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/

Who’s The Real Boss Of You?

Who’s The Real Boss Of You?

Everyday Mindfulness Kindness Self Compassion Thoughts

Today I asked my boss if I could take a sun day for gardening.  In winter we take powder days for skiing, seems only logical!  My boss thought that was a good idea.  My boss isn’t perfect, she’s overly judgmental of herself and good at “shoulding(1)” herself; she always tries to do more than is realistically possible; and isn’t great at having the hard conversations that affect her, even though she can listen to others hard conversations all day!  But, I like her. She works hard, always working on improving her abilities and she really cares about me and others.

[Just in case anyone doesn’t know – my boss is me.]
Spring flowers
Spring flowers are so cheerful!

Today, as I was gardening, and actively working on letting go of the guilt of not sitting at my desk, I flashed back to a turning point in my life, a conversation I’ll always remember.  One day when I was running a Distance Education department at a community college and getting my PhD, I sat down to tell my boss that I had to finish writing this dissertation and I wouldn’t be staying past 5 PM until I had finished, I had to make it a priority.  I assured him I’d still get my work done.  I remember clearly the look he gave me filled with kindness and caring, and there was no irony in his voice as he quietly said to me, “I never asked you to stay past 5PM Christine.”  I just took that in.  My husband used to always joke that I expected more of myself than anyone else could possibly expect of me, but this quiet comment from the best mentor and boss I’d ever had struck deep.

This memory made me think about the knowledge I’ve gained about Mindfulness of thought and mind.  There’s a reason I call my mind a trouble maker.  It doesn’t often seem to be on my side, although I know it’s just trying to watch out for me and make sure I don’t forget anything.  And this memory has me contemplating who my boss is these days?  Do I:  A) Let my mind run things without paying much attention to it; or B) Does someone else make my decisions for me; or C) Do I mindfully act and react to each moment thoughtfully?  To be honest, some combination of A and C, but there is more C than there used to be!

These thoughts make me wonder how many of you are in that same boat that I was, creating habits of judging and “shoulding” yourself?  I hope not many.  I’d love to be the only one!  Do you expect more of yourself than you expect of others?  Is your mind always busy reminding you what you “should” be doing or what you aren’t doing well enough?

View
A reminder to look up from weeding.

Does anyone really care if I choose to pull weeds all day in the sun when I don’t have meetings today and I’m not missing anything?  No, and yet there’s guilt to work through, to acknowledge.  In Mindfulness we just keep trying to be aware and curious about each moment.  Paying attention to our mind, and noticing without judgment, what the mind is doing.  After spending so much of my life creating these patterns, I don’t expect them to magically disappear, but it’s nice to recognize them sooner rather than later, to laugh at myself or at the least give myself that little internal smile, and follow the exhale, letting go of the tension and returning my attention to whatever I’m choosing to do in that moment.  And, sometimes I have to return and do that over and over again, before it takes hold, but it’s better than beating myself up for a whole day and not even realizing I’m doing it!

I invite you to think about this.  What are the areas of your life where you forget to notice the joy, or where you forget to realize the next moment is your decision?  Are you pushing harder and faster for yourself, or someone else, without taking in your accomplishments and the days around you?  Of course I know that many really do have a boss, but taking this thought in, is your own internal boss harder on you than your work boss ever could be?

I invite you to continuously ask yourself, “What’s happening now?”  My answer this morning, “Ah, judging myself instead of finding joy in this miraculous, sunny day without trainings or meetings.  Good to know!”

(1) – Definition: Shoulding, (verb) To continuously tell yourself that you should be doing something else, something more.

A picture of view and shadows.
Evening light in the mountains.

The Self-Compassion and Wisdom Combo

Self Compassion

I’ve come to realize that just asking people to be kind to themselves doesn’t work, because that is not enough information.  Some want to believe they are being kind to themselves by giving in.  Giving into the situation, the desire, the emotion, etc.  The key is being kind to ourselves with wisdom.  Today I'm going to go into this concept in a little more detail.  When making decisions in our lives, having a combination of kindness and wisdom can help us make decisions that are positive for both ourself and those around us.

It is very important to understand that this culture of self-compassion comes with the need for wisdom.   Our goal isn’t to wander through life just forgiving everything we do if those things are mean or not skillful.  It’s to be able to continuously learn from our acts, our emotions, our thoughts and continue to grow to use these things with more wisdom and skill.  Without the wisdom we aren’t looking for the patterns; or we just continue on in denial, or doing harmful things to ourselves or others.

Let's look at an example of what I mean.  For example, we've all had those days when we are extra tired.  There are a lot of reasons this might be happening.

