Feeling Wiped Out?
Sometimes good habits stress you out.
Posted Dec 10, 2020
Many of us feel like we are at the pinnacle of frustration these days, whether we are at home working or with family or friends, out and about, or at the workplace. It’s often hard to just focus on what needs to get done. Meanwhile, a must-do task for today winds up getting postponed until tomorrow. Goals begin to bottleneck, and your stress grows.
What used to seem easily doable without even thinking about it can feel like it is crushing you rather than the other way around. Getting back to a peaceful, gentler, and more productive mindset is a worthwhile endeavor. But it may take paying a little attention to old habits first.
Most of us have a lot of good work habits already in place that we have developed over time. These automatically coordinate everything from the way you think, feel, and act, to how you greet the day, begin your work, and what you do to restore your energy throughout. You use these ingrained habits to help troubleshoot unexpected problems, get you creative, sustain relationships, and launch your evening routine. However, sometimes, as is the case in today's COVID-stressed environment (but at any other time as well), even good habits can stop working. The more you expect them to work, the more stress and difficulty they can muster.
We don’t think much about these auto-piloted behaviors unless some endeavor suddenly goes south. Then we look to figure out why because we don’t want it to happen again. On the flip side, we don’t often look closely enough at the chain of details that has made an experience go right.
A Little Introspection Can Go a Long Way
If you’re feeling wiped out, try looking for the abovementioned cause-effect relationships between what you do and what you experience. This practice can enable you to start taking control. It is the basis for self-regulation and altering your mind-states so that they are more in sync with your goals.
At the end of the day, some of us will need to change our operating patterns because of the stress they are generating, and others will have to work on sustaining them because they are producing satisfying results. So it depends on putting some attention on what you are experiencing, making visible, so to speak, what is often rote, and then deciding which way you need to go.
One simple thing you can do to try to rebalance into a more stress-free and productive mindset is to pay attention to how you are paying attention.
Use reflection to discover the habits that are responsible for your stress. To identify the culprits, try tracing your footprints in a specific situation backward to what was happening right before you remember feeling stressed. One of the benefits of reflection is that you can granularly examine an experience for causes leading up to your stress but which have been hidden from you. This allows you to spot them more easily when they present themselves again in real-time.
But seeing alone won’t remedy your problem. To fix it, you have to weaken these stress-causing patterns—some of which may have actually served you well in the past but are now just not working—and make way for a new pattern of action. Your job is to then find an alternate pattern that better suits you and your goal.
Use visualization to create new patterns of behavior that will generate more peaceful and flowing results. You can use your own tailored strategies or positive models (you can edit) from nonfiction reading, YouTube, fiction, art, cinema, and music to help inspire you. Edit these into the scenario you have reflected upon and visualize how they will work out. See yourself implementing them.
Again, trace your footsteps. You can even use your mind-movie to troubleshoot various strategies with possible challenges that may arise or to establish a plan number one and number two as a backup. Use visualization to train your new pattern(s) as you would muscles in a gym, with plenty of reps. When the window opens in real life, your mind will engage your new stress-reducing strategies.