Tolerating Feelings and Trying Something New
Maybe you have a great idea but feel stuck.
This happens to me all the time and my clients bring it up as well. I have a big idea, something I want to accomplish. It's something I value, something that will make me feel like my life is going the way I want it to. I move into creative mode and start thinking about the possibilities. Then, like clockwork, anxiety trickles in as does the feeling of overwhelm; thoughts that are self-critical, self-censoring and not very helpful start to pop up. I may or may not notice the anxious feelings and thoughts, but it all seems like too much. And the idea gets put on a shelf. Maybe one day...
A few things come to mind when I encounter this myself or with my clients:
- it's important to do something I value AND tolerate the feelings that arise, otherwise I stay stuck
- life is richer, fuller, brighter and more colorful when I try out something new
- making small changes in behavior is much more satisfying and doable than getting into the painful cycle of being too ambitious, feeling overwhelmed, and shutting down before I even try.
A small exercise to gain some momentum:
- Pick a behavior or task that you've been avoiding but that you think is important. Maybe it's calling the relative that you love but have a difficult relationship with or perhaps its the work task that you've been procrastinating over but that you know will be important to your bigger career goals.
- Break it into a manageable task or set of tasks. Using the phone-a-relative example, perhaps you determine in advance that a five minute call is all you want to start with, rather than an hour long heart-to-heart. Come up with 2-3 things you want to talk about. Manage your expectations.
- Try out the new task or behavior. As you try it, notice what feelings come up, but don't make any judgments about them. See if you can sit with them. If you want, try breathing in and out slowly to create a little more space for the feelings. Perhaps as you sit with feelings and breathe around them, other feelings come up. Just notice those, too.
The goal with this exercise is to gain some momentum as you begin moving your life gradually and gently in the direction you want. See if you can experience ALL of the feelings and thoughts that come up while you give something new a try.