2 Simple Methods That Can Save You From a Nervous Breakdown
Do you know those days when everything goes wrong and the whole world seems to be against you?
Today was just one of those days.
I decided to call a friend and tell her everything about it. Imagine me in a high pitched and whiny voice, speaking rapidly: ‘I’m officially in a life crisis. I’m overwhelmed. It’s all too much. I want to go home. Wait, I AM home. All the time. Maybe that’s the problem. I don’t even know anymore.’
And instead of comforting me and agreeing with me about how hard my life is, she had the audacity to say: ‘Karina, you’re a Psychologist. Shouldn’t you know how to deal with this?’.
Boom. In my face (do people still say that?).
It’s so funny how people tend to think that I don’t have any nervous breakdowns just because I’m a Psychologist. Like I would sit in front of a mirror, coach myself and be good.
I mean, yes. I know what to do. At least in theory.
And yes, I admit. That may happen every once in a while.
I have a huge toolbox of incredibly useful tools that work wonders with my clients. And yes, a lot of them I can use for self coaching as well.
But have you ever looked at a bag of chips or a piece of chocolate cake knowing exactly how awful you would feel after inhaling the whole thing?
And have you ever done it anyway?
Here we go.
When it all gets too much and I am completely overwhelmed, I lay down on the floor. I got this super fluffy carpet which makes me happy every time I look at it (I can’t help it — I have a thing for everything fluffy).
So I’d say that just lying down on this particular carpet could solve a whole lot of my problems.
But if I feel motivated and want to go the extra mile, I think: ‘What would Coach Karina do?’
She would ask her favorite question:
What story are you telling yourself to feel this way?
Because, regardless of how many followers we have here on Medium, we are all excellent storytellers. I’m sure all of you are well aware of this little voice in your head talking and commenting on your day. All day.
So when I feel down I know exactly that this time my voice decided for a sad or dramatic story instead of a fairytale. The fact that last night’s date hasn’t texted yet is neutral in itself, isn’t it? After all I could think of at least 50 different reasons why that might be the case. Both, positive and negative.
But because we love to make sense of things, we tell ourselves a story to explain why our date hasn’t texted. This could be ‘She’s probably playing hard to get and wants me to text first’ or ‘He’s probably busy and doesn’t want to text just anything. He wants to take time to text something meaningful.’ — or it could be ‘He didn’t like me.’
I don’t know about your storyteller but mine is ambitious. ‘He didn’t like me.’ might lead to ‘The other guy didn’t like me either’ and to ‘I will be single forever’ and to ‘What’s wrong with me?’ and then to ‘I’m not lovable’.
Ouch. That hurts. No wonder I’m feeling so sad.
Putting Things Into Perspective
Awesome. My coaching me loves it when it hurts. Seriously. Not because I’m a masochist (a little maybe), but because that means we are in the right place and know what to work with.
The cool thing about stories is that we can rewrite and edit them. In Psychology we call that ‘Reframing’. To reframe a situation you can simply look for different ways to see it. You can get creative here. I like to come up with at least three different ways of interpreting what bugs me. Like we did in the above example.
Knowing and Feeling Can Be Two Very Different Things
Even though Reframing is a powerful technique, it doesn’t always work for everyone. Some people haver better access to their thoughts than to their emotions.
If you are one of those, I’m sure Reframing can do wonders for you. In that case your emotional world will likely follow your thoughts. After all, it makes sense. So why would you feel bad about it.
After these thinkers, I like to call them, came up with a few different scenarios for our ‘date not texting’ example, they are good and likely ready to move on with their day. They changed the story they were telling themselves.
Other people have better access to their emotional world. These people feel first and then think about what that means. For those it’s easier to work with the emotions first and then let them come to the rational conclusion that it’s better.
I’m one of those. I feel. A lot. So when I come up with different scenarios for why my date hasn’t texted yet, I know all of those could be true. But it still feels like that’s somehow my fault.
Most people are a mix of both with a small tendency to either thoughts or emotions. And both are totally fine. It just makes a difference in what technique they want to try first. And if that didn’t do the trick they just use the other.
Letting Go of Those Feelings
As a feeler, my go to tool is the simple but oh so powerful Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin.
Dwoskin assumes that we identify with our feelings so much that we think we are those feelings. We often say ‘I am sad’ instead of ‘I feel sad’. And the idea is that if we are something, we can’t just let that go.
But what if we could? What if we could just decide to let go a feeling just like we could decide to drop the pen in our hand?
The Sedona Method is an incredibly quick and powerful method to do just that.
The process consists of four simple questions:
- Could you allow that feeling to just be there for a minute?
- Could you let it go?
- Would you?
Since this method works with feelings, the trick is to not think too much about the answers, but to feel them.
What You Resist, Persists
For me, and for most of my clients, the first question alone might even be enough.
I don’t know about you but I hate feeling sad. If I don’t have to, I’ll avoid it. I’ll suppress those nagging feelings and resist them as much as I can. If you are guilty of that as well, you probably know that doesn’t work. It’s like being stuck in quicksand — the more we struggle and try to get out, the deeper we sink.
The idea behind that is that feelings are meant to come and go. Like clouds in the sky. Resisting those feelings, however, doesn’t let them come and go. They just have to wait in front of the door until we finally let them pass through.
Could I Allow That Feeling to Be There? Could I Welcome It?
Just sit down, breathe, and ask yourself: ‘Could I? Could I let it wash over me and just allow it to be there?’
Just allowing yourself to feel that feeling, even if just for a second, opens the door.
You’ll be surprised.
I often hear things like: ‘If I allow myself to feel this sadness, I will never stop crying.’
Trust the nature of feelings. They come and go. Only if you don’t let them in they will stay.
I’ve tried it. And my clients tried it. None of them cried forever. Every single one of them left the session with a big smile on their face.
The next two questions are there to support the process but not needed if your world has changed just by allowing the feeling to pass.
Could I Let That Feeling Go?
Asking yourself if you could let go ist just meant to assure yourself that you can take action. This works best if you have been able to let go a feeling before. Then this question reminds you that you can.
It’s just important that you don’t think too much about the answer. Trust your feeling.
I have also noticed that the answer to this question is really not important. It doesn’t matter. To me, it’s more like a hint that leads to the next one:
If I Could Let Go of This Feeling, Would I?
Again, do not discuss this with yourself. It’s not about why it would make sense or what your mom would think if you did. It’s about you and only you. Do you want to let go of this feeling?
Most of the time the answer is ‘yes’.
If the answer is ‘no’, I like to ask: ‘Would I rather be free or would I rather have this feeling?’.
And then the answer most likely changes to yes. After all, we’re doing this process to let go.
The first time I tried this I had to laugh so hard. When? Eh, now? I guess?
And this is also the intention that Dwoskin had in mind when adding this question to his method. It’s an invitation to let go. To make the decision to let go. Just like you can make a decision to drop a pen.
The cool thing: Laughing is a bodily reaction that our bodies show when we are letting go of something. So my laughing showed me I did it.
Okay, excuse me now. I need to go lay down on my carpet and think about what story I am telling myself. I need to go into editing mode and see if I can find a more friendly twist to it.
Or I could simply decide to let it go. When? Right away.