You CAN Do It: How to Free Yourself from Mental SpanxPatty Chang Anker
We’ve all been there: We make a plan. We have every intention of seeing it through. And then … the kids get sick. The car breaks down. Snow days, work assignments, bills pop up. People we need to support our endeavors begin making themselves scarce. Sigh.
If your next thoughts sound like this:
I knew I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my goal. I’m not strong enough, I’m too tired, it’s not worth it. This is what always happens — I’m trapped and there’s no way out.
Then HOLD ON RIGHT THERE!
What’s blocking the way is not just the sick kid or the unexpected bills. It’s our own thinking, and while there’s no magic wand for croup, we can free ourselves from the chains of our own design. Here’s how:
1) Break Through by Breathing
Negative thought patterns bind you in a never-ending loop. Two deep breaths — the first to relax the body and the second to clear the mind — can set you free:
Step 1. Inhale, squeeze your muscles tight (make fists, scrunch your face, squeeze your legs together).
Step 2. Exhale, let your muscles go. (Imagine taking off your Spanx and being able to breathe.)
Step 3. Staying soft and relaxed with eyes closed, inhale deeply to the count of three — imagine bursting through worry’s hold. Pause, and visualize fresh oxygen clearing your head.
Step 4. Exhale slowly to a count of six, letting negativity leave you like a cloud. Think “I can,” and open your eyes.
2) Fight/Flight, Then Focus
Our instinct to self-protect is primitive and lightning fast. Our ability to reason evolved later in human development and takes just a little bit longer in the brain to kick in. So while our first thought may be OBSTACLE! RUN! the next should be What can I do about this? This way, action plans will follow.
The truth is, we are far more capable than we feel. The more we allow ourselves to say, “I’m too tired, I’m not strong/good/smart enough,” the more we’re shortchanging ourselves (and the world) of our talents. The longer we despair and complain, the more exhausted we get. The next time flight or fight kicks in, let it come, but don’t wallow in it. Instead, visualize closing all the unproductive “apps” in your mind and opening a new document in the evolved portion of the brain. Title it “to do,” and make a plan to tackle the obstacle.
3) Follow Through NOW
Procrastination (and all the guilt that comes with it) is one of the biggest barriers out there. All the effort spent apologizing and making excuses drains us of energy to get things done. And most importantly, it takes a toll on our own self-image as people who see things through. We don’t have control over all the obstacles that come our way, but we can control how quickly we respond. So check procrastination at the door! Set your priorities and finish them in the time you allot yourself.
4) Create a New World Order
People often say they can’t believe I had time to write a book. But I didn’t have time to write a book in the life I had; like everyone else, I was spread too thin, and obstacles (external and internal — writer’s block anyone?) came up constantly. So I had to create a new world order in which birthing a book was as important as birthing a baby. My old thought and behavior patterns had to shift, my family’s expectations had to adjust. Everyone (and, most importantly, I) had to see myself in a new light. No longer “That’s Mom. She’s overwhelmed.” But: “That’s Mom. She’s writing a book. And she’s going to get it done.”
When you actively make something your priority, you realize the need to rearrange your life to accommodate it. That’s what reinvention is about.
So what kind of mom are you? What do you hope to do? How will you get it done?
Photo Credit: thinkstock