Do you recognise this?
You’ve had a day full of work really well done, great encounters with other people and good feedback. But there was this one meeting, where you should have been more guarded. And so you have uncomfortable feelings! And thoughts:
You said the wrong thing. What do the others think of you now? Do they even take you seriously? Are they disappointed by you? Do they talk behind your back?
Or it’s nothing you said, but that one job that others found fault with.
And how about that?
Are you also thinking back on the great work you’ve done that you can really stand behind? Do you also find yourself smiling back at the great recognition you got today? That meeting, where you just nailed it and managed to get everyone behind this important new project?
Your mind goes to where you’ve fallen short of your own perfect: being perfectly liked, commanding respect, delivering perfect quality in all things you do.
Our mind goes to the negative, because that’s how we’re primed for survival.
What do you do then?
I usually have thoughts of eating something to soothe my unease, or of drinking a glass of wine to relax. I don’t ever have those thoughts when I am at ease with myself and the world, but they pop up when I experience uncomfortable moments, like yesterday where I was unhappy with one of my coaching sessions and wondered what I could have done better. How about you? What’s your go-to strategy?
Here’s a simple, albeit counterintuitive thing to do: Don’t distract yourself with Neflix. Don’t go straight to food or drink in order to cope. Don’t de-stress with sports straight away.
Instead, sit with the discomfort for just five minutes and see what happens. Find the feeling in your body: Do you have back pain, a sore feeling around your solar plexus, a headache? Are you tense anywhere in your body? How about your emotional state: Are you angry, fearful, anxious, resentful? And what about your head? What stories are you telling yourself?
Say that out loud or if you are on public transport, say it in your mind: “The story I’m telling myself…”
This creates a little space to recover. What recovery needs is a few moments of observing without judging. A few moments of noting what’s going on for you. And self-compassion helps a lot. So, if you can, be compassionate with yourself as if you were your best friend who’s struggling with uncomfortable feelings and self-talk.
What’s helpful to know
Whatever goes through you: It’s just a thought, and it’s just a feeling. A feeling lasts up to 90 seconds, then it’s gone – forever. Did you know that? If you’re still feeling that feeling, it’s because you’ve just fed it another thought.
Most of the time you’re not at all aware of the thoughts that continue spinning in the back of your mind, as you’re watching or listening to something or as you engage in your dinner conversation. Alas, your thoughts come back to haunt you as you’re trying to fall asleep. Or they wake you up at night.
All it takes is a few minutes to be with your uncomfortable feelings.