We all feel it. Those times when we are unsettled. Perhaps a few things haven’t gone our way. Little things hold fast and refuse to let go. An equilibrium is unsettled and unwelcome thoughts keep rising despite being pushed down. It’s when we know we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff and yet the small stuff is dripping out of our pores. The word discombobulated comes to mind. That itchy, unpleasant discomfort. I’m not talking about the big issues here. I’m not talking about grief or loss. This isn’t a post about what to do when something shakes your life. This is about how to wrest control back from the pesky little thoughts that have no business taking up so much mind space.
It’s happened to me a few times lately. Nothing huge but small thing upon small thing. A rude person in peak hour traffic. The eldest struggling with something at school. Feeling a bit down about putting on some weight. An imagined slight from a friend. None of these things is insurmountable or life changing. None of these things is worthy of dragging me down, individually or in a spiralling collective. And yet they manage to.
This is what I do when I am in the thick of discombobulation, of worry.
Breathe. Just breathe. I take a moment and concentrate on slowing down and being aware of the act of breathing.
In that more settled state, I try to gain perspective. Is the thing I am worried about causing pain to my loved ones? Does it effect food on the table, a roof overhead or anyone’s health in a dramatic way? Will it matter in six month’s time? Will I even remember?
Armed with a clearer perspective, I think through whether my current reaction is serving me well or not. Mostly it’s not.
I turn my mind to whether it’s actually an issue, or whether it’s an imagined issue or an overreaction or potential misunderstanding. Would it be an issue if it wasn’t accompanied by other issues? Is it just part of a spiral, magnified to a size larger than it really is thanks to it’s surroundings?
If it’s not an issue requiring resolution, I try to figure out how I can let it go. Because that’s what’s going to serve me best. Letting go might including ranting, it might be screaming into the linen cupboard, a vent to a friend or an angry email that I have no intention of ever sending.
If it is an issue, then I work through what the solution might be. This is when I find it useful to talk to a fixit friend. You know the type – the kind that you can’t just vent to because they always need to find a way out.
I find it helpful to work through a series of questions:
- Have I assumed anything and if so, how can I clarify those points?
- Do I have all the information available to enable me to make the best decision going forward? How do I go about getting it if not?
- Hard one – do I need to accept some responsibility here? How do I do that? Do I need to apologise or somehow make it right?
- Can I actually do something about this now? Is this a realistic problem in the here and now or have I catastrophised? Projected something in the future that I have no way of actually knowing?
- What is my plan for tackling this issue?
- When do I intend to do something about it? I set a goal. It goes into the bullet journal. I’m serious. A problem solidified into a plan no longer seems like such a problem.
Once a plan has been sorted or I realise that the thing I am worried about is a phantom, then I need to let the negative go. If I find my thoughts wandering back to what I have already sorted out, I ask myself “Is this serving you right now?” I realise that this sounds completely woo-woo but it’s a valid question and one that generally redirects my thinking.
If I’m still bent up about it all, the plan I have formulated might not be quite right. I probably haven’t hit on the solution that sits best with me. In that instance, I find sitting quietly helps. I don’t busy my mind with sorting through issue, but rather I set it in front of me and wait. Sometimes I’ll chat about it with my second-born son who died very young. I think it’s become my version of praying. And I often hear him back, entirely measured, soothing and pragmatic. Again, I get how woo-woo that all sounds, but I reach that calmer part of myself, untouched by whirling emotion and there is much comfort in that. Deeper me/my middle son seems a wise person.
And that’s it. My way of getting back to feeling settled. My way of dealing with discombobulation (you know I love that word).
How do you deal with that unsettled feeling
when issues seem bigger than they truly are?