Monday Morning Mindfulness: Finding Your Way Through The Fog

May 2, 2016

I grew up in Colorado so I have never had to become acquainted with the cloudy weather that DC seems to be so fond of.  If I’m being completely honest, I am not a fan.  And this morning’s fog made it especially hard to find the motivation to get up and get going.

We all have seasons in our lives like this — when the fog and drizzle seem to be the forecast  for the looming days, sometimes weeks or even months.  This morning’s group run reminded me that unless we are intentional about moving out of these cloudier times of our lives, we can find ourselves becoming stuck.  Here are a few tips to be mindful of this week as we find our way through the fog:

Practice Radical Acceptance — This distress tolerance skill is all about identifying what you have control over, what you don’t have control over, and ultimately, knowing the difference between the two.  It is not about resignation, letting people cross your boundaries, or giving up.  It is about accepting the reality of what is, allowing you to be who you need and want to be in order to act the way you need to be as effective as possible.

Contribute to a cause you care about — By stepping outside of ourselves to give back we can distract ourselves from the sadness we may be feeling.  This process not only provides much needed perspective but also reminds us that no matter where we are at, we all have the capacity to give back and help out.

Become acquainted with your discomfort by ACTING OPPOSITE to your impulse — It can be helpful at times to change hurtful or overwhelming emotions by acting opposite to that current emotion or the urges associated with that emotion.  For example, when we feel sad it is typical for people to withdraw and not engage in fun activities.  Acting opposite to the emotion and urge is forcing ourselves to be with friends and engage in activities we used to enjoy. Examples:

FEAR:  Do what you are afraid of doing… OVER AND OVER AND OVER.  Approach events, places, and activities that make you nervous (if it is safe, of course).  An example of this would be riding a rollercoaster when you’re afraid of heights.  Do things to give yourself a sense of control and mastery over your emotions.

GUILT OR SHAME: When you’ve done something wrong, approach the situation and make amends.  Commit to avoid making the mistake in the future.  Accept the consequences gracefully and then let go.

SADNESS OR DEPRESSION: Get active and be around positive people.  Do things that make you feel confident and competent.

ANGER: If you’re angry at someone, do something nice for them instead of being mean.  Avoid them instead of attacking them.  Imagine sympathy and empathy for them rather than blame.

Create a grounding ritual —  Rituals are habits we form that create predictability.  This can be as simple as lighting a candle before bed every night; it can be a mantra you say when you’re feeling down or unmotivated; or it can be a 5 minute journaling practice you engage in every morning.  When people are in the fog they either tend towards rigidity or chaos in their lives.  Those who become more rigid are simply seeking comfort and those who become more chaotic are blindly and even, unknowingly following the whims of their feelings.  Becoming more rigid our chaotic in our day-to-day leads us to lose our sense of control and meaning which make us prone to increased anxiety and depression.   By finding a daily practice that grounds us in the here and now we can remember that this season, like all others, will eventually pass.

Use a forward focused approach –  Instead of dwelling on where you’re at or what mistakes you have made, think about what are the potential solutions to the problems in front of you and who may be able to help you.  When you find yourself blaming or accusing yourself or others, you likely are taking a backward approach which will create more frustration and feelings of being stuck.  Think about what strengths you have and ways you’ve been resilient in the past.

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