How to See New Possibilities When Feeling Stuck
If you’ve had the thought cross your mind in the last few weeks, “Oh, no. What’s coming next?” You are not alone. Although this is a time of new opportunity in many ways to evolve how we relate to one another, care for ourselves and others, and live our day-to-day life. It’s also a time when we can bump up against waves of despair or anxiety as we live through a dismantling of what we had previously experienced as constants in our lives.
Within myself, I’ve seen how quickly and abruptly a sense of being happy, feeling safe and present can be thrown off by a news headline or a conversation, leading me to feel uncertain, confused and overwhelmed. Not to mention balancing everyday daily activities and their impact on my sense of well-being.
But I’ve also noticed that solutions don’t present themselves
as easily when I’m stressed and overwhelmed. My ability to think straight, empathize with others, and even believe in a positive future is often greatly reduced when I’m operating in survival mode, flooded with fear and stress.
All of this has helped me to arrive at a life-changing motto: Relief first, then action.
I know I feel relief when it’s easier to breathe, when I feel less tension in my body, when my mind is clearer, and when I’m more open and receptive with myself and others.
If you can resonate with feelings of overwhelm, uncertainty or other emotions that feel stressful, and you are looking for your own sense of relief, consider giving one or all the following steps a try in these moments:
Honor Where You Are At: A very common and normal response to feeling bad is to want to get ourselves to happy as quickly as possible. We may try to tell ourselves what we should be grateful for what we do have or that others have it worse and we must look at the bright side. Maybe we tell ourselves “everything is fine” even though we know we don’t really feel that way.
It is true that gratitude and perspective can be amazing things, but when we try to insert them without honoring our pain first, many times we are skipping a crucial step.
Say I want to run a marathon. I know in order to start, I must begin at the START line and walk or run from there. Wishing I was further along in the race won’t get me there faster, in fact it will most likely only compound any feelings of impatience or frustration with the process.
We must start where we are, and sometimes that starting point is frustration, or overwhelm, or hopelessness. And that’s okay, in fact, it’s perfect. It’s the place where progress begins. It’s our starting line. There is no better starting line than where we truly are in any given moment.
I’ve noticed within myself the urge to try to force a better feeling or take an action with a goal of making myself feel better, only to find myself feeling more stuck and resistant. It’s the slowing down, the acknowledging where I’m at, the accepting how I feel and letting that be experienced that allows me to feel better, shift my momentum and walk in the direction of something new.
As humans we are great adapters, and the truth is, in that adapting, life impacts us and its okay and important to honor that impact. I often have to remind myself: I’m a human, not a robot. When we can honor our humanness, our feelings and emotions, especially the uncomfortable ones, it can be a powerful step on the journey to feeling better.
A couple ways to do this are:
· In your mind or in a notebook list off all the feelings you are experiencing as hard, stressful, or defining as “bad”. Use the sentence starter, “I am feeling…., I am feeling…” and let yourself write down every emotion you can think of. Continue asking yourself, “Anything else?” until nothing else comes to mind. See if you notice any relief from simple acknowledging your emotions.
· Create a safe environment to be completely unfiltered in your expression. The intention here is to provide a space where you can say what’s on your mind without the pressure of worrying about how you are saying it or even if it makes sense. This could be a done as a written practice in a journal, or as a spoken exercise with a friend, coach, or counselor.
This is a time to share and listen without advice or judgement of what’s being said. If you are asking for someone to listen to you, it can be helpful to make a clear request to set you both up for success as there will be clear expectations and understanding. For example, “I’d love to be able to share my thoughts without advice, or suggestions. Can you listen and when I am done speaking, ask “anything else,” so I can fully get it out?
When I’m done, can you say, “thank you for sharing.””
If you are venting, it is very helpful to ask someone to listen who is not the person you are venting about, that way it is easier for the listener to stay more objective, and just listen and let it go.
If you are in a relationship and you finding yourself in a conversation where the other person is expressing painful emotions and you are noticing yourself wanting to help, this can also be a great opportunity to pause. Instead of jumping into advice or helping mode, ask, “What would be most helpful right now, are you venting and want someone to listen? Or are you looking for help with solutions?” Let their answer guide your next response.
Create a Bridge: Once you’ve acknowledged where you are at, the next step is to create a bridge to get yourself to a better feeling place.
Once we’ve acknowledged for example, “I’m feeling worried,” it can be common to try to jump to, “I’m feeling relaxed and calm,” while still feeling off. I have done this plenty of times. I try to find a “Zen” moment, but I know I’m not feeling it or believing it. It can feel like a battle to feel better.
Instead of continuing the battle, I’ve begun using my starting point of feeling worried to gently ease myself to a thought that provides more relief. For example, “I’m not sure how I’m going to get through this, but I’m open to ways I could feel better, “or “I know I’m feeling uncertain right now, that’s okay, there’s no rush. I don’t have to be any where other than where I’m at right now,” or “It’s okay that I’m not feeling great right now, what could I do that feels nourishing for where I’m at right now?”
I’ve found this to be incredibly helpful and empowering exercise, especially with some of the more painful emotions I experience. This exercise involves compassionately and gently introducing the possibility of a state beyond what we feel right now. In these moments, even the idea that something new is possible can completely change the way we feel internally.
A couple sentence starters that are great for creating a bridge are:
· Right now, I’m feeling… and there is no rush for me to feel any different.
· I’m open to the possibility that…
· I would be willing to…
· I don’t need to have all the answers, what would feel nourishing for where I’m at right now?
Keep moving in the direction you want to be: As a final step to this process. In your internal dialogue and with others, it’s helpful to keep choosing thoughts and language that focuses on more expanded possibilities. An excellent way to tune into this is to notice whether you are using actionable, positive language that help continue your momentum instead of cutting it off.
For example, saying to yourself, “I don’t want to feel tired anymore,” only reminds us that we are tired, and it doesn’t feel good. Communicating with ourselves by saying, “I want more energy, and going to bed earlier helps me do that.” Helps us focus our energies on what will continue to provide relief or can provide ideas to move us in that direction.
When communicating, check to see if you are focusing on what you do want and specific thoughts actions that support you in meeting that need or desire.
A few language ideas to help with this step are:
· I want to feel…., and …. helps me do that.
· I have a need for…., Would you be willing to…
· I want…., and …. is what I need to move towards that feeling or getting that need met.
In those moments when you are saying, “I don’t want...” or “I’m so tired of…” see if you can get curious with yourself as to what you would want instead. If you feel stuck, go back up to the first two practices in this blog and find that place of relief first which will allow the curiosity to come with more ease.
If you are a Whole Health Plan Member, the Medical & Wellness Centers located in Austin, Texas and Glendale, California are available for support.
If you are Whole Health Plan member and have not established care with the Center for your primary care services, call us to make an appointment or learn more about the benefits available to you as a patient of the Center.
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