  • It could be you've been working extra hard and really are physically or mentally exhausted.  Or you have a known condition that causes this exhaustion.
  • Perhaps you haven't been sleeping; or you haven't been eating food that nourishes you; or you've been stuck behind your desk and you haven't been moving enough.
  • Then there are the times when we are lethargic because we are in avoidance mode.  Example: If I just sit here and stare at the tv, I can ignore the conversation I'm putting off or the project I'm supposed to be working on that I don't want to do.
  • Or maybe, we've let ourselves get into a circle of worry about something that we can't do anything about.  That is exhausting, because there is no fix, no end, and unfortunately, every time we allow our mind to go down the worry track, we are training ourselves to worry, so the worry tends to perpetuate itself.

There are many other reasons why we could be tired, let's face it life can be exhausting.  But I'll let you in on a secret.  People who seem to keep moving and get things done have these times of

Tired cat
That feeling when you are so tired you could just fall down anywhere! Picture from morguefile and ArielleJay.

being tired also.  But by using their wisdom, they don't just give into it without asking some questions.  They stop for a moment to think, "I'm more tired than usual.  What's going on?  Is there a reason I should be tired?  If so, maybe I give myself a break tonight to sit and read or watch an hour of tv, or maybe I just go to bed early."  Does your mind need some downtime or does your body need some downtime?

If they haven't been working so hard that they should be tired, they think, "Is there something going on with my health? How have I been sleeping? How have I been eating?"  Nothing fixes itself.  If we aren't sleeping well and we get in the habit of just vegging every night, we aren't being kind to ourself because that cycle will continue and just keep getting worse instead of better. Taking steps to figure out what is off with our health would be a critical piece of being kind to ourselves in the long run here.

If life has been normal, no craziness above and beyond the normal, and you've been sleeping, eating healthy, and getting some exercise in, then the next question they ask is, "Am I avoiding or resisting a next step?  Ignoring something that needs attention?"  This is often my ah-ha moment.  I might be avoiding a conversation with a client or a loved one; or I might be resisting the next step in a project I'm working on, because it's something that will be hard for me or that needs a set block of time.  When I'm in avoidance mode, I feel like I'm being dragged down by what I don't want to do - otherwise known as feeling tired or lethargic.  Once I know what I'm resisting, then the next step for being kind to myself is to act and move past that resistance. I tell myself, "Just get it done Christine."  In this case, if I continue "as is" I just practice resistance, instead of practicing the effort it takes to stretch into an area of discomfort so I can move forward.

As, you can see through this demonstration, the self-compassionate part isn't to curl up under the covers and just be.  That might be the compassionate thing to do for one night when we really have pushed ourselves too far, but the compassionate thing to do really is to take some time to sit with yourself non-judgmentally and say, "OK Me - What's going on?"  And even more importantly to listen to what yourself, especially your body, has to say.  The people you think always have it together face discomfort, and doubt, and fear, they have just learned that the more they take that long step into a zone of discomfort, the faster they move beyond it and the more they personally grow.

Through this questioning we begin to take responsibility for our actions and next steps.  We also learn to recognize sooner when through our actions we aren't practicing self compassion; when our actions might feel good now, but  they are not good for us in the long run.

Can you think of something that feels good now, but in the not so distant future there's regret?  For me that moment comes quickly when I eat sugar and then within an hour my gut is grumpy and my head is spinning.  Or perhaps you can share with the group, a time you were in lethargic avoidance mode and you realized what you were avoiding?  I had a lot of practice recognizing this feeling when I was working on my dissertation.

Recognizing Our Storylines and Choosing To Change Them

Daily Mindfulness Inspiration Self Compassion Thoughts

This weekend I had to have an intervention with my thoughts.  I was trying to figure out why I was not attacking a certain big project that I’d been thinking about for a good time now.  Not only was I not attacking it – I was not moving forward on it in any way.  I felt overwhelmed by it and so found myself doing other things. In taking some quiet time to breath and reflect, I realized scary, negative thoughts kept going through my head.  The storyline in my head was how overwhelming it was to do by myself.  To be tech person, audio/video specialist, mindfulness specialist, and teacher all together was feeling like too many hats.  I wondered if it would succeed.  I was allowing myself to think things like, “Others are already doing it, who do I think I am? “.

Sometimes are thoughts are tumultuous and not very useful to our forward moment in life.
Sometimes are thoughts are tumultuous and not very useful to our forward moment in life.

During my reflection, I reminded myself that I cannot succeed if I don’t even try.  I reminded myself that I can’t do everything, but in this case I had the skills!  If I dig back into my education and experience, Yes!  I have developed online courses; worked with audio; worked with video; and done all the things necessary to move forward in this project.  Yes, there is a lot of new technology since then, but I have experience learning new technology and I can do it!  And yes, others are already teaching online, but that doesn’t mean I can’t succeed.  All teachers are different and attract different people.  I realized I could do this but I needed to change the storyline in my head.

