Emotions & Resilience

Understanding Emotions :: Conversations with Fear

Fear. We all experience it.

But we often don’t recognise it for what it is.

Many coaches talk about the unhelpful responses in different ways: they may be defined as “limiting beliefs”, “unhelpful automatic thoughts”, the “gremlins”, the “inner critic”, your “mean-girl voice” or even “monsters.”

However, at the end of the day, we all experience this voice; and it’s often hard to know how to handle it. I call mine Kitten.

Katy with A Fearful Kitten

What The Voice Does

  • The voice stops us.
  • It makes us feel low, causes us doubt and worry.
  • It criticises us and finds fault in what we’re doing.
  • We begin to feel de-motivated.
  • Our progress on our tasks slow.
  • Often, we slow down. We stop pursuing that dream, or we take a rest from that job.

But in doing this, it’s doing something very innate. Very instinctive. It’s powering those emotions for a reason.

Your brain is trying to protect you.

“Your monster is small and vulnerable and fuzzy. And it just wants to know that you’ll be okay. And that’s why it makes itself so big and fierce — to scare you into letting it take care of you” (Havi Brooks, 2010.)

What The Voice Wants

It wants to keep you safe.

Honestly, if you really dig down and ask where that voice came from, you’ll find one thing at it’s base: FEAR.

What If…

  • I fail, like running out of money?
  • I end up alone?
  • I’m embarrassed?
  • I can’t make it work?
  • I don’t survive?
  • Everyone else is right and I can’t do this?
  • I never recover?
  • I lose all my reputation?

This is the hind-brain: the reptilian part of us which is trained to perceive threat and plan the possible ways to stay alive, safe and uninjured.

The lizard brain does not know that the worry, the anxiety, the concerns are about your social reputation in a public speaking event.For all the instinctive brain knows, you’re hidden in a bush from a hungry tiger out to eat you.

Your voice is trying to help you: to problem solve all the possible options: including perceiving those threats so you can make an informed decision.

This understanding doesn’t change the emotion, but it can inform how we respond to those moments.

How You Can Manage Unhelpful and Fearful Thoughts

  1. The first thing I did, was stop being upset with it. I call mine Kitten, to remind me of the vulnerable, frightened voice it really is.
    • This isn’t a Mean Girl trying to bully you because you’re a failure. It’s a tiny kitten saying: “Are you sure you’ll be okay? I’m worried.”
  2. The second thing is to uncover the fear. Have that internal conversation to really explore what the worry is about.
  3. Now you know the worry, you can find the appropriate response.
    • Is the worry true? Is it likely to happen? If so, how would you handle it?
  4. And, although a little ‘woo,’ I find it helpful to visualise an actual kitten, because it just takes away some of the power in how I perceive this negative voice.
    • It doesn’t hurt to be grateful for the information your brain has told you because it worries you’ve not made a plan and thus might panic in the moment.
    • Reassure your voice that you’ve got this -> You’ve made a note of the concern, here is the action plan and it can go back to sleep now.

How do you manage those unhelpful thoughts and worries?

If you’d like some support to manage your inner kitten, sign up for the email list or apply for mentorship sessions.

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Creative Tools

Reaching Your Creative Potential

Being a creative soul can hold specific challenges. The skills used to keep creativity going mean we tend to analyse things, and notice patterns differently. Although this gives us part of our power, in creative endeavours, it can also mean that we get blocked in quite specific ways.

Whether you write stories, paint landscapes, write musical scores or choreograph dance moves; we all get blocked.

Commonly referred to as ‘writer’s block’, I know that all creative folk can experience that mental block which stifles our creativity. Some people find it helpful to push though – writing despite the lack of inspiration, while others feel that taking a bit of space from the project can let our mind settle down, and encourage the shy muse to appear.

1. Mindfulness

Whatever is blocking you, a few minutes of mindfulness can really help create some space for that mental block.

It can be as simple as closing your eyes taking a low, deep breath and connecting with your body. Feel the floor beneath you, and notice the sounds, temperature or smells around you. Just connect to this moment, for 10 seconds. If you can take a bit longer, do so.

Reconnecting with the moment gives our mind a chance to reconnect with ourselves.

I have a little bell sound on my phone which goes ding twice a day to remind me just to pause, and check in with myself. This really helps bring my mental energy back into focus.

Could you create a minute of mindfulness each day?

2. Check Your Story

Our own self-talk is a crucial part of how we perceive ourselves. How do you think about your creative journey? What obstacles have you overcome to reach where you are now? Sometimes it can be helpful to just ask yourself if your thoughts, if that self-talk is helpful right now.

Are you worrying about being good enough, or feeling like your work isn’t good enough?

