While going through a high period of stress your mind and body are often geared towards responding in fight or flight mode. Due to how pressured you feel, you reach a point where you are determined to change yourself to suit the circumstances better. Even after doing so, when you see no change in the behaviour of others or the situation, you decide that the only option left is to exit the situation and begin again.
This sounds like an effective step and in many cases, it is one that works. However, your life may not always have space and opportunity for you to remove yourself from a troublesome situation for good. When this happens, how can you address your mind’s monologue that has decided that everything has been tried and giving up is the only option left?
Wouldn’t it be better to develop an alternative narrative where you are kinder to yourself? Here are some ways to actively change how you tell yourself and others your story:
1. Use externalising language – The issue you are facing is not who you are, it is separate from your self-worth and capabilities, it does not define you in any way. It is something that is happening to you and affecting you.”When this happens to me I get (… )”, “This doesn’t occur often but at certain times it decides to (… )”, “It is very troubling and unsettling” are some examples of externalising language.
2. Considering social and political issues at play – Is this issue something many others are also facing? Look at what factors of this day and age make it possible for this problem to have the power it does over so many people.
3. Unique outcomes – Have there been times in your life prior to this when a different issue with similar qualities or similar stressors sprung up? If yes, how did you deal with it? Were there previous times when you were able to manage an older issue better than you are managing the current one? Look at what were some of the things you did then that could help you now. Doing this will help you figure out that you probably already have the resources to handle the issue.
4. Find a support system – It is important to have friends who are familiar with how you are rewriting your story and changing your narrative. Sharing your strengths that have helped you combat older issues before can lead to instances where your friends are able to remind you of these resources in times of distress. Sharing with them your new way of talking about the issue is also relevant because it decides how others talk to you about it, how you talk about it in the future, how they offer suggestions and inquire about your well being.
5. Expressive arts (e.g. painting and dance), and journaling are activities that continue to help in externalising the issue. This way, the effects of the issue do not seep into your personality as something that you find yourself constantly thinking about. The energy put into these activities is a way to channel your thoughts creatively, to give yourself the freedom and peace of mind you need to see things objectively and with much required distance.
These activities can help you in stopping to see yourself as the key reason that leads to disaster. By doing this, you are more likely to find hope and motivation to improve those parts of your life that you find are most affected by the issues you face.