Stuff happens. We get sick, we get stuck in traffic, we have problems at work. Some days the scales are tipped in the apparent favour of disaster and we are challenged to remain buoyant and productive. If we’re already feeling a dash of self pity it’s easy to let negativity flourish and spread into areas of our life where it really has no place. From there it’s a slippery slope to wallowing in a pity party or a finger pointing festival where everyone else gets the blame.
So how do you keep afloat when “bad stuff” clouds your horizon? One of the most useful things I’ve learned (and I’m not saying I’ve 100% mastered it yet) is the art of boxing and processing.
1. Box it
For some reason, and I don’t know why, we often let events go viral and infect the healthy areas of our life. A traffic jam is an isolated event, it has nothing to do with your love for your family, or your talents and abilities. Yet a single stressful event left uncontained can spread its mood over your whole day. And so we find ourselves snapping at loved ones over of an event that, in reality, has absolutely nothing to do with them.
So box it! As soon as something happens restrain it and put it in a box. This is easily done by some quick question asking. Does this affect my whole life? Will it matter in a week, a month, a year? Does getting stressed about it do anything positive to change it? Boxing puts things in perspective. It’s like the quarantine box in virus software, the idea being that this one isolated event remains isolated and doesn’t leak out and cause harm.
Once you acknowledge something is beyond your control, you are freed up to do something way more productive than fretting and complaining.
Processing is where you become really healthy about handling adversity. This is where you get to empty your box, take a breath, learn a thing or two and move on. There are some great tools that can help you do this. One is to simply sit and take some deep breaths while you mentally take a step back and watch your thoughts on the matter float on by.
Another is to free-write about it, grab a pen and pad and vent on to the page. Putting your thoughts on paper is an easy and powerful way to express yourself that also externalises your thoughts and gives you room to think more resourcefully.
From these two methods you get to upgrade your coping skills, register what you learnt and note what you could change next time life throws you a curve ball.
Related reading: Breathing Your Way to a Calmer Place from AnxietySlayer.com