked at my notebook that I usually use to write a giant to do list on Monday mornings… and I threw it across the room.
Instead, I asked myself: What task is MOST stressing me out right now?
I did that thing. I felt a little better.
I asked myself: What am I WILLING to work on right now?
I got another tiny task done. The overwhelm dropped.
My brain wanted to look at my calendar and re-arrange my whole day because I woke up late. My brain wanted to start negotiating whether or not we would go to the gym because we of course “don’t have time to do that anymore” since I woke up late. My brain wanted to spend ALL it’s energy looking at numbers and analytics that would provide my a sense of comfort.
That’s okay. It makes sense that my brain is SEEKING the illusion of certainty, control, and comfort through planning and focusing on the future.
Every time my brain went down those pathways, I simply re-directed – like a toddler running toward a firepit, I scooped my brain right up and faced it the other way, distracting it with a quick task or question or by looking down at my list.
And now I’m writing this blog post.
And I’m writing it because today was the perfect reminder that even with ALL the behavior change skills in the world, we don’t get to remove negative thoughts from our lives.
We don’t eliminate stress. We don’t “get rid of” procrastination. We don’t use “discipline” to override the moments our brains are being brains.
Instead, we build the skills needed to work around those things.
And those skills start with awareness. They start with LANGUAGE. They start with the knowledge that it’s NOT that I’m a failure, it’s just that I have lowered self-regulation today. It’s starts with the re-frame of “I’m a total perfectionist” to “I’m playing around with my cognitive flexibility skills.”
I’m going to keep working through my to do list today.
Because even though my brain started out today by driving 60 miles an hour in the wrong direction, I’ve learned to become my own GPS.
I’ve learned (and now teach our Alliance clients) how to re-direct.
How to pivot in the right direction — no matter where your starting location may be.