I’m loving the phrase ‘less than helpful’ at the moment as it helps me to hold myself and other people to account without triggering my stress response, getting wound up and frustrated. Sometimes I say the phrase out loud, to the person or myself and sometimes I just say it in my head but I find it helps me to feel calm and more relaxed when I’m presented with a frustrating situation. If someone pulls out in front of me in the car, for instance, I find saying “well that was less than helpful!” helps me to acknowledge my frustration instead of internalising it which I often do as a more introverted person. Externalising the frustration helps to get rid of it, which helps me stay calm and not get angry or frustrated.
Sometimes we have behaviours that are less than helpful which have developed as part of our stress response. They might be aspects of lifestyle such as smoking, drinking, eating or exercise or more psychological aspects of life such as feeling jealous, being very hard on yourself or feeling unworthy, which can all stem from low self esteem. Do you give yourself a hard time about those behaviours and as a result build feelings of disappointment, regret, frustration, anger or shame? It can be easy to get into a cycle of behaviour which literally feeds itself and is very hard to get out of. We keep giving ourselves a hard time for doing the things we feel we shouldn’t be doing and then do those things again to try and make ourselves feel better.
So how can we stop the frustration, the hard time we’re giving ourselves, the disappointment we feel because we can’t seem to shift ourselves out of that negative pattern of behaviour? The first step is to think about your behaviours in terms of those that are good and those that are, possibly less than helpful. The fabulous thing about making that kind of list is that you remind yourself that you actually have lots of behaviours that are totally brilliant! ? We lose sight of those when we’re desperately trying to do that one thing that’s eluding us, annoying and frustrating us. Try to build a picture, either as a mental image or an actual drawing of those behaviours that you demonstrate that are positive versus those that you consider less than helpful and are trying to improve. I would venture that when you balance them out there are many, many more positives than there are things to work on and that’s the first step. To ‘zoom out’ and view yourself holistically as a whole and not just focus on those things that you’re struggling to achieve.
Now, in the context of that whole picture, think about how you can change the behaviours that are bugging you. Think about what you’d like to achieve, possibly by when, although that’s not always important, and who you might need to help you. If you fall off the wagon just get back on it as soon as you can. I’ve found that giving myself a hard time for not eating healthily tends to breed more unhealthy eating so a shrug and an ‘ah well’ seems to get me back on track more quickly.
Holding ourselves to account is good but pounding ourselves into the ground for not doing as well as we’d like is not only less than helpful it’s very much self sabotage and poor self care so those are not great behaviours either. It does take time to bring ourselves out of a negative spiral of behaviour and sometimes there are two steps forwards and one, two or three back but at least you’re thinking about it. That’s a good behaviour in itself. In amongst our busy lives, it can be hard to find the headspace to think about these things but someone you love and/or trust might help you talk through some of this, if you find that useful. They may well be feeling the same, about different behaviours and so you can support each other, hold each other to account on progress and give each other a hug when things haven’t gone so well. We tend to be more compassionate to others than ourselves so working together is a great way to make progress.
If you like to write things down and follow a structure I use this format as part of a resilience plan which might help.
- I’m going to continue……(my good behaviours)
- I’m going to try to stop……(my less than helpful behaviours)
- I’m not going to give myself a hard time about……(falling off the wagon, whatever that looks like for you)
- If I do something I’m trying not to I’ll……(how you manage the falling off and getting back on the wagon)
We’re all going to have a bad day at some point so sometimes it’s about trying something new as a coping mechanism or outlet for your frustrations. Being kind to yourself, acknowledging a bad day when you have one and getting back on the wagon are all good resilience behaviours, so add that to the ‘good behaviours’ side of your list. Giving yourself a hard time for not going to yoga almost defeats the purpose of why you were going to yoga in the first place so take a breath…..take another one…..smile because you’re exercising fantastic self care and then see if you can make the yoga class (or it’s equivalent) next week. That’s thriving and not just ticking things off a long list of ‘shoulds’. Thriving is good, just surviving…..you might find that’s less than helpful ☹
Take good care, and stay healthy and well when you can please.
Best wishes, Karen