I’m having a bad week.
I updated my website and lost my two latest blog posts and a whole page of stuff I was working on. Hours of writing and research gone in an instant.
If you want to read my blog post: Six Smart Tips To Enjoying Stress Free Holidays, forget it, it’s lost in the interweb ether somewhere. Want to know Why Zoning Out Is Important? Well you can’t – that blog post doesn’t exist anymore.
You know that horrible sick feeling you get when something has gone completely and catastrophically wrong? That’s how I felt. For a few moments I wanted to throw things at the wall and then curl up on my bed eating cheesecake … basically an adult tantrum.
But I didn’t. And here’s why.
I read about something really interesting recently called the 90-10 percent rule and it gave me a huge wake-up call. This rule relies on the assumption that out of all the things that happen in your life on a daily basis, you only really have control of 10%.
Think about that for a minute.
Here’s a story.
ONCE UPON A TIME
It’s morning. Your daughter knocks over her glass of milk onto a pile of bills you were about to pay. Now they are all wet and you can’t see the payment number clearly. You get so mad and yell and scream at your daughter. She starts crying and runs upstairs. It takes ten minutes for her to calm down and get back downstairs by which point she’s missed the school bus and now you have to drive her to school. You rush out of the front door and get her to school on time – when you return home you realize that in your hurry you forgot to pick up your house keys and now you are locked out and late for work. You call the locksmith who takes an hour to arrive. To make it worse, you also forgot to put the dog in his crate and he’s busy chewing up a pair of your shoes. You get to work late, are rude to your colleagues and customers and finish up getting a lecture from your boss about your people skills. All in all it’s been a terrible day.
HAVING A BAD DAY? IT’S YOUR OWN FAULT
It’s pretty clear that your reaction to one small event started a chain reaction that led to a truly catastrophic day. Did screaming and shouting at your daughter make the milk spill go away? Did your reaction help the situation or just make it worse?
Most of what happens in our day-to-day life is out of our control. Realizing this is the first step to letting go. You’ve heard the saying ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’? Well it’s true. You can’t control the world around you but you can control yourself and your reactions.
I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking, wait a minute – weren’t you almost throwing things at the wall and eating your own bodyweight in cheesecake at the start of this? Yes, you’re right – I almost was.
But I didn’t.
KEEPING IT REAL
The thing with being a life and wellness coach is that it’s easy for me to forget that I need coaching too. When things go wrong it’s much easier to let yourself fall down the rabbit hole than to cling onto the edge and pull yourself back up. This is why I coach other people about mindfulness but I also remind myself to be mindful too. I use all of my strategies myself, which is how I know that they are effective and I never suggest that you do something I haven’t tried first. I’m a firm believer in ‘practise what you preach’.
That said, how can you practically go about stopping yourself from having extreme reactions when things go bad?
I won’t sugarcoat this. Mindfulness is something that’s easy to say but hard to do. It takes practise and discipline.
When annoying things happen in your day to day life you will probably find that you react in one of three ways:
- You fly into a rage. This often means lashing out at those around you or yourself.
- You disappear into yourself and make a cocoon shutting yourself off from the world around you. This results in withdrawal for a short period of time although it can be hours or days.
- You become agitated, stressed, anxious and/or overwhelmed. This can manifest itself in self-pity: ‘why me?’ or feelings of paralysis when you literally feel as though you can do nothing going forward: you get stuck.
Recognize how you react. Are you most likely to react to a bad situation with 1,2 or 3 – or a combination?
When an irritating situation occurs allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come your way internally but only for a few minutes and without lashing out at anyone else or yourself.
Press the pause button on the situation.
Stop and consciously and mindfully remove yourself from those feelings. Observe the event as an outsider (boy does this take practise!) View what is happening objectively.
Talk to yourself. What is the best way forward? Is an extreme reaction going to fix this problem? No it isn’t. Ask yourself what you need. Do you need to walk away and take a few moments by yourself, will it help to call a friend, take deep breaths or just talk to yourself firmly and close this situation down?
The thing with extreme negative emotions is that it’s hard for our mind and body to maintain them. Eventually they pass and we are just left with the aftermath which can often cause us further negative emotions (guilt, anger, sadness, feelings of failure.)
I was watching my children play one day when one of them needed the bathroom. I heard my daughter say, ‘Can we just hit pause for a minute?’ This made me laugh – she clearly didn’t want the game going on without her and her language definitely reflected an iPad generation – but it also made me think.
If you master the art of hitting the pause button during high-emotion situations it allows you some breathing space. Once the flash-point has passed you are then able to view the situation more calmly and objectively.
CREATE YOUR OWN HAPPY ENDING …
It’s morning. Your daughter knocks over her glass of milk onto a pile of bills you were about to pay. Now they are all wet and you can’t see the payment number clearly. You are angry and frustrated but you mindfully control the situation. You see your daughter’s lip tremble but you tell her it’s ok and remind her that the school bus will be here in a few minutes. She hugs you and grabs her bag on the way out of the door. You clean up the mess, put the dog in his crate and head off for work….
I know which story I like the best. Do you?
If you would like to learn more about these strategies or book some coaching sessions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment. All calls are confidential and the initial 30 minute consultation is free of charge.
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