Coping With Change

bench-forest-trees-path-largeWe are averse to change. As thinking human beings, we strive to keep our worlds the same.

We live in bubbles as we take care of our families, our vehicles, and our homes. A small thing—an inconvenient illness, a flat tire, a burst pipe—can put us into a tailspin. So how can we handle change without turning a situation into a crisis?

We may not have control over things that happen, but we can control how we handle them. We can control our thinking.

pexels-photoThought Control

Sometimes, our minds run rampant and turn the smallest thing into a potential nightmare.  For example, we get a flat tire and realize we will be late for work. What if we get fired? What if we can’t make rent? Our thoughts take on a life of their own, but the reality is that we are just experiencing a temporary setback.

Our thoughts sometimes make our experiences appear more dramatic than they actually are.  So when we find ourselves in a downward spiral, we ought to question whether the thoughts we are thinking are true, or whether we are worrying about something that will probably never happen.

benchphotoLife Can Be Easy

Anything—and we mean anything– that erupts in life is temporary. Whatever we worry about today will surely morph into something else once again.

So it makes sense to put ourselves first, and when an inconvenient situation arises, raise our awareness and decide on an appropriate response. Do we allow that situation to affect our whole day and cause stress, or do we simply take care of it without adding negative emotions so we can feel good about the day?

Whatever we are going through, we ought to eat well, take rest, sleep enough, and sprinkle exercise and sunshine into our days. Plus, carving out some time to fill a soul need can add pleasure to even the most melancholy periods.

How much responsibility do you really have?

When we talk about responsibilities, we generally equate them with bill paying, working at a job, the upkeep of a home, and the maintenance of vehicles. We wrote about clutter files in our post The Great Big Filing Cabinet in Your Mind when we explained that dealing with mental clutter can be just as challenging as handling physical clutter. And while we told you to just file your unwanted stressful thoughts, we realize that sometimes, it seems like the whole world is on your shoulders.

You may be reluctant to just file the clutter—as we say—because the thoughts are overwhelming and the responsibilities feel huge. But how much responsibility do you really have? Think of this: we are all in different positions. It is impossible to compare one set of circumstances to another. We are individual human beings and can only do so much. If you think that you have more worries than your neighbor, think about the responsibilities of President Obama. The president does not have to perform the same mundane tasks we do like paying bills or making sure the laundry is done, but it helps to remember that he probably has more commitments than anyone in the world. Still, he is just one person living his life, taking care of the responsibilities on his plate, and you are taking care of yours. Imagine: If he can manage the country, we can certainly manage our lives. Knowing that others have significant obligations helps to alleviate some of the angst, but we still have our own worries. How can we get to a better feeling place?

Imagine if the ordinary tasks of daily life were just done for you. Forget about the bills for a moment. Forget about the phone calls you have to make or the food list sitting on the kitchen counter, and mentally file them. Do it now. And then think: what would I do if I did not have to do any of those things? Your mind would be clear to focus on what you want to do, not what you feel you must do. You may begin to realize that the stress you feel has nothing to do with your specific responsibilities, but with how you manage your thoughts, and your time. When you take care of business, you feel good. So do take care of your responsibilities, but clear time to do the things that make your heart sing. It is a balancing act perhaps, but it is life, and we are all in this together.

Most of Your Thoughts are Re-Runs

Do you watch those holiday marathons of old I Love Lucy or Twilight Zone re-runs? You’ve seen them before, but you watch them over and over again. Like the television shows that are repeated, your thoughts go through your head over and over again. When you watch the television show, you might have a renewed view of the same thing, or you may not have consciously remembered what you witnessed the first time, but it is still a re-run. You have seen it before.

It is the same with your thoughts. Eighty five-percent of what you are thinking is a re-run. It is a repeat of an earlier thought. It is something that you think about over and over again. Of course, when you turn on the television, and realize that you are watching something you have seen before, you have a choice. There is an Off button. You do not have to watch the same show over again. Similarly, you can turn off your repetitive and negative thought patterns.

When paying attention to thoughts, notice the triggers that call for those behaviors. The triggers are memories associated with a feeling that is being replayed in your mind. When you know the triggers, you can substitute a new thought so that you think about something better and you will get a different result. You can create a new thought pattern that serves you. Understanding the way the mind works leads you to improve your life.

An example is that every time your boss passes your desk and looks at you, you think “Oh, no. He thinks I’m not doing enough. I’m afraid I am going to be passed up for that promotion.” You think the thought, and suddenly try to look busy. The trigger is the sight of your boss. But you can think about something else when your boss passes your desk. You can think: “I am such a good worker. I am sure that my boss realizes this when he looks at me.” This fleeting thought does not foster negative ideas and instead prompts productivity and creativity. As the boss passes by, instead of clenching your jaw, you are relaxed and diligently working. This positive mindset will elicit a good response from your boss. Perhaps he is not thinking anything negative when he passes your desk, but your thoughts can create negative energy. When you think better thoughts, the whole atmosphere improves. This is just one example, but the idea that these repetitive thoughts can be changed and tamed is an important one. When you stop negative repetitive thoughts—the re-runs in your mind—you make room for positive ones, and that will make a big difference in the quality of your life.

The Great Big Filing Cabinet in Your Mind

The Buddhists talk about monkey mind, that incessant chatter that just won’t go away. You may have heard about therapies that target cognitive thoughts, try to stop them, and replace them with more productive thoughts. And then there are all those affirmations, the good thoughts that you try to integrate in your mind in the hopes that the bad thoughts will just go away, but when they don’t fizzle as you hoped, file them. It sounds like a ridiculous notion. How can you file something that is not tangible? Actually, you can.

Thoughts are things. You have heard that idea hundreds of times—or maybe this is the first time—but it is the truth. Your thoughts have energy and meaning and power. They are at the crux of everything you do. When you want to create something new, you use your imagination and it is the thought that helps you to develop what you want. But when the bad thoughts disturb you—you are thinking about your bills or an unreturned phone call—file them. Okay, so thoughts are things, but that is just an idea. I mean, how can you file an idea?

Just as you file paper, imagine the thought being filed. In other words, imagine what the thought looks like. If the thought is about a person, visualize the person. If it is about an object, think about that object. Then, mentally put it away so you can return to it later. For example, you get the mail and that newly arrived credit card bill is glaring at you. You can feel the fear in your solar plexus because you do not know what it will reveal. Payday is not until next week so you can’t pay it now. Of course, you know the bill won’t be due for two and a half weeks. So what do you do? You can look or not look, but physically put the bill in a pile of your paperwork to be done, and also—very important—mentally file the bill. You don’t have to deal with it now. It need not linger in your mind. The charges are already there. It’s done. Just file the thought.

One reason to file the thought is that tomorrow is a new day. Maybe you will get an unexpected check in the mail. Maybe you will find a fifty dollar bill on the street. Who knows. Another reason to file it is so the mental clutter will not disturb your day and you can go ahead with your life in a positive frame of mind. The bill is just one example, but it is used here because it is such a common stressor. Bills will always be there no matter what happens, but your life goes on in spite of it. These ordinary things—thoughts, things, everything—come and go. Money comes and goes. Bills come in. They usually are paid. Sometimes they are paid late. Sometimes they are discharged in bankruptcy. Sometimes, they inexplicably disappear due to a twist of fate. Who cares. When you file a stressful thought—no matter what it is– it will make a tremendous difference in your day. What are you waiting for?

For help with the use of this concept, download our free Mental Clutter Worksheet (Go to Free Stuff and Find the FileItWorksheet).