Life is overwhelming. Before you get out of bed, your to-do lists roll through your mind like scenes from a movie. If you have kids, a job, and a relationship, it can start to feel impossible.
But that’s life. You get up and before you brush your teeth your mind wanders off as if you are in a dream. It fixates on the day ahead: the meetings, the errands, the projects, the conversations, the conflicts.
And then there is all the stuff you would get to if you had more time: exercise, friendships, meditation, a long walk, journal writing, more sleep.
I know it sucks to hear that you are in your own way most of the time, but it is true. We blame everything: the kids, the job, the commute. But it is you. You are in your own way.
First, you have to stop blaming the world around you for your sense of overwhelm. I get it. My partner had cancer last year and the year before. I have a lot of reasons to blame the world for my life. But it’s never the world. It’s always me, even when the world tosses you a curve ball.
Blame is easy. I am not going to focus on my work because my partner had cancer. I am not going to connect in my relationship because I am angry about past fights (if you’ve been in a relationship for more than 5 years, you know what I am saying).
Stop blaming. Start owning everything.
Swimming in an unconscious cesspool of anger and blame is toxic. We are a collective consciousness all united in our day-to-day experience.
Here’s what I mean. I go to the store and bump into the blamer. The blamer blames me for not moving fast enough, being in the way, or taking too much time. The blamer bumps into hundreds of people in a day, leaving a film of toxic energy on the rest of us that we either wash away or use as an excuse to blame our now ruined day on.
We are in this together. Universal energy isn’t new age BS. It is real. So next time you bump into me at the store, leave your toxicity at the door.
Change Your Narrative, Change Your Life
It’s all in your head.
I am a writer. I get that title because I am willing to sit here and place my thoughts on paper. It’s funny how we acquire titles. Identity is a funny thing.
But, even if you don’t identify as a writer, you’re a writer, too. Everyone is a writer. Aren’t you writing your story every day, every hour, every second?
The question is: what is your internal narrative comprised of?
All of us chatter away all day. Our minds have no choice; it is in the nature of its design. We did not come with an off switch, even when we are sleeping we are chattering away.
So the question isn’t if you are writing stories all day long, the question is what do you consistently unconsciously tell yourself?
Are you filling up your mind with resentments, anger, judgment, self- criticism, fear, low self-worth, shame, approvals?
Which one sounds like you?
I would start… but others will say.
I would… but I may fail.
I would… but everyone will find out that I am not good enough.
I wasn’t given the opportunities, I needed to improve x,y,z before I start.
I would… but he/she…
I could continue and perhaps I did not hit on your specific internal narrative, but you get the idea.
We have our internal conversations and we believe they are harmless. We believe they have no affect on our lives, our friends, our relationships.
But our stories determine the quality of our lives, our friendships, our relationships, our well-being.
We look at the negative outcome of our lives and aren’t sure how to make things better. We were never taught about the nature of our thoughts. But it is our thoughts that create our destiny.
Workout It Out
Here’s what to do.
1. Take care of your body. Get enough sleep. Studies show that we need at least 7 hours a night. Drink enough water (I like orange La Croix). Get exercise — it’s hard to fit in, but a few push ups and a few sit-ups isn’t too hard and go for a little walk.
2. Workout your mind. Tomorrow when you hop out of bed and walk over to the bathroom to brush your teeth, stop and tune in.
3. Ask: what story are you telling now? Are you blaming? Are you angry? Are you already overwhelmed by your life? Each of us crafts a unique type of story. Some of us are overwhelmed by fear. Some of us overwhelmed by impostor voices. It doesn’t matter what it is, we just want it to stop. Not sure? Come over to hop on my emotional scale to find out what is in your way.
4. Do an emotional push up. It isn’t hard. Like we need to spend a few moments taking care of our bodies, we need to take a few moments to take care of our minds. Find the workout you need to get your mind in shape. Add it to your life.
The workout is always the same: slow down, take one full breath, review your personal workout and start to rewrite your story. Remove the assumptions and add in some curiosity. Get rid of the shame and add in some progress. Get out the judgment and add in some compassion.
It’s easy. But you have to do it.
At the Center for Compassion and Altruism at Stanford they say that they can see the brain light up when we experience fear. Likewise, they can see the brain light up when we experience compassion. And, like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets.
It’s up to you? You are working out your mind every second because your mind is at work every second. The only question is: are you strengthening your anger muscle or your self-love muscle?
You are your thoughts. Workout what you believe and leave the rest behind.