3 Tips For Dealing With Those “Why Me!” “Why Now!” Moments

3 Tips For Dealing With Those “Why Me!” “Why Now!” Moments

Daily Mindfulness Emotions Mindfulness Practice Self Compassion Thoughts

We’ve all had those mornings, shutting off the alarm was hard, time flew by, we are grabbing things as we head out the door without a coat buttoned up and then we spill our coffee, and we are thinking: “It’s going to be a bad day.” or “Really, what else could go wrong!” or “What next?!” And what happens after that? Well, most of the time the day does continue in that direction. But, is it because the day is preset to be bad, or because we’ve already set that expectation in our head and our actions are, unfortunately, creating havoc. We may be moving fast without thinking, without being in the present moment. We are probably thinking about the meeting we are late for, or how this always happens, instead of consciously choosing where we set the coffee down or thinking about how we are driving.

Can we avoid those moments altogether? Well, probably not. The good news is we can definitely minimize these moments by staying in the present moment; planning ahead for our busy times; and developing practices that help our mind pause before it reacts, practices such as Mindfulness, Tai Chi, QiGong, and gratitude. The other news – we are still human and we are surrounded by other humans, and pets, that we can’t always control. Sometimes moments aren’t going to go as planned.  Following are three tips for dealing with those moments when all you can think is “Why me?”  or “Why now?”.Woman taking a breath.

Breathe.  Does every Mindfulness practice need to start with this? Yes. I’m pretty sure that’s the rule. I could say pause or slow down, but many people have been trained to believe that action is good. Therefore, they have an immediate negative reaction to being told they should slow down or pause or hesitate. Breathing is a way of coming back to the present moment and still taking action. Connecting with your breath at any moment is a courageous thing to do, because your breath is going to bring you back to the present moment and connect you to it. Truth be told, we often like to avoid many moments, pretend they don’t exist, hope they go away. Therefore, to always come back to the moment, with curiosity and an intention of learning from that moment is brave. So, when you realize you are in a crazy moment, the first thing to do is bring all of your attention to your breath and follow the flow of breath in and out of the body at least once, maybe 3 times, or until you feel like your head is no longer going to explode.

If you find the breath stressful, which is naturally true for a percentage of the population due to health issues or past trauma, please feel free to come back to the feeling of your feet on the floor or the weight and sensation of your hands instead. You can use breath, feet, or hands as your present moment focus.

Question Your Thoughts.  If you are anything like me your mind is quickly searching for someone/something to blame for this moment. If only that person in front of me wasn’t driving slow, I would be on time.  It’s my husband’s fault, he distracted me this morning and then I forgot …. Darn dogs… kids…  they never listen.  That person knows I had a meeting; they really had to stop by my office right then?  Coffee was too hot. Food took too long to prepare. The person at the coffee shop was slow.  You know the drill. The key here, after using your breath to back off the ledge, is to find a little claMan with question symbols around his head.rity, and maybe some humor, in your thoughts. Ask yourself questions. “Is what I’m thinking true?” Usually we are trying to blame someone because then it isn’t our fault, but does it have to be anyone’s fault? The morning was a little crazy, that customer needed an answer, your child fell – it just happened. Ask yourself, “What just happened?” And without blaming or judgment, “What is my next step or action?” This gives us a chance to pause and choose our next response or action.

Remember, you are not alone.  We are all human. I know I keep repeating this, but I’ve had those moments where I forget and think I’m some perfect being that can control myself and everything else around me, so I’m hoping others have those moments also. Even someone who lives alone in a cabin in the woods, probably has unexpected things happen to them. Seeing our moments as part of a larger human experience helps us realize that life is imperfect and we are not alone. And, if we are lucky, it helps us find some humor in the situation. Sometimes I find myself rushing and then I stop and remind myself, with some kind humor, “You know Christine, just like everyone else the rules of time apply to you. Given that, what can you realistically do before you need to leave the house?”

