My guess is that there have been times (or are currently) when you felt completely overwhelmed by what is going on in your life, and it feels almost too big to even begin to take action on how to get out of it and move forward. I’ve been there too, and I can relate to those thoughts and feelings. There have been many times in my life – whether it was related to my relationships, my parenting, or even my sense of who I was – where I just felt stuck. It was easier to ruminate and spin than it was to get out of it.
Let me tell you two really important things…
One: you’re human.
Two: there’s a way out of that spiral.
But let’s start with the first one…here’s why you’re human. Part of that feeling stuck feeling is a result of your brain doing its job. Here’s the neuroscience behind it…when you feel strong emotions (i.e. sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, overwhelm…the list could go on, but you get what I mean…) your amygdala fires off; this is the emotional alarm in your brain. And then guess what happens? When your emotional brain is firing, it shuts down your prefrontal cortex where all your executive functioning resides. This is the part of your brain responsible for language, communication, clear thinking, decision making, rationality, learning and retaining information. Get the idea here? When you are stuck in an emotional or mental spiral (meaning your thoughts just won’t shut up) then your brain literally can’t access your tools. So, what do you do about it? Well, on to fact #2…
It all starts with awareness – you can’t change what you’re not aware of. So, you need to be aware – with self-compassion, rather than with judgment (judgment will continue to keep you stuck!) that you’re even stuck in the spiral of negative reactive thinking. Then you need to practice calming the brain; the two best ways are to breathe and to name what is arising. Studies show that when you name it (i.e. “I feel overwhelmed; I’m angry; This is fear; I feel anxious”) it calms the amygdala, thus quieting down that emotional alarm, allowing your prefrontal cortex to go back to optimal functioning, and helping you gain access back to your tools. Make sense?
The best way to help yourself get unstuck is through practice, practice, and more practice. I’ve also developed a guide to help you get there. I walk you through a 6-step process to name what is arising, practice mindfulness (present moment awareness with self-compassion, coupled with breathing techniques to calm the brain), then reframe your challenge or what is keeping you stuck to uncover your values, and finally how to journey forward with intention by taking action based on your values.
When we stay focused on being stuck, guess what happens? We stay stuck! When we can begin to understand that we feel stuck because our values are being violated, then that reframe gives us deeper awareness and motivation to move forward.
Here’s an example: If I’m stuck on my body image and am judging myself for not fitting into my jeans and worrying about upcoming bathing suit season, focusing on what’s not working might motivate me short term to get to the gym or eat healthier, but long term, that motivation wanes because my judgments keep shutting me down. (This is true story, btw.) If I can have self-compassion for myself, and look for the value behind my judgments, I may connect to the fact that I value feeling healthy or being comfortable in my own skin. So, if I can take action based on my value, I’m more likely to stick to it. If I focus on my problems I get stuck. Again, true story – focusing on my values motivates me. Focusing on my issues, doesn’t.
If you’d like to download this free guide, click here, and begin your JOURNEY FORWARD towards living fully and freely!