When staying strong and powering through, isn’t working

Have you ever tried so hard to stay positive and power through, only to end up crashing and burning out?

Then rally and try even harder only to crash and burn again a few weeks later?

‘Staying positive’ when you’re feeling anything but and ‘powering through’ even when you’re exhausted, is the emotional equivalent of holding a beachball under water.

With a lot of force and effort, you can do it…but only for so long. Sooner or later, that beach ball is going to jump up and hit you smack in the face. A full blown meltdown is what happens next.

So you gather yourself up to start again and you can push it back down again with a lot of effort, you try your hardest to hold it under…but sooner or later, it’s bouncing back up into your face….again. Meltdown.

Resisting what is really going on for you by insisting you stay positive or powering through is like sticking your fingers in your ears and singing ‘Lalalalalala‘ when what’s really going on for you is:

I need a rest

I feel anxious

I’m worried about what’s coming next

It doesn’t go away just because you’ve drowned it out.

If you’ve ever told a worried child ‘Don’t worry‘ or an upset child to ‘Just calm down‘, you know this first hand.

 If you don’t do it already, I highly recommend starting a practice of journalling.

This simply means writing out your thoughts on any piece of paper or into a notebook.

A thought is a sentence in your brain. Journalling helps you access what you are thinking by getting those sentences out on paper.

 Set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes and start writing out directly from your head what it is you’re thinking in a stream of consciousness – that means without thinking too much about it.

Don’t censor, don’t judge, just write.

You will see exactly why you’re feeling the way you do when you start writing because our thoughts create our feelings. But as the thinker of our thoughts, we can’t see them. This is why getting them out on paper – putting a distance between you as the thinker of them – is so useful.

Moving from negative to neutral

Once you see the thoughts you’re thinking, you can start working towards feeling positive but this most likely won’t immediately look like rainbows and sparkles. It will more likely first look like slightly more neutral than where you are right now – moving from a negative thought to a more positive thought, like this:

From: The house is a mess and I’m sick to the teeth of tidying it.

To: We have a house.

 From: I don’t know what’s coming next and it feels really scary.

To: I know what’s coming today.

 Don’t be tempted to reach for a thought that you cannot actually believe.

You know the difference. You cannot force your brain to believe something it isn’t on board with believing by saying it enough times. This is why repeating affirmations doesn’t work.

The new age spiritual movement, #gratitude and whatnot would have you reaching from ‘We have a house‘ to ‘Love our home. Amazingly grateful and #blessed‘. 

Similarly, our own – oftentimes, crippingly high expectations of ourselves would have us try to reach from ‘I don’t know what’s coming next and it feels scary‘ to ‘I know what to do today and I’m going to #slayallday‘.

It doesn’t work.

Sometimes neutral is as far as you can reach. And that’s ok.

You’ll know when you’ve reached the thought you’re able to believe because how you feel in body will shift. Again, it may not be dramatic. But you will feel it shift from anxious to more steady; from overwhelmed to focussed on the next step; from spinning out to clear on the next step.

It’s an incredibly powerful shift that can completely change the course of your day.

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