When we are in the mindset of this is all happening “to me”, it is much easier to get angry or frustrated. If, we can remember we have some control over how we choose to move forward, we aren’t alone, and time applies to everyone, it makes it easier to laugh a little at the spilled coffee or slow person, actually going the speed limit, in front of us and back down out of the stress of the moment.

Additional Resources:

Neff, Kristin. Embracing Our Common Humanity with Self-Compassion. http://self-compassion.org/embracing-our-common-humanity-with-self-compassion/

Seppala, Emma. (February 7, 2014) Benefits of Breathing The Scientific Benefits of Breathing Infographic.  https://emmaseppala.com/benefits-breathing-scientific-benefits-breathing-infographic/

Three Tips for Communicating Mindfully With Our Difficult People

Daily Mindfulness Emotions

Recently I spoke at a conference with the theme of "Together we can …".  This is the perfect title for a conference in our great community of Missoula.  But, I like what it doesn’t say even more.  It doesn’t say, “us versus them”.  Now, of course, a conference wouldn't be titled "us versus them" as that wouldn’t  be politically correct, but even when it’s not explicitly said, “us versus them” is the implication that we receive all too often in our society through our news reporting, social media, and even the workplace.  There’s always an “us”, and “them” is always those “other” people.  The people we don’t agree with, the difficult people.  We separate ourselves on a variety of views, but, what if we could disagree with someone while still holding them as a fellow human being who is just trying to do their best – just like us?  What if we could have calm, friendly conversations with people at work or with neighbors with whom we have fundamental differences?  What if we could still work together with them toward a common goal at work or in our neighborhood?  Imagine that world.

Finding Common Ground
Finding Common Ground

Imagine the stress right now of having to walk into a meeting and sit down across from someone with whom you always seem to butt heads.  How is that conversation going to go when you both come to the table ready for a fight or prepared for there to be no middle ground?

At some time, we all have to work with people whom we’ve struggled with in the past.  Here are some tips from the contemplative practice of Mindfulness to help each of us sense our community with others, so there’s less of a sense of “them” and more of a sense of “us”.

  1. Connect with your body. I invite you to notice when you get tight – you know the feeling – your jaw clamps shut, your forehead scrunches down, or some other part of you tightens up.  The feeling hits all of us differently, so identify where the feeling of anger and frustration settles in your body.  You may already know, but it’s very possible you’ve never consciously taken note.  But now that you have, this is your warning sign.  Before you even feel angry, notice “Yikes, forehead scrunching!  Warning!”  By simply beginning to tie into our body and really notice what’s going on, we take the first step to move away from our thinking mind - the part that is starting to tell a story about why you don’t like this person or why this situation isn’t fair.  We return to the present moment and we have a better chance of letting our rational mind return.
  2. Breathe. You’ve connected with your body, now connect with the other piece of you that is always there waiting for attention and waiting to bring you back to the present moment, your breath. Before responding in any way, simply take a mere moment to follow your inhale and your exhale.  This practice creates the hesitation you always need to properly respond to anything.  Note, for some people focusing on the breath can make them anxious.  If you are one of these people, instead try bringing your attention to the firmness of your feet on the ground.
  3. Just Like Me. This is one of my favorite practices.  It’s meant for each time you feel yourself start to get frustrated.  You feel your breath quicken and your body start to tighten as the car in front of you moves at a snail’s pace or the person across the table says something that seems like it is just outright contradicting what you just said.  Instead think,
    • Just like me, this person wants to be happy. It’s true; nobody is trying to go through life miserable.  We may not agree with how they are trying to be happy, but still …
    • Just like me, this person is trying to get somewhere. Apparently, they gave themselves more time to get there, but still …
    • Just like me, this person sitting across from me is searching for the best solution. We may not agree on what the best solution is, but still …

“Just like me” really helps me move from “them” to “us” in my mind and my response.  I hope these practices also help you as you work with the difficult people in your life.  Maybe they even help you to see some humor in your own thoughts!

