Well it has been a minute! Understatement! I am back and blogging by a few requests from some very supportive followers. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement <3
Over the next few months, I want to be testing out some content, so I would love to hear your feedback. I am calling this series…
YUP! You know me! I don’t think people are broken. We are all just humans going through a life, having things happen to us, trying to make sense of those difficult things and then trying to live with the meaning we have created.
Well, from what I have noticed in my 26+ years working in mental health is that people can be pretty bad at the “meaning making” part. We tend to be SO HARD on ourselves, create meaning, self-judgements, sprinkling in a little shame, all in the process of creating expectations of ourselves that are completely unreasonable, and inaccurate.
...how about we embrace this messy life we humans have and build some navigation tools that make our brains a wee bit happier. Ya with me?!?!?!
Well ok then! Let’s Open This Mind of Ours!
Let’s start with a little mindfulness. I know buzz buzz buzz word, but seriously, the science supports this. If it makes you feel better, how about we call it Meta Cognition. Does that help out a little for all of you PsycNerds out there? In a tiny nutshell, Meta Cognition just means, “thinking about your own thinking”.
A mindful approach can help to shift our brains into a less painful network, getting out of our wandering mind that LOVES to predict the future and ruminate about the past. Oh those stories are often SO much fun! (said with sarcasm)
Just so we are on the same page, as we open our minds on this mindfulness journey, here a working definition of what we are trying to do:
Sometimes the “wheels come off” our life, sometimes we get overwhelmed or exhausted and it an “feel” like there is no solution, no way out, that you are stuck with this sucky moment in your life forever. Not true!
But, we first need to radically accept what ever is happening, whatever the case may be, rather than getting stuck in wishing it was different. Oh I wish many things were different! Believe me, I can get stuck too. But getting unstuck can open the opportunity for things to be different. A different way of seeing something, a different way of reacting to something and maybe a few different feelings about the situation too 🙂
Feeling like this? me too…sometimes.
What we need to do is then push the pause button by first adopting a Grounding Mindset.
Here are a few key principles of mindfulness that can help us get into a grounding mindset:
- All that matters is right now. Shifting our focus/awareness over to living in the moment is the main principle behind mindfulness. When your mind is spending too much time wandering around (default mode), we can get stuck in stories with themes like “what if?” or “I can’t believe I did/said that!”, which just make our life lens (how we see the world) very small and narrow. We completely miss all the good bits and only see the bad bits.
- Replace judgement with curiosity. Rather than judging our thoughts, emotions and behaviours as good or bad, negative or positive, we just shift to curiosity as we observe what we are experiencing. This allows us to see things as they are, with some clarity, creating the opportunity to get out of mindless reactionary habit loops and maybe try something mindfully different.
- You don’t need to find answers or ‘fix’ yourself. Try accepting who you are right now, not who you think you should be, or who you are striving to become, just be in the experience.
- You don’t have to battle with your negative thoughts. Did you know that you have the option of just letting thoughts come and go without placing any weight on them? Yeah! I know right!?!? Like clouds in the sky, let them float by and just observe with curiosity and non-judgement.
- Stop fighting and just ‘be’. Just allow the experience to be what it is. I know this is uncomfortable, but feelings won’t kills you, feels like they will, but they won’t, so just push PAUSE and start grounding yourself so that you can shift your mind into this moment.
And Then we Ground!
What is Grounding? Grounding is a set of simple strategies that can help you detach from emotional pain (e.g., anxiety, anger, sadness, self-harm). It is basically a way to distract yourself by focusing on something other than the difficult emotions you are experiencing.
There are two types of grounding strategies using awareness:
- Cognitive Awareness: is about intentionally focusing your mind on tasks, objects and experiences.
- Sensory Awareness: are grounding exercises that are about filling your awareness with the sensory experience
Here is my handout that I give to my clients to help them to build some grounding tools into their daily lives:
A Little PSYCNERDY stuff so that you believe me!
Here is your brain.
Sometimes we freak our own brain out by creating stories, terrible stories about what might happen, what did happen and how terrible we are. Then our Amygdala gets very active, making us not so happy. It makes our brain think that we are dealing with a HUGE threat and then it says “oh no!” shut down some of this human’s functions, like digestion, get ready to fight! or RUN!!! Oh yeah, it also tells the Prefrontal Cortex to shut down. Now you have lost your voice of reason, you can’t think, you can’t seem to get those emotions in check.
This is where grounding comes in, you need to flip the switch, press the pause button and get your brain back into this moment. Let the GROUNDING begin!
So, remember, we are all humans going through this human life trying to make sense of what we experience. We all get into habit loops, these mindless ways of reacting in different contexts. With a mindful approach, you can start to navigate those days where the wheels completely fall off our lives. Just take a moment to ground your self and allow your amygdala to calm down, getting itself out of a fight or flight mode and bringing our “voice of reason” back online (PFC).
Embrace this Messy Life!
You have so much to learn from this beautiful mess. Lean in, pick up some tips and tricks and say “Hey life! Bring it!”
Dr. Heather Drummond
Psychologist * Passionate Advocate for Human Flourishing * Human Muddling Through
Take time to join me on this #MyBeautifulMessyLife journey over the next few months!