I hate uncertainty. It doesn’t work with me. I don’t like the idea of being preoccupied with something while I mindlessly get on with my life. I’ve always believed- do one thing at a time, do it right and get it out of your mind.
This is why I love planning my days. I do this with the full understanding that there are many aspects in my own life that I have no control over. And also that it is boring to plan every aspect of your life. I plan my routines at home, work and made times for my personal habits. It works well. I get bored quickly so I keep changing my routines. This also ensures I don’t get too comfortable. Planning gave me the discipline I needed for my life. That illusion of power was heartening.
While things usually worked out well, it did have its shortcomings. I got so used to being on top of my game that any changes by external factors made it difficult to handle. A few months back, I noticed that things that were until recently in my control were slipping out of my hand. I was not ready to let them go. It was difficult to accept that I was getting affected for no mistake on my part and I couldn’t do anything about it. This created a miserable environment for me.
For a while, I was in denial, blaming it all on my environment. It took me a few days to deal with the roller coaster of emotions I was going through. I was angry, helpless and frustrated. I was paying too much attention to things that did not need it. I was constantly thinking about this issue no matter where I went. It took me a lot of conversations, opening up to trusted people, pouring my heart out to eventually calm down. I always prided myself on being able to stick to logic irrespective of the amount of stress I’ve endured. But sometimes things happen. We’re allowed to falter. We’re human beings!
Writing them down was the best thing I did during that phase. It not only helped me provide an outlet to express what I was feeling. I could go back and look at all my journal entries during the 2 months to help me understand what I was going through. Based on my experience, here are a few things that helped me.
Acknowledge the problem
It’s easy to be in denial. It’s easier to wait for things to blow up before you have to deal with them hoping that the problem would go away. But the fact is, the sooner you accept what is happening, the easier it becomes to handle the situation. Acknowledging problems for what they are means you accept that something is wrong. Once you know that, you’ll figure out how it affects you. You’re then looking to handle the problem or reach out to someone who can help. The crucial part is to get into this mindset before things go beyond your control when there is still hope. Trust me, it might seem like a very insignificant aspect, but it brings a sense of calm. It gives you the strength to deal with it.
Understand how you feel
Ever since I started writing about ‘How I felt today’, it’s helped me understand my emotions a lot better. Once you are aware of the problem, you’ve to find what is affecting you and how it makes you feel. The ‘what’ part of the problem is more or less straightforward. The key here is to keep asking why something affected you over and again to get to the real underlying cause. Most often, we end up handling a symptom of the problem rather than the root cause of the problem. So it’s important to dive deep into what you think the problem is. For instance, you’d think someone’s uninformed decision caused the problem. But the problem could have been that your ego took a hit, or you didn’t agree with the person or the decision. It could be anything. And it isn’t the first thing that comes up in your mind when you think about the problem. As a rule, follow the 5-whys- technique.
Once you understand what the problem is, find out how it makes you feel. This is an important step because you can deal with something only when you know how you feel about it. If it scares you, try to understand where your fear comes from and tackle that. If it makes you angry, understand what part of it is causing that frustration. It is essential to analyze the emotions you associate the problem with. Only that will lead you to the right solution.
How you handle the problem is subjective. But at least you know what you’re looking for.
Identify your triggers
Finding a solution is one of the crucial steps. But the most crucial one is identifying your triggers. Usually, it’s not one big change that causes an issue. It is a series of small changes over time that builds up the frustrations. So figure out what was the one thing that changed it from being a minor inconvenience to a major issue? See if there are patterns from your past and what triggered you then. It would not only help your current situation but also prepare you for the future. If you understand your emotions, you can handle things better.
Whenever I feel troubled, my mentor would ask me to look at things from a different perspective. Until recently, I did not understand what it meant. It means that you stop looking at things from a me-lens. It’s where you think whatever happens if for you or because of you. You need to start looking at things from a we-lens where you empathize with others. For example, if someone is rude to you, you shouldn’t immediately make it about you. You try to empathize with the person who was rude and find out what could have triggered them. This way you know that this is not about you, but it’s about them. The best thing would be to cast it aside or talk to the person when they feel better. And you will also realize that this is never your problem, to begin with.
These are some of the generic pointers which have helped me. While some things can be fixed in a few weeks, certain deeper issues take months, years or an expert’s help to fix them. But remember one thing – always seek help when needed. It can give you some perspective. Even if you aren’t able to get to a solution, you at least know you have someone to help you fight your battles. Sometimes, that’s all you need!
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