Bring on the emotions (ALL of them)!

Daily Mindfulness Emotions

Yesterday I went to the new Pixar movie, Inside Out, with my sister-in-law and her family.  Yep, there we were all 7 of us well into adulthood, lined up on a Tuesday afternoon in a surprisingly full theater for the movie.  I was eager to go based on the content of the movie.  I’d heard there might be some Mindful undertones.  Have any of you seen the movie?  I would suggest it, whether you have kids, or not.

Joy
Joy, from Disney movies

I bring this up because the movie demonstrated for us, the need for all emotions.  In the movie, we see Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust as they work to help Riley, an 11 year old girl, respond appropriately to life.  Specifically, she's figuring out the changes that come with moving to a different state.  In the beginning the goal is to be happy; to just make happy memories.  Does this sound familiar? We are often tempted to deny some emotions, to try to push them into the basement and lock the door.  We are told its not good form to show sadness or anger.  We may have gleaned from our childhood that it wasn’t appropriate, but now we can’t blame anyone but ourselves.  How many of you have been hard on yourselves in that way?  …  I should be over this (whatever happened).  Why can’t I be happy today?  I should be able to blow off that person and not let them get to me.  I should….

Or my favorite, it’s not ‘professional’ to show these emotions at work.  To be upset about something that didn’t work, or to bring emotions in from our personal life.  Really?  How did work become an island where magically it’s not affected by what we do the other 16 hours of the day?  Is that even possible or realistic during the craziness of life?  Divorce? Death? Sickness? Etc.  There are so many reasons we might be sad , frustrated, or generally upset and knocked off our center.

Anger, from Disney movies
Anger, from Disney movies

I’d like to introduce the concept to you that all emotions are a part of us.  If we try to bury sadness in the basement, chances are when she does get to come out she’s way sadder than if she’d been allowed to express that emotion appropriately all along.  How often do we hold in our anger, never letting it show and then when it does bang its way through the basement door – Wow!  Watch out!  The reality of most situations is they require a variety of emotions.  Emotions like sadness allow us to really accept what has happened and it also connects us to other human beings by letting us feel empathy and compassion.  Also, the reality is all memories aren’t clearly tied to happy, sad, angry, etc.

I’ll give you a big example, but there are many reasons why we need all emotions that happen every day.  Eight years ago this week a dear friend died.  I remember that feeling of being overwhelmed with grief and sadness.  Asking over and over again, “how?”  “why?”.  It was easy to feel like I should be over it by now.  I’m a leader in my profession; I should be going into work not affected by this tragedy.  But these many years later I see all the ways the combination of emotions left memories I’ll have forever.  A year doesn’t go by without my husband and I remembering that loss and wandering how life would have been different without it.  But we also remember the way that group of friends connected through the grief.  The memories of one moment feeling nothing but a heavy weight and the next laughing until we cried as we reviewed the good times out loud.  Today, those memories are all tinged with the sadness we felt; the comfort of being together; the empathy and compassion others showed me; and the joyful memories we all shared and continued to build for years afterward.

Mindfulness isn’t about banishing emotions, thoughts, or feelings.  It’s about allowing them all to be and investigating, without holding onto them.  Investigating them in the present moment and asking questions like, “how does this feel in my body?”, while letting go of the story behind.  Letting go of the what ifs, the I should haves, the not fairs.  Just accepting and acknowledging the feeling as it is right now.  Not holding onto the feeling longer than necessary, but also recognizing its importance in this moment.  Today I invite you to open the basement door and leave it unlocked; to accept all emotions as necessary to our continued meandering on this life path. By taking away the stigma on certain emotions, we take away a little of their power to hold us in their grip for longer than necessary.

Joy, Fear, Anger, Envy, and Sadness from "Inside Out". Image from chicagonow.com.
Joy, Fear, Anger, Envy, and Sadness from "Inside Out". Image from chicagonow.com.