Let’s turn this habit on its head
The last couple of weeks have been full. Work. Family. Book stuff. Regular old responsibilities. I try to keep my self care pretty close in times like these, but I traded meditation for five minute Pinterest breaks for the last two weeks and it shows. My weeks have been stressful and last weekend I was at the “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck! Fuck. Fuck” point.
I’m sure you’ve never been there, right?
I joke. I know you have.
At one point I was so frustrated I just wanted to scream. Everything seemed to be going wrong. And it’s a really easy jump for my brain to a bad place when I get to the point where I’m at the end of my rope. The bad place is the place where I start reliving all the bad stuff that’s happened either lately or in the last couple of years. It’s also the place where the voice in my head gets really down- not always on myself, but just more in a pessimistic way. Nothing’s going right and nothing is going to go right.
Why are our brains so great at listing out the crappy stuff? For most women I know, we are spectacularly good at berating ourselves and listing out all our flaws and failures. It’s probably not the most useful skill set we’ve got, and yet, many of us use it regularly.
A lot of this comes from cultural training. Women are expected to be perfect- to show little emotion, to go along with whatever’s happening to keep others happy, to be a ‘nice girl.’ And in order to be a ‘nice girl’ we are also trained to be a little perfectionistic (or, maybe a lot). To watch over ourselves and our behavior so we don’t slip out of the ‘nice girl’ mold. There are sometimes family roles and expectations woven into the cultural messages, as well, which can make it more complicated to unravel these messages.
Unraveling cultural and family messages in our lives is a very worthwhile endeavor, but it takes time, effort, and energy. One thing we can do pretty quickly is to notice what’s going on – that we’re getting sucked in by someone else’s idea of what it is to be ‘me’ – and refuse to participate. We can also choose to interact differently with situations in our lives. In this case, we can turn the “what the hell? why is my life so crappy/stressed/screwed right now?” mental habit into something useful. Something that can build us up instead of tear us down.
How do we do this? First, we notice that it’s going on. When you’re down in the dumps or feeling super stressed, or weighed down, or you’re saying the F word 13 times in a row in your head you can notice that it’s happening and take a moment to stop.
Then, when you feel the pull to start listing off the crappy stuff that’s happened in your life lately, I want you to flip it around and notice that 1) you got through it and 2) notice how you got through it. If it helps, you can write it all out so you can see it, right there in front of you, that you’re capable of getting through things.
I would also recommend that you let that feeling of pride or strength take up some space in your mind and body. Yes, you did that. Yes, you made it. Yes, you got through it. Feel it and celebrate it (even if it’s tough for you, like it is for me).
One of the things this does is remind us that we are capable and skilled and we can probably get through whatever is stressing us out right now. Another thing is it can help us feel resilient- that we are capable of doing hard things and getting through tough times. Because we are capable. (If there’s one thing our menstrual cycle gives us, it’s the perspective that we can live through some really cruddy stuff.)
So, if you’re dealing with Marv, the lewd guy from Marketing, or another pair of socks eaten by the dog, or your hormones make you want to scream at everyone, or your Sex Surge is in overdrive today, I want you to remember that you’ve done a lot of shit in your life. You’ve done amazing things and gotten through some epically crap times. And you can do it again. Because you’re a capable, smart woman. And I want you to take a moment and remember that.
When I got to the point of “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck! Fuck. Fuck” last week, I did take a moment to do this. And I ended up thinking, “Well, damn, I did do all that stuff.” I took a moment to feel, in my body, the sense that I’d travelled those roads, gotten over those hurdles, and come out reasonably okay on the other side. And because of those two things I ended up feeling like I was going to be able to deal with everything that was on my plate. That I’d get through the stress and frustration. That I’d keep stepping ahead, one way or another. That maybe it wasn’t going to ‘be okay’ but at least it was going to be done. And sometimes that’s really all you need to know.
I’m a big believer in feeling our feelings, so please feel the feelings of stress and frustration, but dare to turn the mental outcome of stress in a different direction by remembering all your hurdles in a good way- in a way that can lift you up instead of drag you down.