On mindfulness, managing emotions, and breaking through

I have a lot of problems with managing my daily activities. For a long time, I thought I was just lazy, but it turns out, there’s much more to it.

It always confused me how I could be so into a task sometimes, but completely disinterested and disengaged in that same task at a different point in time. Obviously, that’s a huge issue when you have to do work. And especially when other people are involved.

Then, at that point, I had to ask myself: Ok, so I know I have to do this thing regardless, though… so whyyyy is it so hard for me to do this now that my motivation and interest is gone?

It might seem kind of obvious, because the task now feels like it sucks. But, some people are very good with exercising self-discipline, and pushing through it anyway.

Years of therapy has helped me discover that this is tied into my anxiety. My brain seems to only have two modes when thinking about something:

Option 1:

Option 2:

These are two really polarized reactions to things. Which makes sense, because I’ve been diagnosed this year with Bipolar 2 Disorder.

Also, it makes total sense that I would avoid the things that elicit the second response, in favor of things that produce the first.

The key, it seemed, was in managing those emotions surrounding the things I encountered on a daily basis. And it turns out this has a name: mindfulness. I don’t have any handy or helpful links to share on the topic of mindfulness right this moment, but I might come back around to share some good stuff in the future.

The gist of mindfulness is that instead of letting my emotions run wild under the surface, I practice becoming aware of each and every one of them, and the response they produce.

If that sounds fucking exhausting, that would be because it is. Mindfulness is immensely helpful. But I also realize that now after months of doing this, I’m aware of all of my thoughts. That takes a metric shit ton of energy, and after just a few hours of doing this every morning, I’m usually exhausted and having to power through the remainder of my day.

I tried a bunch of things to manage my emotions, building off the mindfulness tactics I’d been practicing daily. Now that I was aware of these thoughts, what should I do with them?

I determined that I should probably lift the hood and ask myself some deeper questions. Naturally, I started with the thoughts that caused me enough of a visceral and emotional response that I avoided them.

What exactly about this thing threatens me?

What am I imagining as a worst-case outcome or scenario?

What do I stand to gain from pushing through the discomfort?

It’s interesting to me that my brain, despite churning out what feels like millions of thoughts a day, never leads me to ask these questions. I just accept blindly and almost automatically that it is indeed a threat, and immediately switch into avoidance mode.

It’s almost as if anxiety were a physical disease, it would be auto-immune in nature. Without mindfulness, anxiety inhibits my ability to even see what’s going on, let alone stand a chance of overcoming it.

But, I’m still showing up every day to throw punches. Tweak my approach a little each day, after seeing what works and what doesn’t. And I’ve actually finally found something that seems to work.

I’ll talk about that in a separate post, though, because it’s nuanced. My personalized approach goes against what a lot of the productivity “masters” out there are telling us, because their advice doesn’t actually consider the root causes of procrastination. They don’t come from a place of understanding why it is so difficult for some people to push through and make progress.

My approach would probably look weird to a lot of people from the outside. It might not even work for a lot of people. But that’s the beauty of how I got to this very approach to begin with: other people’s stuff didn’t work exactly for me, so it had to be molded to fit, and tested and revised regularly.

Anyone can do this, I think. I’m only doing it because I hit a major wall this past 6 months, and have been exhausting myself fighting against it. What I really should do is build up the strength to demolish it, and make it easier for myself to also break down any walls I might face after that.

I do these things every day, though. While others have the chance to just get to work and “win the day”, I’m seeking to just get something that applies to my goals done. My thoughts are key to getting there, and yours probably are, too.

Ok, that’s all I got. I’ll write more later. ✌🏽

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Weaver of code and beautiful stories. 👩🏽‍💻✨

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Nicole Archambault

Nicole Archambault

Weaver of code and beautiful stories. 👩🏽‍💻✨

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