Rumination July 14, 2013 09:00
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ― Albert Einstein
Do you ever find yourself captivated by your own thoughts?
On the good days, ideas can feel like they're just pouring out of you, right? Your heart's racing, mind is rapidly firing one seemingly genius thought after the other, the flow is just exhilarating until...
The high suddenly disappears.
Maybe yours doesn't fall apart as quickly. Perhaps yours deteriorates at a painfully slow pace—the type that loves to give you false hope only to suddenly shrivel up into a pile of frustrating thoughts.
Before, the focus felt so wonderfully effortless and you'd do whatever it takes to reclaim that high—that flow. But you can't.
In fact, the harder you try, the greater your mental battle likely becomes. Every idea just looks stale, jumbled, and all around bad.
Before you know it, those nasty little thoughts start suffocating you and your mind begins to ruminate on all your supposed inadequacies and failures. Call it whatever you like—your inner critic, little demon, or (as I call it in Lumecluster) Nightmare—these bad boys are masters of capturing your attention.
Leading you into a potentially paralyzing and all-consuming downward mental spiral.
Sure, on the decent days you can sometimes withstand your own blows and focus your attention where it really matters. But during your low(est) moments, your mind becomes creatively cruel at tearing your self-esteem and self-compassion to shreds.
When these moments hit, I've learned that the best thing is to take a break and do something totally unrelated to what I normally do.
To break the negativity cycle.
Okay, I know this sounds like "duh" generic advice. And, yeah, I guess it kind of is, but it doesn't make it any less important. And if you're a little like me (a perfectionist and slightly OCD), you know that doing this is not easy.
You forget, I forget, we all forget...to listen to our voice of reason when we fall under (our own) pressure.
Rather than just taking that break (the smart thing to do...), I tend to pressure myself to just try for another hour and another and another...until the day is gone. Even if it does "work," I know that I've mentally bent myself out of shape and probably won't perform my best when it comes to taking the next step.
So, why not just take the break? Because I become consumed by guilt and anxiety when I try to bring my attention away from the thing that I still haven't "fixed."
At the same time, I realize that I'm no good to my unfixed problem while in my current state.
Recently, I've been training myself to take real breaks (and my own advice) again by putting post-it notes on my laptop, desk, notebook (basically, every place I'm usually at) that say, "Pissed off? Do something else NOW or you'll regret it."
I need reminders because I'm too easily consumed by my own negative thoughts. But I figured you don't want to use a note that sounds so threatening, so I made this illustration instead.
For me, this image will remind me to take some time to engage in the other things I love and bring me joy, like reading, doodling, playing piano, playing video games, enjoying a long walk outdoors (rain or shine), taking some photos, etc. It'll also remind me to engage in the new and different.
I'm not trying to escape my difficulties. I aim to refresh, recharge, and reclaim a sense of calm.
And remind myself that, although the negative thoughts can feel like a whirlwind of craziness inside my head, they're only thoughts and not a definition of who I am.