As we navigate the current circumstances our mind, body, and spirit may be getting pushed in new directions, to new levels, and for some, becoming emotionally exhausting.
As we have been asked to limit the footprint we normally take, withdrawal from the contact with others we normally have, and adapt to new ways we move our body and exercise - it makes a lot of sense that our reservoir of emotional and mental energy is depleting quicker than normal.
With all this taking place, it benefits us to find ways to be more efficient with the mental load we are carrying. An effective strategy starts by connecting the dots.
Most likely, you may find yourself, at some point experiencing a challenge being isolated at home, frustrated with your partner/kid(s)/pet(s) experiencing cabin fever, having technology glitches connecting virtually, becoming frustrated finding toilet paper at the store, etc.
You may feel like you are on a roller coaster of unpredictable or excessive emotions and disproportionate behaviors based on the challenges you are confronted with.
The mental load from those challenges only “add” to the current mental load many people are already carrying. You may feel like you are getting to full capacity.
Think of it like we are all currently carrying a backpack with an elephant in it. That’s a heavy load. Then, add on top, a number of these small challenges and that backpack is becoming heavier and heavier.
The first step to connect the dots and become more efficient is to identify what are my challenges? We are all different and we are all experiencing the current circumstances through unique perspectives. Said another way, we are all explaining this situation to ourselves differently.
Therefore, identify what your unique challenges are and what traps do you tend to fall into...
Next, identify and notice the emotions and feelings along with the behaviors that you are jumping into. Specifically, pinpoint the “excessive” and “disproportionate” emotions and behaviors that are not working for you...
Find the ones that are taxing your mental load at an unhealthy level, leaving you feeling self-critical, and not being true to who you aspire to be.
For example, you may find yourself experiencing excessive anxiousness from the constant talk with family and friends about the unpredictable changes in the news you are watching and listening to. Subsequently, you find yourself becoming short with your partner or kids by snapping or yelling at them. You may find yourself repeating something like this over and over leaving you to ask yourself WHY AM I DOING THIS? WHY AM I GETTING SO ANGRY?
This is an opportunity where we can connect the dots to become more efficient.
Most often, we get in a habit of being confronted with a challenge and we immediately jump into the emotions and a familiar repetitive behavior plays out that results in feeling emotionally drained, hurt from our own self-critical comments, and left to wrestle with the lasting feelings ruminating in our mind.
Let’s return to the earlier anxiousness example. You were faced with a challenge of uncertainty, you jumped into the emotions of experiencing anxiousness, you snapped at a disproportionate level towards someone you loved and even became excessively angry with them.
The missing, and final dot, in this sequence requires us to take a step back and identify the “beliefs” or “thoughts” that we are manufacturing in our mind.
From the previous example, you identified thoughts such as “this is never going to change” or “people are getting sicker and sicker” or maybe "my kids/partner don't get this" were being manufactured in your mind. After you said and did what you did. The situation may have left you possibly feeling self-critical about yourself, "I'm a terrible partner/parent" or "I can't control myself" and pushing your mental capacity even further beyond its limits.
Take stock in what you can and can't control. Are you doing anything to challenge those thoughts? Are you doing anything to counterbalance the thoughts with accurate information? Are you casting a universal net or are you being specific to the situation? Are you catching yourself from falling into one of a number of thinking traps that can take place and expedite the experience of spiraling out of control?
When we are faced with adversity and we jump to excessive emotions or disproportionate behavior we are missing the opportunity to be more efficient with our mental load.
We are filling our mental backpack with more and more weight and trying to move forward with an ever increasing unhealthy self-critical load on our mind.
Therefore, next time you experience a challenge, regardless of size, connect the dots to enable a more efficient use of your mental load.
- DOT - Identify your challenges and know the “thinking traps” that you often get caught up in.
- DOT - Challenge yourself to re-frame the excessive “beliefs” or “thoughts” with the objective to find a more accurate and neutral perspective about the challenge.
- DOT - Honor the challenge and give yourself permission to experience the emotions, feelings, and behavior in a more balanced way.
We can’t snap our fingers and make the current circumstances as well as our emotions all go away. We can use the situation as a great way to go to the mental gym and work on our mental muscle.
The more you practice connecting the dots the more likely you’ll find yourself becoming more efficient managing the challenges ahead and maybe even being able to carry a couple elephants on your back!