Do you have those voices in your head saying you’ll never reach success, or wondering how you’re going to get out of your current rut?

Not every thought is a fact, and our thoughts CAN be controlled, to some extent.

It’s a great idea to just check in with the things we tell ourselves, particularly as, being creative thinkers, we often come up with elaborate possibilities which likely don’t have any evidence behind them: including negative thoughts about ourselves and our creations.

What story are you telling yourself? Is it entirely true, or could you re-frame it a little?

3. Permission to Stop

I’m currently committed to writing at least one word of new fiction a day, but sometimes allowing yourself a break from a project is the best action to ‘reset’ your creativity. To some extent, finding what works for you is key, but even between different projects, times of year or just your own mental state, different things will work for you.

The next time you feel blocked, take a day off and see how you feel about the project after a bit of a break. Let yourself brainstorm or put the project away for a few days and don’t let yourself think about it.

How much ‘downtime’ do you allow yourself from your creations, to let them percolate? 

*~*

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

Perception: On Re-Framing Your Experiences

On Friday afternoon, following a particularly stressful day working for a mental health project, I found myself burning out. I wasn’t angry, nor particularly sad, but I felt under pressure and desperate to get home: emotionally exhausted.

About 3 minutes from home, at a roundabout where people often go despite the traffic coming their way, a car pulled out in front of me. I had to break suddenly, my fight-or-flight system throwing adrenaline around my body so I could react quickly.

I felt shocked and instantly angry. My heart raced, my hands tensed around the wheel. My thoughts flooded in: “How selfish, they could have killed us both! Why can’t people LOOK when they drive? Some people shouldn’t have driving licenses.”

My usual response would be to lift up my hand in a “what was that?” questioning motion. I’m not someone who uses the ‘traditional’ symbols: I just open my palm to the sky in my exasperation. Then I rein in those thoughts and pull back from the offending car: “I better be careful, this driver is likely to do something else dangerous.”

But this time, as the driver pulled off at my junction, they put their hand up to the rear-view mirror (the universal thanks/sorry movement), and I saw the green P-plate.

Re-framing, or the Paradigm Shift

Instantly, my anger dissipated. I didn’t have to reign those thoughts in; they just weren’t there anymore.

I put my own hand up to the my mirror, hoping they’d see it as “no problem” and left a big gap because I remember feeling that everyone was so close while I was learning to drive. In fact, I kept the P-plate on my car for well over the recommended two years. 

In terms of Friday’s event, nothing actually changed: I nearly had a car crash. I was scared for my safety. I got angry. The driver having a P-plate didn’t miraculously mean I was safer.

So why did those thoughts and feelings dissipate; if nothing physically changed? I’d re-framed the experience.

When I was growing up, I read a book entitled “NLP for Dummies.” I didn’t remember a lot about NLP as I grew older, except one example about re-framing experience (which a google search cites as being from Stephen Covey):

Some children are disturbing a train carriage of people.
The father appears to be ignoring them.

The author asks the man if he could control his children.
He expresses the frustration/exasperation/anger of people being disturbed, interpreting this man to be insensitive and irresponsible.

But the moment the father shared that the children’s mother had died an hour before:
the entire emotional experience shifted from anger to compassion.

Again, nothing physically changed. The children continued to be loud and disruptive.

The thoughts changed. The characters focused on re-framing the event. The interpretation, the labels of how that father should behave, changed.

I don’t normally experience road rage. I have conditioned myself to ask “what if?” or “why would I do that?”

Someone cut me up in traffic, or drives through a red light?

Yes, those first thoughts come up: How dangerous, are they insane; they’re putting everyone at risk.

And then I step back: re-framing the experience. “What could be happening, to make that okay in their eyes?”

Perhaps their mother is dying and they’re rushing to hospital to get those last 5 minutes to say goodbye.

The likelihood of that being true for EVERY bad driving event is pretty much nil. But, the only person actually hurting from my road rage, is me. And if I choose to believe that every ‘bad driver’ has a decent reason, I don’t sit there seething, keeping those uncomfortable, fearful thoughts going. I send out a wave of compassion, and get on with my day.

We can change how we think about events.

It’s not easy, and it takes a lot of time. But it’s possible.

For me, the gains are worth the effort.

 

P.S. If you want some support to help change those thoughts and break those negative cycles, find out more about my coaching sessions here.

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Reflection & Patterns

Motivation for Change :: Asking Yourself Why

As a general rule, humans like things they are comfortable with. We like certainty, which is a common reason we experience worries: the unknown can be scary! Even if we know what is going to change, or have a change we wish to make, there is a massive mental block between wanting things to improve, and actually making that leap into the unknown of changing it. Motivation depends on energy, on how we perceive things improving an on what we might lose in changing.

