You decided this year would be different; you would begin thinking positive. You jump out of bed, smile in the mirror, and get dressed. So far, so good. You tell yourself you’re off to a great start. You go to work with an upbeat attitude and when you walk in and say good morning to your colleagues, they look at you as if you have something on your face. Some nod pleasantly, some roll their eyes, but before you know it, you begin feeling defeated and overwhelmed.
After an hour or two at work, you get a call from your partner who forgot that they have a late meeting and won’t be able to pick up the kids. You feel yourself getting angry and begin telling yourself that everyone is irresponsible except for you. A colleague comes to your desk complaining about their workload and you begin feeling anxious about your workload. As you begin feeling more negative, you tell yourself you’re in a dead-end job and everyone is out for themselves. By lunch time, you’re feeling overwhelmed, unappreciated, and stressed out.
Humans are reactive, and many times we take on other’s problems and make them ours. We react impulsively and insensitively to others because we pushed our own buttons long before anyone else did. Many arguments and conflict we engage in are of our own making. We fuel them with negative self-talk and rash assumptions. Many of us don’t have the self-awareness to take our feelings apart and look at them objectively. We don’t take the time to communicate with our partner and really listen when they talk with us. We blow up way too early before we understand why we’re so upset.
The key is to understand your personal, unresolved source of agitation. For example, do you have nightmares, PTSD, or any traumatic experience in your past that you still worry about? If so, does it happen more after you see the news, a movie, or listen to specific music? Sometimes movies and music can help you work through difficult times, but if you notice yourself feeling more depressed after consuming specific media, it’s a warning that you need to engage in healthier coping skills. Below are suggestions that may help you get out of your own way:
- Take care of and honor yourself. You cannot care for another if you don’t care for yourself. What do you need? A mental health day, time to read, garden, or a long hot bath? Before you lash out at someone else, breathe, and ask yourself what feels neglected.
- Resist the urge to complain. Complaining is seductive because it can feel good to vent and connect with other complainers, but it also traps you into feeling helpless and more negative. It’s better to brainstorm possible solutions to your situation and begin taking actions toward your long-term goals.
- Create a bubble of resilience around you. Visualization is used in psychotherapy frequently. Imagine a protective bubble or cubical around you protecting you from negativity. This technique works equally well with children and adults. You can become imaginative with the semi-permeability of your bubble, keeping the good vibes and positive affirmations in the bubble and repelling the negative ones.
- Stay higher than your negative thoughts. Think of your negative thoughts passing by below you. Let thoughts such as, “I’m not good enough,” or, “He’s better than me,” pass underneath you, but don’t pick them up, dwell on them, or believe them.
- Treat yourself with compassion. Not everyone grows up with a compassionate parent. If parts of you are hurting, you can re-parent yourself by showing yourself kindness. Think of a loving parent who picks their child up after a fall and holds and reassures them. Loving friends show this compassion, so be your own friend and love the parts of you that need healing.
Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for managing your own moods, self-talk, and reactions to others. If you’re constantly feeling stressed and overwhelmed that’s an indicator that you’re pushing your own buttons. Learn to get out of your own way by managing who and what influences you and assuming responsibility for how you treat yourself.