How many of you have experienced these types of situations?  Maybe you realized that you were putting off something you’d planned to do? Or you just weren’t moving forward in some area of your life and if you sat quietly you might have realized that you were standing in your own way.  The storyline going through your head was negative and not encouraging.  It didn’t focus on your strengths and abilities; instead it focused on your perceived weaknesses!  This is not a good place to be!

Through neuroplasticity research we now know that our brain changes throughout our adult life.  We can not only take on new activities, but we can change and become happier, kinder, etc.  This also means that we can become sadder and more negative.  This information makes it extra important to stay on alert.  To question our thoughts and habits, especially the ones that aren’t helpful to leading our best life!

On this morning it was smooth rowing for me and I fully enjoyed the feeling of ease!
On this morning it was smooth rowing for me and I fully enjoyed the feeling of ease!

My love of rowing is a constant reminder for me to question the thoughts in my head.  I have what I’d refer to as a healthy respect for water – some might say fear. But I love rowing! So, I often find myself in water that is a bit scary.  It might be wavier than I would like.  Maybe I’ve been out too long and the wind came up and there are white caps and I have to get back across the lake.  Or maybe while I was out the lake got busy with water skiers and other people in motor boats.  Or like a couple days ago I was out in the evening and before I know it; dark is upon me.  I start thinking, “I don’t have a light on.” and “What if I flip and people can’t find me?”.  When I row it’s a constant practice to remind myself.  Christine you have the skills.  You have a boat that has always been sturdy and gotten you through everything.  You have a life jacket.  You know how to swim, whether you like to or not.  You can do this.  Do you have an activity that you love, but sometimes it scares you?

I invite you to consciously look for these opportunities in your life to practice positive self-talk.  Instead of it’s hard to learn new technology, I am choosing to say “I know and am confident with technology.”.  I’m giving myself a new truth.

It’s important not to be hard on ourselves when we identify these thought patterns.  They are probably learned behaviors that we took on to protect ourselves in some way at some point in the past.  But it is ok to recognize that while that thought or behavior pattern might have met our needs at one time, it is no longer useful.   It's not as easy as saying, "I'm done with that I'm changing", especially when we've created a habit,  but take solace in the research telling us we can create new habits if we keep interrupting the old and inserting the new.   There’s a lot of information on research on neuroplasticity, to get us started here is an initial article on it from Medical Daily.  Play-Doh Neuroplasticity: 4 Things That Can Actually Change The Shape Of Your Brain

Any thought patterns you'd like to interrupt more often?

Self-Compassion – Is it a theme?

Self Compassion
Purple Bearded Iris
Purple Bearded Iris: All flower pictures in this post were taken from my gardens.

A couple weeks ago I had a wonderful opportunity to be the keynote at the 2015 Wyoming Distance Education Conference.  It was such an honor to work to support my friends and former peers in the Wyoming Distance Education system; a group of people that work so hard themselves to support a very large state full of deserving students.  They work to make sure anyone with the desire and willingness to put in the effort has an educational program that will work for them no matter their location.  The main message in my keynote was the need for self-care; the need for each of us to pay attention to ourselves, to our actions, our thoughts, and our health.  Nobody else can tell us when we have had enough; when we need to take some time; when we are hurting our health due to stress in our life.

It’s ironic, really.  “Write a blog post” has been on my to-do list for more weeks than I’d like to admit, along with a few other things that I haven’t made happen.  I’ve allowed a variety of excuses to be made for not getting these things done.  My husband asked for help on some projects he’s completing around the house.  We have guests coming up and a party, for which to prepare.  All of this is true, but really that’s not why I’ve not written a blog post.  As I watched a short video Monday evening by Tara Brach called Freedom Thru Self-Compassion, I realized I wasn’t writing and doing some other things I “should” be doing because I hadn’t listened to the speech I gave. I hadn’t noticed when I stopped paying attention to myself.

Phew…  I’m still human.  I still fall into old patterns.  I still have to watch for that habit of eating too much and then realizing that I’m doing it because I’m avoiding something or, more likely as in this case, I’m doing it because I’m doubting myself.  I’m allowing thoughts that aren’t useful to play like a record in my head and it’s taken me a few weeks to recognize them.  That's awesome!  It's only taken me a few weeks, not months or longer as has been known to happen in the past!  Woohoo!  These thoughts ask questions that mire me in the old habits of self-doubt and block the new habits of self-compassion.  Most of us have some place in our life where we feel like we aren’t enough, like we aren’t deserving.

Buddha quote: Picture taken at Garden of 1,000 Buddhas in Arlee, MT, in the rain.
Buddha quote: Picture taken at Garden of 1,000 Buddhas, Arlee, MT.  In the rain.

When I was talking to the WyDEC group I was mostly talking about the stress from overwork.  The stress of trying to develop online programs, in the world of traditional education.  But, it’s just as likely that we need to protect ourselves from the stress of our own habits and thoughts.