Perhaps the very idea of a new experience excites you. Things seem better in this future – we know we can make the change, and that it will be worth it.

And yet, we hesitate.

Understanding Motivation

The first thing to bear in mind is that it’s normal and common to feel apprehensive about changes. Secondly, that realistic goals, where we can measure our progress and see the changes having a positive effect are massive for maintaining motivation.

We need to see progress – we want to know things are moving the right way, that this change is actually worth the time and effort.

But results can take time. We compare ourselves to others or past-us, or even to unrealistic versions of future-us. We feel discouraged, feel this is a waste and often, we fall back into those habits of familiarity. It’s easy – we don’t have to think and question and remember things – it’s just our natural rhythm.

And things remain; stagnant and unfulfilled; or whatever it was you wanted to be different.

Change isn’t easy, which means we need a really strong motivation, a key reason to remind you why you’re making changes.

The Why: Exploring the Deep

“Those who have a ‘why’ can bear with almost any ‘how.”
– Victor Frankl, quoted from A Man’s Search for Meaning.

We all experience that sensation of wanting to just… give in or do it later. To take an extra chance to rest or maybe even quit something. But when we re-connect with the ‘why’ of that task – finding the deep motivator can really help keep us on track.

Most people come up with some reason to begin a change – to be happier, to not feel this lethargic anymore, to avoid something bad happening (again), or because we’ve been told we should.

But those abstract concepts can be difficult to connect with. In that moment of routine habit or new choice, your Why needs to be powerful enough to guide you towards the positive choice.

The key to a strong motivator is depth.

Surface Level: “I know I should eat healthily.”

Well, so do we all. But we still remain stuck: comparing ourselves to other, unhealthier people who are fine. We feel we have time to change that later. We’re great at telling ourselves we deserve that cake. That fact alone is not strong enough for most people.

Shallow Waters: “I don’t have time to play with my kids, and I miss being with them. They deserve my time and energy.”

That’s a little deeper; you’ve made a personal connection and used another person as a reminder of why you want to make the change. But really, what is it that means you want this? What, deep down for you, is that reason coming from? Think about the beliefs that shape your world, the motivators for other changes you’ve made. What do you cling to when everything else isn’t strong enough?

The Deep: “Every day I wake up depressed, exhausted and I no longer love my life. I feel like a zombie, following the same old motions. I want that joy I used to have back, to make my mark on the world, to be a good parent, to see my children grow up and to support everyone around me. This is my calling, I just need to reach it.”

Much deeper. Specific to the person, with examples to remind them of what they don’t like now and what they will like in the future. We can see the journey this person wants to take; their current location of stuck and the destination they want to reach.

Do you have a dream that isn’t being realised?
Do you know where you want to go, or feel stuck where you are? Have a think about your Why.
What would you change if you have the power to?

*~*

P.S. If you would like some support to look at your Why, or if you feel motivated and would like some guidance to making those changes, sign up for a introduction session, where we can discuss motivation and realistic goals.

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Reflection & Patterns

The Power of Stories we Tell Ourselves

“Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

I disagree. Words are powerful.

Stories define us. Signed, verbal or unspoken – words can create and destroy. They have started wars, expressed love, changed beliefs and ended injustices.  Our language is powerful, yet often used carelessly.

Humans, in cultural history, seek understanding of the world around us and wish to share that knowledge with one another through stories.

These tales connect us to the world, and to each other: we’ve all been entranced by a poem, or the lilt of an unknown tongue? Told by body language or verbal – story is our natural state of sharing, and exploring our experiences.

The Falsehood of Facts 

We use language and tales to understand events and experiences. However, the way we think of, feel about or share a particular experience is filtered by our previous experiences. Our perception; the lens through which the world makes sense to us, is unique.

What happened is never 100% the same as the story we tell ourselves about it. And this belief in our own memories, trust in our self-talk or in that perception is often the cause of our struggles.

We experience so much pain because of the trust attached to our stories. But we only remember what our perception filtered into our mind, and another person’s view will often differ from our own.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy encourages us to question the stories we tell ourselves; just to think about the big picture.

“He always does this.”
Always? Every, single time? If not, that story isn’t 100% true.

“I should have prepared for this.”
Is it 100% your responsibility? Can you read minds? Why should you?

“She did it to hurt me.”
Where is your evidence for this? How can you know her aim? Could there be another explanation?

*~*

P.S. If you would like some support to look at your stories, or want to change the path you’re currently taking, sign up for an introduction session and we can discuss techniques to break down those stories and manage new thoughts more effectively: before they hurt too deeply. Find out more about my coaching sessions here.

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!