We all have moments when we feel like we can’t get out of our own way–our own emotional way that is to say. It is a place where our minds and hearts or souls just can’t seem to mesh. The two seem to be as gears that continually grind against one another and make that noise that just isn’t right. While we may consciously ‘know’ something to be the ‘right’ way to feel or act, but somehow we simply can’t get ourselves to actually go along with carrying through. Or we may not say something to someone because in our head we know it’s wrong or will be misconstrued, even though we feel like we really need to say what’s rattling around inside us!
So what do we do when faced with this kind of dilemma? They happen all the time: at work, in love, in our families and making every day decisions. We can’t let them paralyze us or we would be constantly frozen! This means we must find tools to deal with these moments in time where we have these conflicting emotions.
They play like recordings in the brain it seems–the two sides. Like the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other; each pitching their side of how you should think and why. At any given moment, we may feel one side seems to have more favorable reasons to listen. The intellectual side (one’s brain) may reason all the ‘smart’ points about why or why not to make some decision. And the emotional (heart/soul) side may have just as many arguments for being more soft. Which is right? Or are they both? Is there compromise to be had at times or not?
Here are some pointers I have come up with to help me when I get to these conflicting moments in my life. Sometimes one works by itself, sometimes I may have to do a few. But because I find myself often in these situations, I’ve had to learn to adapt. And rather than be in constant disharmony, here’s what I try:
1. Call a friend. I’m lucky enough to have some amazing, soothing, smart, insightful and available friends. When I get into a muddle, they are always more than willing to help me clear the clouds. And I will do the same for them, so it’s give and take. Sometimes another person can see things more clearly because they have the perspective that you have lost being so close to a situation. It may only take one thing they say that will snap your brain and heart on the right track. Plus, if they are good friends, they know you! And in knowing you, they will cut to the chase and say the things you may truly be afraid to admit out loud.
2. Go out in nature. There is a calming and clearing aspect to being outside. It will help relieve the stress of the battle that you may be doing within yourself. Just being more peaceful may bring answers. Getting outside yourself, listening to the sounds of nature, smelling its smells, seeing it’s wonders–helps us to remember that everything is bigger than we are. And this helps us know that whatever thing may be eating away at us, it is small compared to the greater world.
3. Exercise. Produce endorphins somehow. Even if it’s a brisk walk! Happy hormones will help make you joyful and physically healthy. Breathing, sweating, getting your heart-rate up helps get your mind off of your worries.
4. Meditate. This is a new one for me, but I’m learning! Just trying to quiet your mind even for a few minutes is so helpful. Letting go of the tape, shutting it off, being quiet in your head and heart and giving all a rest at least for a bit during your day! It does wonders!
5. Write down the pro’s and con’s. My Mom was a big list maker. She may have been onto something. If you are really in conflict about something, actually looking at it on paper is sometimes extremely helpful. Trying to decide about a new job, a new person, a new move: a detail may pop out at you once you focus your mind and transfer it on paper.
6. Be forgiving and gentle with yourself. Sometimes these decisions aren’t easy! There may be no right or wrong answer. We may battle with ourselves for a long time–maybe years! It may take a very long time to change something and honestly, that’s OK. Some things come slowly. But they are sweet when they come and you know they are hard-earned.
7. Remember you can change your mind. We forget when we get bogged down during these times making hard choices that things don’t have to be finite. But if it turns out you listened to the wrong part of yourself, well, go back to 6. Understandably, maybe this means you may have missed the boat because you made the wrong choice, but that is life! Lost love, missed opportunities! There are certainly times you only have one chance to make the right choice! But hopefully with mindfulness, you did! If it turned out it wasn’t, well then, change your mind. Give yourself permission to say: I made a mistake and learned from it.
8. Make the decisions smaller. We often overwhelm ourselves by making the choices too big or looking at the picture from too far away. Break it up into smaller pieces and take it a little bit at a time. Don’t get ahead of yourself and forget to be in the moment. Someone once told me that running a marathon is done one step at a time. Every decision, is the same way: one thought at a time.
9. Listen to the news. This may sound crazy, but if you are really doing internal battle and really struggling with your own issues, you have only to turn on the news to realize the world is filled with others far worse off than you! Think of the issues they must face and the decisions they must make when fleeing a country, living with starvation, surviving a disease, losing a loved one, battling an addiction, being homeless and the list goes on. Your internal struggle may seem minimal in the face of someone else’s.
10. Think like a dog. Even those of you that don’t live with one know basically how they act. Simplistic in their needs and wants, unrestricted by complicated decision-making, they fulfill their desires based on need and instinct, as well their trusting nature. Of course they don’t have lots of ‘decisions’ to make, but if they did, think about how they would make them: they wouldn’t think too hard, but rather trust their sense of instinct. Follow your nose, your ears, your gut and that deep seeded sense of visceral ‘rightness’ and you will figure it out.
There are probably others? Add to my list. What do you all do? It’s all a matter of trying to weave all our clashing emotions and decision-making into an acceptable stance on something. And once we do, hopefully we feel good about it. If we’ve taken the steps to get there in the first place, we most likely will.