A variety of Columbine
A variety of Columbine

Today I wondered through my gardens and appreciated the spring flowers.  I have to walk through every day now, because they are growing and changing fast.  Every day new flowers are open and ready to be admired.  The bees and hummingbirds are already busy taking in each flower as it loosens up and opens up to the sun, wind, and rain.  These flowers which have such relatively short lives open to everything Mother Nature has to throw at them – which is quite a bit up on our hill!  They give their all every moment whether they last 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month.  As I took this time today, I reminded myself that I am good.  Hey, I got the gardens weeded!  In addition to appreciating the flowers I focused on my strengths and not on my weaknesses.  I reminded myself that I may not be perfect, but in giving everything I can, I am good.  I don’t need to be mired in this quick sand of non-movement any longer.  I just need to move forward and do what I can do each day.  As my feeling of self-compassion slowly comes back I smile, I gently touch the feeling of not enough and just allow it to feel warmth and love, allow it to know deep down, at least for a moment, it is enough.

Another variety of Iris. Not all of my flowers are purple.
Another variety of Iris. Not all of my flowers are purple.

The good side of doubt is it allows us to see new truths and be open to new thoughts.  For now, I investigate that renewed idea that I am enough. So, tonight I write and tomorrow I move forward with the other things that have been on hold and I ask you the question Tara Brach asked at the end of the video I watched tonight.  “In what way could you offer more compassion to yourself and what would be possible in your life if you did?”

I invite you to do two things now.

One, close your eyes for just a moment, bringing your attention to your breath and ask yourself that question.  “How can I offer myself more compassion today?”

Two, when you catch yourself thinking or writing, “I am good enough”, cross out the enough.  You are good.  You are all you need to be.  This was my practice as I went back through to reread this post one last time….

Kindness Rules …. And Makes You Happy!

Kindness Self Compassion

When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.

- The 14th Dalai Lama –

 

The Dalai Lama is talking about feeling kindness toward others, but this isn’t just a pithy saying. The research shows that we can improve our own happiness by being kind to others and giving others our time and/or resources.

I’ll just mention a few of the studies completed. In one 2010 study published in The Journal of Social Psychology, authors Kathryn E. Buchanan and Anat Bardi, found that people who performed a daily act of kindness for 10 days received boosts of happiness.  In 2012, another study was published in the online Journal of Happiness Studies demonstrated that people who thought about the last time they spent money on someone else were happier than people who thought about the last time they spent money on themselves.  In early 2014, a study was published that was discussed in an article by Lauren Klein.  People in the study were on a waitlist to participate in Psychotherapy for issues “ranging from depression to anxiety and substance abuse.” They were asked to journal for two weeks about kindness or gratitude.  Those that completed the journal entries about gratitude and kindness, “enjoyed a higher percent of happy days, where they felt optimistic and expected the best.  They were also more satisfied with their lives, which they perceived to be meaningful, and they felt more connected with others each day.”

Based on this information, who wouldn’t want to take just a little time to be kinder to others?  While there are always plenty of people and places to donate money, we aren’t necessarily talking about giving.  I am talking about acting.  Very simple acts that one might take for granted.  For example, smiling back at the grocery store clerk, even if they didn’t smile at you, looking them in the eye and saying “Hi, how has your day been?”  I encourage you not to underestimate the power of a simple smile and a minute of your time to touch base with another human being.

Kids hugging
Kids hugging

There are a couple more bonuses to these actions.

Often when we make kind acts a part of your lives, we become more present.  What do I mean by this?  By taking the time to not dismiss the people who surround us every day, but to look for ways to help by holding a door or helping someone across the ice with their groceries, we become more aware of every present moment.  We pay more attention to the now, which means we live a little less in the past and future.  Note – the past and future are mostly focused on worry anyway!  We'll be talking a lot about living in the present on this blog!

Also, kind acts aren’t just for strangers.  They can also be a way to reconnect positively with kids and partners, families and friends.  Maybe offering someone a ride before they ask or taking the time to remember how they like their coffee or tea.

Are you inspired yet?  For parents it can be a great way to lead by example! Share with me below your recent act of kindness.  If you need some more inspiration, enjoy this Daily Good post which focuses on the heartwarming images of humanity, 34 Examples of Heart-Warming Humanity.

References

Aknin, L. B., Dunn, E. W. & Norton, M. I. (April 2012). Happiness runs in a circular motion: Evidence for a positive feedback loop between prosocial spending and happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies. 13(2), 347-355.

Buchanan, K. E. & Bardi, A. (2010). Acts of kindness and acts of novelty affect life satisfaction. The Journal of Social Psychology. 150(3), 235-237.

Klein, L. (July 7, 2014). Can’t get therapy? Try gratitude and kindness? University of California Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/cant_get_therapy_try_gratitude_and_kindness.